Denver - Design District - Alameda and Broadway
368 S Broadway
Denver, CO 80209
Clear, smooth, glowing skin, we all want it so much that in 2018, Americans spent a whopping 2.9 billion dollars on Botox treatments to minimize lines and wrinkles,1 with a growing trend among 20-somethings to get injected as “preventative care.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best—many view their skincare routines as an important self-care practice that boosts self-confidence (I use no less than six serums, exfoliants, and oils on my face regularly)—but while we are focused on in-office treatments and heavy-hitting peels and serums, we are largely overlooking a fundamental component of a well-rounded skincare routine—nutrition, and specifically, antioxidants.
There’s no doubt that a healthy diet plays an essential role in healthy skin—research has even found that people who eat more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables have a healthy glow2 —but there are also a number of well-researched antioxidant supplements that can take your skin to the next level of glow up, especially when combined with your existing skincare regimen and a healthy diet.
Damage to our skin comes from external and internal sources, but the common theme is that they all cause oxidative damage to skin cells, leading to accelerated skin aging. External sources include things like too much sun exposure and pollution. Internal sources are those things that cause damage from the inside and include eating a lot of processed foods and sugar, drinking too much alcohol, stress, and increased oxidative damage and inflammation (“inflammaging”) that come with age. While we can’t stop the natural aging process or rid our lives completely of the external sources, we can nourish and fortify our skin from the inside out with antioxidants that counteract the effects of these skin wreckers.
Oxidative stress plays a major role in the development of lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, dryness and roughness, and skin cancer. A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that skin on and around the nose and between the eyebrows showed higher levels of oxidative stress, and oxidative damage around the eyes increased with age. These hotspots of oxidation positively correlated with more wrinkles in those areas.3 Antioxidants are our best defenses against this type of damage.
One group of antioxidants that has been researched for their role in skin health are the phytonutrient proanthocyanidins found in grape seed extract and pine bark extract (Pycnogenol® is a trademarked name for a proprietary pine bark extract). In one study that included 20 postmenopausal women, supplementation with 75 mg of Pycnogenol per day for 12 weeks led to an increase in skin elasticity and hydration, especially in the women who began the study with dry skin. The researchers found that the pine bark extract increased the production of hyaluronic acid in the skin by 44 percent and also appeared to promote the body’s natural production of collagen.4 5 (Hyaluronic acid is a natural humectant—a substance that attracts and holds moisture—and is naturally found in the skin, helping to keep it hydrated and plump; the body’s natural production declines with age.)
A more recent study investigated the effects of Pycnogenol supplementation on skin health in a group of outdoor workers in Beijing, China. The subjects worked outdoors from spring to autumn and were constantly exposed to particulate matter, as well as seasonal changes in humidity, temperature, and UV exposure. Pycnogenol (50 mg twice daily for 12 weeks) preserved skin hydration, prevented trans-epidermal water loss (water lost through evaporation from the skin), and improved elasticity.6 Previous research has shown that pine bark extract is also photoprotective, that is, it protects skin cells from UV-damage, and reduces hyperpigmentation.7
Resveratrol is another antioxidant that protects and fortifies skin from the inside out. This powerful polyphenol, found in grapes, is what gives red wine its healthy reputation, but rather than relying on wine (alcohol is a major skin wrecker), look to supplements for optimal amounts. One placebo-controlled study investigating resveratrol’s effect on facial skin included 50 men and women between the ages of 35 and 65; they all showed signs of skin aging, including wrinkles, dull complexion, and hyperpigmentation, they also committed to not use any face creams for the duration of the study. After 60 days of supplementing with one capsule containing 8 mg of transresveratrol (a more biologically active form of resveratrol) plus additional procyanidins, participants experienced increased skin moisture and elasticity, improved texture, reduced depth in wrinkles, and a significant decrease in the intensity of hyperpigmentation.8 In more recent research, resveratrol was shown to stimulate the proliferation of fibroblasts, specialized cells that produce collagen.9
Healthy skin also requires large amounts of vitamin C, an essential antioxidant vitamin which is necessary for making collagen and for providing oxidative protection to skin cells. Vitamin C concentrates in the skin and research has found that those with aged and sun-damaged skin have diminished vitamin C levels in the epidermis. A number of studies have shown that supplementation with vitamin C improves resistance to UV damage (especially when combined with vitamin E, another antioxidant vitamin), reduces wrinkle depth, increases collagen production, and improves skin texture. A vitamin-C rich diet has also been found to decrease wrinkles, sagginess, and hyperpigmentation caused by oxidative damage from UV exposure and smoking.
Aim for 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day of vitamin C in divided doses and 400 IU of vitamin E.10 11 12
Astaxanthin and lutein are carotenoid antioxidants that seem to be particularly effective at protecting human skin against photodamage (damage from the sun). One study found that astaxanthin “exhibited a pronounced photoprotective effect” on human skin cells exposed to moderate UVA radiation, preventing cell death, reducing levels of damaging free radicals, and increasing antioxidant activity. The researchers also observed that there was a preferential uptake of astaxanthin by fibroblasts, cells that make collagen.13 Human studies have shown that 6 mg of astaxanthin daily for eight weeks improved “crow’s feet” (wrinkles around the eyes), hyperpigmentation, elasticity, moisture content, and skin texture in both men and women.14 A placebo-controlled trial including 50 men and women with mild-to-moderate dry skin took a supplement containing 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin for 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, overall skin tone and “luminance” were significantly increased in the group taking the lutein, which researchers attributed to lutein’s photoprotective and antioxidant properties.15