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Nutricosmetics: The Science of Eating for Healthier Skin

We have all heard the term 'cosmetics'. You may also be familiar with the term 'cosmeceuticals' or even 'nutraceuticals'. Well, what about nutricosmetics? It is a concept that I find to be fascinating and very useful in practice as a board certified dermatologist and internist.

Nutricosmetics is the use of nutrition or nutritional supplements to help the skin appear youthful and healthy. Nutritional supplements for these purposes are used overseas, but are not yet reviewed or approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, let's direct our focus towards the nutritional value of specific foods that are scientifically proven to benefit the skin. Because, lets face it -- many forget to apply certain cosmeceuticals that are designed to benefit the skin. It's also difficult to remember to take nutritional supplements. But, most people, including myself, don't forget to eat. Remember these helpful dermatology tips that were originally published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition the next time you plan a meal or select a dish from a menu:


Foods to Eat for Healthier Skin

High in Vitamin C

Benefits: Prevention of wrinkles and age related dryness

How: Vitamin C promotes collagen formation. Collagen and elastin, located in the second layer of the skin, are responsible for keeping the skin firm, plump, and youthful. Vitamin C additionally contains antioxidant properties that helps to protect against the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays.

Food examples: Citrus fruits -- lemons, lime, oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes

High in Vitamin E

Benefits: Prevention of wrinkles and age related dryness

How: Vitamin E also has antioxidant properties that allow for protection from the sun.

Food examples: Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, leafy green vegetables

High in Linoleic Acid (an essential fatty acid)

Benefits: Prevention of skin atrophy (thinning) and age related dryness

How: Possibly through its conversion via ingestion into EPA and DHA, other essential acids, scientifically proven to have photo protective properties

Food examples: Vegetable oil (soybean, corn, olive, and canola oils), nuts, and seeds

High in Protein

Benefits: Prevention of wrinkles, decrease in skin fragility, increase in wound healing

How: The skin's collagen is a type of protein that is made by the human body. Ingestion of foods that are rich in protein allow for the production of amino acids that go into making collagen.

Food examples: Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, cheese, yogurt, milk

Low in Carbohydrates

Benefits: Prevention of wrinkles and skin atrophy

How: Sugar may lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastin molecules through a process known as glycation. Damage to these important structures cause gravity to win and the skin to thin.

Foods: Meats, seafood, eggs, some vegetables, some fruits

  1. Cosgrove M, Franco O, Granger S, Murray P, Mayes A. Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Oct; 86(4): 1225–1231.

  2. Farris P. Cosmeceutical Vitamins: Vitamin C. In: Draelos Z, Dover J, Alam M. Cosmeceuticals. 3rd ed. Canada: Elsevier; 2016:37-42.

  3. Chernoff R. Protein and older adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23(suppl):627S–630S.

  4. Green B. Antiaging Benefit Ingredients: AHAs, PHAs, and Bionic Acids. In: Draelos Z, Dover J, Alam M. Cosmeceuticals. 3rd ed. Canada: Elsevier; 2016:99-116.

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