We know that a good skin care regimen is important for healthy and youthful skin. But can what we eat play a part in our skin health as well? Scientific research shows that there indeed is a positive connection between our nutrition and our skin’s ageing.1
This is good news because, in addition to fighting ageing by taking care of our skin, we have another tool available to actively enhance our youthful radiance — eating nutrient rich foods. Scientists have been studying skin and ageing for quite a long time. But in recent years, there has been growing research indicating that healthy skin can be enhanced specifically by eating foods that support the production and fight the degradation of collagen and elastin — two key components of healthy skin. When chosen for their nutrient-rich properties, the foods we eat can, therefore, aid our bodies in replenishing these vital proteins.
Collagen and Elastin
Collagen and elastin are two of the main proteins found in the dermis, the middle layer of the skin located below the exterior surface. They are well known as two key proteins critical for skin vibrancy, as they work together to create a strong skin structure.
Naturally found in the skin, collagen is the protein that helps maintain strength and firmness, as well as the soft and smooth texture of the skin — creating a more youthful appearance. Elastin, the other significant protein, is critical for the skin’s ability to return to its original shape after stretching. It essentially allows our skin to bounce back. Like collagen, as we age the elasticity of the skin declines which leads to a sagging appearance.2
There are two major factors that affect the collagen and elastin content of our skin. The first is that as we get older, our bodies slow down collagen and elastin production. Secondly, these skin proteins are susceptible to break down due to the production of free radicals brought on by UV exposure, smoking, and environmental factors such as pollution. This loss and depletion of collagen and elastin leads to all of the typical signs of aged skin including wrinkles, lines, sagging and transparency.2
To maintain healthy and beautiful skin, we want to do everything we can to boost and replenish our skin’s collagen and elastin and avoid damage. Maintenance and restoration of the proteins are integral processes for the vitality of the skin. What’s more, scientific studies have shown that we can naturally stimulate collagen and elastin production in our skin by ingesting the right foods containing key nutrients. Here are some of the nutrients that when added as part of a healthy diet, can boost our body’s production of collagen and elastin:
Pro-Collagen & Pro-Elastin Nutrients and Foods
Vitamin C, Linoleic Acid (Omega-6 Fatty Acids) & Vitamin E
Vitamin C is known to regulate the body’s synthesis of collagen and is widely used in creams and serums for topical application to the skin. But recent studies have shown that in addition to applying it to the skin, eating foods high in vitamin C can also have a positive impact of neutralising the free radicals that when left alone, will attack collagen.1
Vitamin C also seems to have a greater impact on the skin when combined with other skin friendly nutrients. One specific study examined the incidence of the telltale signs skin ageing wrinkles and skin atrophy or thinning in over 4,000 women after consuming vitamin C and linoleum acid.3 The results indicated that participants whose diets included higher vitamin C had a lower incidence of wrinkled skin. The test also demonstrated that higher dietary intakes of vitamin C in combination with linoleic acid resulted in less skin atrophy and a reduced wrinkled appearance. Also notable, were the findings of a correlation between higher carbohydrate diets and the appearance of skin wrinkles.
Although the data is somewhat limited, another revealing study found that vitamin C can actually have a larger impact on skin ageing when ingested in combination with vitamin E. Vitamin E is another ingredient commonly found in anti-ageing skin cosmetics for the face, but here it proves to be beneficial in our diet as well. One study offers positive evidence that ingesting foods with vitamin E helps protect against collagen crossing linking which leads to a breakdown in the structure of the skin.1 When combined, vitamin C and vitamin E are shown to have a synergistic quality, warding against sunburn and UV damage that leads to age-associated wrinkles.4
Adding foods with all three of these micronutrients to your diet may just prove to keep your skin looking younger as you age. Here are some food sources for vitamin C, linoleic acid, and vitamin E:
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamin C. Fruits (and juices) high in vitamin C include guava, citrus, kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes. Vegetables with significant vitamin C content include cabbage, as well as dark green vegetables like spinach and kale.
Foods high in linoleic acid include flaxseeds and oil, tofu, canola oil, walnuts, soybeans and soybean oil, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil.
Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin E are sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, safflower oil, beets, and swordfish, to name a few.
After considering all the foods nutrients that can enhance the production of collagen and elastin, you may be wondering if there are foods you should avoid to maintain beautiful skin. The answer is yes. Researchers have found positive evidence that reducing the amount of sugar you consume helps the collagen and elastin in your body. Sugar molecules connect to the amino acids in elastin and collagen, which interferes with the ability of these proteins to repair themselves.12 In addition to a study noted earlier regarding the negative impact of high carbohydrates on collagen and elastin, it has been concluded in an additional trial that diets filled with too much fat and carbohydrates also lead to thinning and wrinkled skin.13
This body of scientific studies is evidence of the fact that a healthy diet does indeed contribute to healthy skin. These studies show that specific nutritional factors play a critical role in dermatological health. Collagen and elastin are two key proteins that make up the strong and resilient dermis layer of the skin. When we consume a nutrient-rich diet that both protects and boosts the production of collagen and elastin proteins that support our skin, we can enjoy a more radiant and youthful appearance as we age.
References and Sources
- Schagen, S. K., Zampeli, V. A., Makrantonaki, E., & Zouboulis, C. C. (2012). Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermato-Endocrinology. 4(3), 298-307. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/
- Baumann, L. (2007)Skin ageing and its treatment. Journal of Pathology. 211(2), 241-251. Retrieved from http://novaq10.com/pdf/beaute/Vieillissement_de_la_Peau_et_Traitement.pdf
- Cosgrove, Maeve C., Franco, Oscar H., Granger, Stewart P., Murray, Peter G., and Mayes, Andrew E. (2007) Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle- aged American women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 86(4), 1225-1231.Retrieved from http://www.mineralmed.com.pt/documentos/pdf/1e470c8d-416a-47ec-981a-49c5403136ed.pdf
- Eberlein-Konig B, Placzek M, Przybilla B. (1998) Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). Journal of American Academy of Dermatology. 38.1 (1998): 45-48. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9448204
- Thring, Tamsyn S.A.,Pauline Hili, Pauline and Naughton, Declan P. (2009) Anti-collagenase, anti-elastase and anti-oxidant activities of extracts from 21 plants. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 9:27. Retrieved from http://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-9-27
- Williams, S., Tamburic, S., & Lally, C. (2009). Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 8(3), 169-173. Retreived from http://www.chococru.com/pdf/Williams%20et%20al.,%202009.pdf
- Scarmo, S., Cartmel, B., Lin, H., Leffell, D. J., Welch, E., Bhosale, P., … Mayne, S. T. (2010). Significant correlations of dermal total carotenoids and dermal lycopene with their respective plasma levels in healthy adults. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 504(1), 34–39. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.abb.2010.07.004 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957565/
- Rizwan, M., Rodriguez-Blanco, I., Harbottle, A., Birch-Machin, M. A., Watson, R. E. B., & Rhodes, L. E. (2011). Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Dermatology, 164(1), 154-162. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/46379955
- Pandel, R., Poljšak, B., Godic, A., & Dahmane, R. (2013). Skin photoaging and the role of antioxidants in its prevention. ISRN dermatology, 2013. Retrieved from : https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258044079
- Kim, S. Y., Kim, S. J., Lee, J. Y., Kim, W. G., Park, W. S., Sim, Y. C., & Lee, S. J. (2004). Protective effects of dietary soy isoflavones against UV-induced skin-aging in hairless mouse model. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(2), 157-162. Retreived from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15047682
- Harris, E. D., Rayton, J. K., Balthrop, J. E., Di Silvestro, R. A. and Garcia-de-Quevedo, M. (1980) Copper and the synthesis of elastin and collagen. Biological Roles of Copper. 10.1002/9780470720622.ch9 . Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6110524
- Danby, F. W. (2010). Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation. Clinics in dermatology, 28(4), 409-411. Retreived from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20620757
- Farris, Patricia. (2015) Beauty from the inside out: Improving your diet or taking supplements may lead to younger-looking skin. American Academy of Dermatology. Retreived from https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/beauty-from-the-inside-out-improving-your-diet-or-taking-supplements-may-lead-to-younger-looking-skin