Group of diverse body positive beautiful women on beige background, showing they have great skin health

Nourishing skin from within

We are all familiar with the saying ‘beauty comes from within’ and when it comes to our skin this couldn’t be more true. Healthy skin starts with optimal nutrition and with the skin being the largest organ, it has a great need for nourishment.

It is also the organ where signs of ageing, stress, and poor nutrition are perhaps most noticeable. A range of nutrients are needed for skin health which collectively nourish, feed, repair, provide structure and enrich the skin from the inside out and in this week’s blog we take a look at some of these important nutrients. We will also explore some of the factors that can negatively impact on our skin and some key principles to be mindful of.

First, a refresh on skin

The skin may appear to be a superficial covering, but it possesses multiple functions and exists in a constant state of renewal and repair, regenerating every few weeks or so. The skin also mirrors processes in the body and can be an excellent indicator of our overall health.

Many skin issues are often manifestations of certain disturbances within the body, which often relate to a lack of nutrients, and it is accepted that our nutritional status is important for skin health and appearance. Evidence of this is provided by the many vitamin deficiency diseases that result in significant disorders of the skin.3

Our skin has three main layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layers:

  1. The epidermis: the uppermost layer, which is responsible for many of the skin’s barrier functions. Keratin, for example, which is present in the stratified squamous epithelium of the skin, presents a formidable physical barrier to most microorganisms. In addition, it makes the skin resistant to bacterial enzymes, and toxins.1,2 The epidermis renews itself approximately every 28 days.
  2. The dermis: the middle layer, which gives the skin structure and contains the blood and lymph vessels that provide nutritive support for the epidermis. Much of the body’s water supply is stored within the dermis. The dermis is made of two layers of connective tissue that compose an interconnected mesh of elastin and collagenous fibres.
  3. The hypodermis: the lower layer, also known as the subcutaneous. This layer stores energy and helps to provide insulation.

In a healthy state, these three layers fulfil a range of functions and require a constant flow of energy and nutrients. Functions include:

  • Providing immune defence
  • Harbouring free radical detoxifying enzymes and antioxidant molecules
  • Controlling thermoregulation
  • Preventing excessive water loss
  • Allowing sensory input
  • Enabling endocrine and metabolic mechanisms, such as the production of vitamin D

Importantly, skin that functions properly is usually aesthetically pleasing too—with a healthful appearance.

Skip to Key Takeaways

Factors affecting skin health include:


When regulated and under control, inflammation is a key component of our immune system. However, problems start to occur when inflammation is out of control and becomes chronic and systemic. From a skin perspective, too much inflammation can cause damage and destruction to the skin’s structural components, including collagen and elastin, thereby contributing to increased wrinkle formation and loss of firmness.

Drivers of inflammation include:

  • oxidative stress
  • poor diet/micronutrient deficiency
  • lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive sun exposure and alcohol intake
  • microbiome disturbance/gut permeability


Glycation takes place when sugars form non-enzymatic bonds with proteins, nucleic acids, or lipids. This cross-linking produces glycotoxins called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Although the formation of AGEs is a part of normal metabolism, if excessively high, they are highly oxidant harmful compounds that have been shown to cause oxidative stress, inflammation and accelerated ageing.1

The proteins in skin are prone to glycation. As the AGE molecules damage collagen and elastin, visible effects to the skin include a reduction in suppleness, wrinkles and loss of radiance. Factors that can increase glycation include:

  • high sugar consumption
  • high temperature processed foods
  • increased blood glucose levels (caused by factors such as stress, poor diet and insulin resistance) 

Oxidative stress

While protein glycation stems mainly through hyperglycaemia and is reported to cause oxidative stress, oxidative stress can be an independent component arising due to a number of other reasons. Oxidative stress is viewed as an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and their elimination by protective antioxidant mechanisms.

Oxidative stress can cause damage to many cellular structures, such as membranes, lipids and proteins. ROS play a critical role in alterations of the dermal extracellular matrix, both in the case of intrinsic and photo (extrinsic) ageing. They repress collagen production resulting in the decreased levels of collagen observed in photo-aged skin.

Poor gut health

The immuno-modulating potential of the microbiome on distant organ sites is an expanding research field, especially the influence of the gut microbiome on the skin.1 An imbalance of our gut bacteria is known to adversely affect the health of our skin, where it is implicated in conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis.

As the gut and skin microflora are intrinsically linked the gut flora should be supported. Additionally, the gut is responsible for excretion of waste products and so if it is dysfunctional this can affect excretion via the skin.

Several studies have demonstrated the bidirectional link between gut dysbiosis and skin homeostasis imbalances, with a particular role in the pathophysiology of multiple inflammatory diseases.2,3

Key principles of nutrition for skin health

The discussed biological factors are complex but are all influenced by our dietary intake, and before exploring individual nutrients, it’s worth looking at the broader dietary recommendations that can positively influence skin health. 

Antioxidant-rich diet

Adequate levels of vitamins and minerals (needed as cofactors in thousands of metabolic reactions) are crucial for maintaining healthy skin. To further encourage beautiful skin, include plenty of antioxidant-rich foods to help fight free radicals which can cause damage to the different layers of the skin.

Damage can present as fine lines, wrinkles, dull or uneven skin tone, and sagging skin. Important antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, the minerals zinc and selenium and a wide range of phytonutrients, which are abundant in wholefoods. Many of the components of our antioxidant defences need to be obtained from the diet, and are important for protection against oxidative stress, UV damage and accelerated ageing.1 

Supporting a nutrient dense diet with a good quality multivitamin and mineral to ensure you are bridging the gap between intake and optimal needs is also recommended. 

Anti-inflammatory diet

Pro-inflammatory foods promote wrinkles, accelerate ageing and the storage of body fat and include:

  • sugar
  • refined grains
  • trans fats
  • processed foods
  • gluten

An anti-inflammatory diet excludes the above and includes a wide variety of wholefoods including vegetables and fruit, lean protein and healthy fats. Omega-3 fats in oily fish are particularly important for reducing inflammation. The ratio of omega-6 to 3 is key, although the majority of people are consuming too much omega-6 relative to omega-3 and are often producing excess amounts of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. Including an omega 3 supplement can help to increase the intake of these important fatty acids.

Low AGE diet

Although AGEs were thought to form only endogenously, primarily as the result of hyperglycaemia, it is now clear that exogenous AGEs in foods are also an important contributor. AGEs are produced when foods are cooked under high heat and are common in processed foods. Adopting an anti-AGE diet is beneficial for halting glycation and subsequent damage. Ways to reduce AGEs in the diet:

  • Include wholefoods and remove highly processed ones
  • Minimise sugar
  • Include an abundance of antioxidants
  • Prepare with moist heat (poaching, steaming, boiling)
  • Avoid dry heat processed foods such as crisps, crackers and biscuits

Several clinical trials have demonstrated that the application of an AGE-restricted diet reduces not only the systemic levels of AGEs but also the levels of markers of oxidative stress and inflammation.2  

Balance blood sugar levels

A low glycaemic load diet is an eating plan based on how foods affect blood sugar levels. It is a measure of the type and quantity of the carbohydrates you eat. Lowering the glycaemic load of the diet reduces the insulin response required. Aim to:

  • include carbohydrates that release their sugar content slowly (green vegetables, fruits such as berries, legumes). Those vegetables that grow above the ground will have significantly lower carbohydrate (and higher healthful nutrients) than those that are grown below the ground
  • avoid eating sugary or refined carbohydrates
  • combine carbohydrates with protein and healthy fats to further slow blood sugar release 

Specific nutrients that support skin health

Vitamin C (protect, brighten, calm and balance)

In the epidermis, vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant, combatting the free radicals produced by UV rays; it contributes to photoprotection and decreases photodamage. In the dermis, it is used as a cofactor producing and maintaining collagen1 – good levels can therefore help to support the structure of the skin and improve skin tone, texture and hydration.

As a key contributor to the innate and adaptive immune response, vitamin C also plays an important role in barrier integrity and wound repair.2 Vitamin C can enhance circulation, strengthen blood vessels and improve blood flow to the skin, helping the skin appear bright and radiant. The best food sources of vitamin C include peppers, berries, citrus fruits, broccoli and greens.

Collagen (nourish, plump, repair and regenerate)

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and is responsible for structure, strength and stability in the skin. As we age, collagen production slows and collagen quality diminishes. A reduction in collagen level and quality results in wrinkle formation and skin loses its firmness and tone. It also compromises the skin’s barrier, causing dryness.

Supplementing with collagen peptides may help as they have a dual action in the skin: they provide the building blocks for collagen and bind to fibroblasts in dermal layers to stimulate the synthesis of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid.3

In a randomised controlled trial, a blend of collagen peptides, vitamin C, zinc, biotin, and a vitamin E complex was trialled on 72 healthy women. The test product significantly improved skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density.4

Furthermore, supplementing with marine sources of type I collagen have demonstrated significantly increased collagen depositions in the skin, increased hydration in dry skin, along with improved elasticity, resulting in greater smoothness and fewer wrinkles.

Zinc (repair, regenerate, calm, balance)

This trace mineral has several roles in skin health, including processes involved in repair, regeneration and maintenance. It is so important that up to 6% of the total body concentration of zinc is found in the skin (particularly the epidermis).5  Zinc is perhaps most well-known for its use in acne.6 As it has anti-inflammatory properties zinc may help to calm the skin and minimise irritation.7 

MSM (repair, regenerate)

MSM (methyl sulphonyl methane) is an organic form of sulphur, which is a component of keratin, and is vital for the formation of collagen and elastin, which provides flexibility, tone and strength to muscles, bones, joints, skin, hair and nails. Consumption of MSM may help to reduce wrinkles by protecting extracellular matrix proteins such as collagen from damage and degradation. It does this by inhibiting the NF-kB pro-inflammatory signalling pathway, thus inducing an anti-inflammatory effect.

MSM is known to be a beneficial nutrient and a therapeutic substance for the treatment of acne, dry or rough skin, and other ailments. It is involved in the repair and regeneration of the skin.

One trial showed that ingestion of 1–3g MSM daily for 16 weeks reduced signs of ageing such as facial wrinkles and skin roughness.8 Mechanisms for its action are still being explored, but it is likely due to its ability to support collagen production and restore levels of the key antioxidant enzyme, glutathione.9

MSM naturally occurs in some green vegetables, including alfalfa, cabbage and Swiss chard, and other foods such as dairy and chicken. 

Biotin (nourish, hydrate, strengthen)

Biotin is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin, an important coenzyme and essential nutrient that contributes to the maintenance of normal hair and skin. Biotin is an important component of skin and helps maintain good hydration, smoothness and strength. Biotin is ubiquitous in foods.

Silica (plump, hydrate, strengthen)

Silica resides in collagen fibres giving connective tissue strength and flexibility. Good levels help to improve elasticity, texture and hydration of the skin as well as reducing the visible signs of ageing. Studies have shown that the use of silica both topically and internally significantly improves the elasticity, texture, and hydration of the skin, as well as reducing visible signs of ageing. In one study of women with sun-damaged skin, those who took 10mg of silica daily for 20 weeks had decreased skin roughness and wrinkling.10 

Bilberry (calm, balance, protect)

Bilberry is packed full of antioxidants called anthocyanidins, which given the fruit its deep purple colour. The anthocyanidins are profoundly protective to skin, quenching free radicals and delaying the signs of ageing. Anthocyanins also have anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties.11

The extracts from the fruits and leaves of bilberries have also had a long-standing tradition of use in elevated blood sugar levels. A water-soluble extract of bilberry was able to reduce UVA- and UVB-induced damage in a human keratinocyte cell line.12

Grapeseed extract (protect, balance)

The proanthocyanins in grape seed extract are powerful antioxidants, which may help to protect the skin from free radical damage, UV damage and premature ageing.13-15 The anthocyanidins also bestow antimicrobial properties. 

Hyaluronic acid (plump, hydrate)

Youthful skin retains its resilience, elasticity and suppleness due to its high content of water. There are many factors that can cause loss of moisture including sun exposure, weather and pollution, and these are in addition to the normal process of ageing. Hyaluronic acid is a complex polysaccharide found naturally in connective, epithelial and neural tissues. It is a key molecule for helping skin retain moisture and protecting against UV-mediated and other skin ageing drivers.

A study carried out in 2017 found that oral hyaluronic acid relieved wrinkles and improved skin condition in all the study subjects.16

Probiotics (calm, balance, protect)

Supporting a balanced microbiome with a multi-strain probiotic rich in Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains can support the skin through reducing inflammation and oxidative stress and improving skin barrier recovery. 

Key takeaways

  • Healthy skin starts with optimal nutrition
  • A range of nutrients are needed for skin health which collectively nourish, feed, repair, provide structure and enrich the skin from the inside out
  • The skin possesses multiple functions and exists in a constant state of renewal and repair, regenerating every few weeks or so
  • The skin has three main layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layers
  • In a healthy state, these three layers fulfil a range of functions and require a constant flow of energy and nutrients
  • Inflammation, oxidative stress, glycation and poor gut health all impact on the health of the skin
  • Key principles include an antioxidant-rich diet, an anti-inflammatory diet, low AGE diet and balancing blood sugar levels
  • Important nutrients include vitamin C, collagen, zinc, MSM, biotin, silica and probiotics
  • Collectively these help to repair, regenerate, calm, balance and hydrate the skin



  1. Madison K. C. (2003). Barrier function of the skin: “la raison d’être” of the epidermis. The Journal of investigative dermatology121(2), 231–241.
  2. Lange, L., Huang, Y., & Busk, P. K. (2016). Microbial decomposition of keratin in nature-a new hypothesis of industrial relevance. Applied microbiology and biotechnology100(5), 2083–2096.
  3. Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2017). The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients9(8), 866.


  1. Uribarri, J., & Vlassara, H. (2007). Circulating glycotoxins and dietary advanced glycation endproducts: two links to inflammatory response, oxidative stress, and aging. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences62(4), 427–433.

Gut health

  1. De Pessemier, B., (2021). Gut-Skin Axis: Current Knowledge of the Interrelationship between Microbial Dysbiosis and Skin Conditions. Microorganisms9(2), 353.
  2. Shah, K. R., Boland, C. R., Patel, M., Thrash, B., & Menter, A. (2013). Cutaneous manifestations of gastrointestinal disease: part I. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology68(2), 189.e1–210.
  3. Thrash, B., Patel, M., Shah, K. R., Boland, C. R., & Menter, A. (2013). Cutaneous manifestations of gastrointestinal disease: part II. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology68(2), 211.e1–246.

Key principles

  1. Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2017). The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients9(8), 866.
  1. Uribarri, J. and He, J.C. (2015) ‘The low AGE diet: a neglected aspect of clinical nephrology practice?’, Nephron, 130(1), pp. 48–53.

Specific nutrients

  1. Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2017). The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients9(8), 866.
  2. Carr, A. C., & Maggini, S. (2017). Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients9(11), 1211.
  3. Avila Rodríguez, M. I., Rodríguez Barroso, L. G., & Sánchez, M. L. (2018). Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. Journal of cosmetic dermatology17(1), 20–26.
  4. Bolke, L., Schlippe, G., Gerß, J., & Voss, W. (2019). A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study. Nutrients11(10), 2494.
  5. Vollmer, D. L., West, V. A., & Lephart, E. D. (2018). Enhancing Skin Health: By Oral Administration of Natural Compounds and Minerals with Implications to the Dermal Microbiome. International journal of molecular sciences19(10), 3059.
  6. Cervantes, J., Eber, A. E., Perper, M., Nascimento, V. M., Nouri, K., & Keri, J. E. (2018). The role of zinc in the treatment of acne: A review of the literature. Dermatologic therapy31(1), 10.1111/dth.12576.
  7. Gupta, M., Mahajan, V. K., Mehta, K. S., & Chauhan, P. S. (2014). Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatology research and practice2014, 709152
  8. Muizzuddin, N., & Benjamin, R. (2022). Beauty from within: Oral administration of a sulfur-containing supplement methylsulfonylmethane improves signs of skin ageing. International journal for vitamin and nutrition research. Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin- und Ernahrungsforschung. Journal international de vitaminologie et de nutrition92(3-4), 182–191.
  9. Nakhostin-Roohi, B., Barmaki, S., Khoshkhahesh, F., & Bohlooli, S. (2011). Effect of chronic supplementation with methylsulfonylmethane on oxidative stress following acute exercise in untrained healthy men. The Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology63(10), 1290–1294.
  10. Barel, A., (2005). Effect of oral intake of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid on skin, nails and hair in women with photodamaged skin. Archives of dermatological research297(4), 147–153.
  11. Vaneková, Z., & Rollinger, J. M. (2022). Bilberries: Curative and Miraculous – A Review on Bioactive Constituents and Clinical Research. Frontiers in pharmacology13, 909914.
  12. Calò, R., & Marabini, L. (2014). Protective effect of Vaccinium myrtillus extract against UVA- and UVB-induced damage in a human keratinocyte cell line (HaCaT cells). Journal of photochemistry and photobiology. B, Biology132, 27–35.
  13. Foshati, S., (2021). The effect of grape seed extract supplementation on oxidative stress and inflammation: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. International journal of clinical practice75(11), e14469.
  14. Zi, S. X., (2009). Oligomeric proanthocyanidins from grape seeds effectively inhibit ultraviolet-induced melanogenesis of human melanocytes in vitro. International journal of molecular medicine23(2), 197–204.
  15. Shi, J., (2003). Polyphenolics in grape seeds-biochemistry and functionality. Journal of medicinal food6(4), 291–299.
  16. Oe, M., (2017). Oral hyaluronan relieves wrinkles: a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study over a 12-week period. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology10, 267–273.

If you have questions regarding the topics that have been raised, or any other health matters, please do contact our team of Nutritional Therapists.
01684 310099

Last updated on 3rd January 2024 by cytoffice


2 thoughts on “Nourishing skin from within

  1. my skin and immune system is really suffering at the moment and I have difficulties digesting food intake causing bloating, stomach pains, fatigue. I am taking supplements of vit c, Vit D, Vit b 12, glucosamine and 5 htp to help me sleep due to arthritic pain in my joints and stomach pains… no joy. i have just done a coealiac blood test this morning as I am dairy, wheat and lactose intolerant… not helping me much. Can you recommend any other vitamins I could take to boost my immune system and reduce inflammation? Many thanks Julie

    1. Hi Julie, poor digestive health can have profound impacts on the skin and on immune function. We would recommend a probiotic supplement to help balance the levels of friendly bacteria in the gut and support immunity. A well-rounded multivitamin such as our CoQ10 multi will cover some of the nutrients you are taking, alongside CoQ10 which can support energy production. The Cell-Active curcumin is a great option for systemic (whole body) inflammation. If you would like more personalised advice, then please feel free to fill in our Health Questionnaire or email

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