Nutrients that enhance your skin

The link between diet and skin problems has long been ignored by doctors. However, what we already knew, and has now become evident, is that nutrition and your skin are not detached from each other. Sugars, for example, cause spots and wrinkles. Antioxidants, on the other hand, can protect your skin. Which nutrients come out on top of my list of favourites?

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the best known antioxidants. It is the most widely researched ingredient within the skin domain. Antioxidants are chemicals which protect the body against free radicals. Those oxygen particles result from processes in the body and cause damage to cells. This process is also known as oxidative stress. And this stress is not what you want in your body; it ages you!

Vitamin C does even more though, it contributes to the production of collagen (not surprising that ships crews went down with scurvy if they were at sea for months on end without fresh fruit and vegetables) and ensures that your skin retains its suppleness. Vitamin C is also an anti-inflammatory, and that is also good for skin conditions such as acne and rosacea. And one more thing, the substance helps to counteract pigmentation spots.

So you would want to see high concentrations of vitamin C in your skincare. For optimal protection of your skin it is advisable to have sufficient amounts of vitamin C in your diet and/or a supplement (1, 2).

You may be wondering, why not just in your diet or with supplements? Because, in this way, it is very difficult to acquire a high enough concentration of vitamin C in your skin. Combining the two is the most effective, therefore eating it and applying it!

Even more potent: Astaxanthin

In recent years this unusual substance with its complex name has attracted great interest. It is also my favourite! Astaxanthin is an antioxidant, just like vitamin C, but a very potent one. In Japan, in particular, the nutrient is used as a super supplement against wrinkles and other signs of skin deterioration. It has been proven in studies (e.g 1, 2, 3) that astaxanthin has an anti-inflammatory effect and can prevent sun damage.

Astaxanthin is produced by organisms, such as algae and plankton, as a natural barrier against damaging effects from oxygen and sunlight. And that is how the substance eventually ends up in ‘our food’. Astaxanthin makes the pink colour in, for example, salmon, prawns, trout and lobster. For those who do not have this on their daily menu, there are more and more supplements containing this beautifier available. Why is it not in your skincare products? This substance has such a bright colour that even in minimal concentrations will turn your product red and even worse, your skin too!

Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids make up part of the skin barrier. This fatty substance, together with cholesterol and ceramides, makes up the naturally protective wax layer, keeping the skin hydrated and protecting it against exterior influences.

The fatty acids can be taken in via products such as oily fish, nuts or linseed oil, or special supplements. You can also apply the substance directly onto the skin if, for instance, you are suffering from dry or irritate skin. As with vitamin C, the combination of diet and applying it is the most effective.

Vitamin D

In previous years it was mainly associated with our bones, in the meantime we have since found out that vitamin D also plays an important role in the functioning of our muscles and immune system. A deficiency is linked to many illnesses, from heart and vascular conditions to depression. Vitamin D is also important for your skin. Through its antioxidant action, vitamin D protects against sun damage, the substance is also important for effective wound healing and also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Plus, there is evidence of a relationship between acne and a low supply of vitamin D. And as if that wasn’t enough, vitamin D appears to protect against allergic skin reactions and eczema.

We get our vitamin D from oily fish, meat and eggs, or butter where vitamin D has been added. However, the largest proportion of what we need is produced by ourselves in the skin. Sunlight is necessary for this to happen. Besides this, not all skin is as efficient at producing the vitamin. Mature and darker skin makes vitamin D much less quickly than younger, pale skin. Therefore, it is not surprising that so many people, especially in winter, don’t have enough vitamin D.

Extra sun or sunbeds, however, is a really bad idea. Try and take enough vitamins in your food and a supplement if necessary. I would go so far as to say that it is prudent for everyone!


Probiotics are so-called good bacteria. Most people will know the name from the small breakfast drinks, but there are also numerous capsules and powders on the market with ‘healthy bacterial strains’. Probiotics are often mentioned in the same breath as bowel problems, but there is more and more evidence that they can be very significant for the skin. For instance with skin conditions such as eczema (Dutch), or rosacea and acne whereby the balance of skin bacteria is disrupted. It has been found that using probiotics can improve the barrier function and help the skin to retain moisture. ‘Good bacteria’ also appear to play a role in the area of anti- ageing. Probiotics do not yet seem to be as useful in skincare products, they lose their efficiency very rapidly. But I’m following the development in this area very closely and will keep you posted!

Kind regards,


Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology

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