Should supplements for healthy skin go IN or ON my body?
BOTH! Unlike most organs in the body, supplements for healthy skin can be delivered both topically and orally.
Maybe your question is more specifically, which vitamins make the best supplements for healthy skin? In that case, the answer can depend on what changes you want to see in your skin. It may also depend on whether you want an oral or topical product.
In the article to follow, we will share with you what the research says about the best supplements for healthy skin. We hope this helps you decide which ingredients are right for your skin, so you can select the right products.
Oral Supplements for Healthy Skin
Healthy skin should be evenly moisturized, but without feeling greasy. Sometimes it feels like skincare products either strip all the natural moisture from skin leaving you dry, or they don’t cut through the grease, so you never feel truly clean. Finding a balance of clean, hydrated, and youthful (yet blemish-free) skin can feel like chasing a unicorn.
So, start at the root of the issue. What’s happening inside your body that also affects the appearance of your skin?
One factor is sebum: the natural oil/wax that keeps skin protected from the outside world. Supporting a normal amount of sebum is a great place to start with healthy skin. If sebaceous glands don’t produce enough sebum you’ll have dry skin and less of a barrier from toxins in the air. Too much sebum, and you’ll have shiny, oily skin and a potential struggle with acne.
Damage (from the sun, environmental toxins, and just wear and tear of living life) is another main factor in the appearance of skin. So, antioxidants, and other nutrients that aid in damage repair can also provide great benefits for healthy-looking skin.
Structural proteins and connective tissue contribute to the appearance (or, rather, lack thereof) of fine lines and wrinkles. Supplying your body with building blocks (specific amino acids) for proteins like collagen, keratin, and elastin can support smooth-looking skin as we age. Certain amino acids are also important for pulling hydration into skin cells and holding on to it, which helps to keep skin plump and firm.
As an essential mineral, zinc has been shown to inhibit overactive sebum production and expresses activities that support normal inflammatory responses for healthy-looking skin [1,2]. Zinc is naturally shuttled from the bloodstream to the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) where it plays a role in wound healing and cellular repair, as well as defense and protection . While zinc is a common and effective ingredient in sunscreens, topical zinc is not absorbed through skin into the circulation, and so must be taken orally for its internal benefits to take place .
Oral β-carotene (vitamin A) supplementation may help to prevent cellular damage, premature skin aging, and sunburn . These incredible benefits are provided by its antioxidant actions: quenching singlet oxygen, inhibiting free radicals, and suppressing cellular and tissue responses to inflammation .
Retinoids, derived from vitamin A, mediate the proliferation of new skin cells, thereby affecting the thickness of skin . They also regulate the function of the sebaceous glands and limit sebum production . Retinoids also influence the color of skin by mediating the distribution of melanin .
One study examined the effects of oral β-carotene for 90 days in subjects over the age of 50. Pro-collagen levels and elasticity increased and the appearance of wrinkles decreased significantly on the faces of those on a low-dose vitamin A treatment .
However, high doses of vitamin A can actually have a negative effect on skin and topically applied vitamin A is not as effective as low-dose, oral supplementation [5,6].
Our bodies only store topical vitamin A for a short time, and it typically washes away. Orally supplemented vitamin A gets stored in fat tissue and is slowly released into the skin layers over time . Because it is a lipid-soluble vitamin, it is important to stay within the recommended daily intake range.
Vitamin E is also an important, fat-soluble, antioxidant vitamin. While skincare products commonly include this ingredient, there is also evidence it supports skin healing when taken as an oral supplement. For example, oral vitamin E has been shown to support healthy skin through speed of wound healing, recovery from atopic dermatitis, and return to normal pigmentation in cases of melasma [7-9].
Vitamin C promotes the formation of collagen in the dermis and the epidermal barrier, which in turn helps to prevent water loss, keeping skin hydrated . Data also indicate that a higher vitamin C intake is associated with a reduced likelihood of a wrinkled appearance and age-associated dryness .
The biological function of vitamin C in the skin is related to collagen synthesis. It is through its roles in collagen synthesis that vitamin C exhibits anti-wrinkle activity . Due to its antioxidant properties, supplementation with vitamin C helps to protect the skin, especially the epidermis, against oxidants generated by ultraviolet radiation (sun) and other environmental factors .
One study showed that the oral administration of vitamins C and E for three months significantly reduced the sunburn reaction to UVB irradiation .
Vitamin D is not technically an essential vitamin because our bodies can make it in response to sun exposure. However, modern work/school schedules, living in cold climates, and the application of sunscreen all create barriers to proper vitamin D production. On top of this, our bodies tend to produce less as we get older. Fortunately, we can take oral vitamin D supplements to prevent deficiency.
In many ways, vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a vitamin. In relation to the skin, vitamin D actually plays a role in the regulation of new skin cell production, protects the skin from sun damage, and enhances wound healing . Vitamin D production in the skin is also associated with the skin’s immune functions and can play a role in certain inflammatory dermal conditions .
As mentioned previously, amino acids are the building blocks that, in the right combinations, can make up the proteins we want in our skin for stability, structure, and hydration. Research shows that some supplementary amino acids are better than others when it comes to supporting skin health
Dietary supplementation with arginine has been shown to facilitate wound healing, collagen deposition, new cell growth, and protein synthesis, reducing the appearance of some visible skin damage [10-12].
Histidine soothes the skin and has antioxidant properties .
Among others, lysine, proline, glycine, and leucine can help to strengthen the skin’s surface and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by contributing to collagen synthesis [12-15].
Topical Supplements for Healthy Skin
Now it’s time to cover the best nutrients to put on your skin.
Topical supplements for healthy skin form a shield to protect skin or absorb into to the outermost layers of skin. These are the layers that typically slough off quickly. So, you need to replenish topical treatments daily (or even more often) to receive their benefits.
We already recommended zinc among the oral supplements for healthy skin, in part because skin doesn’t absorb zinc well. Because of this, zinc makes a great sunscreen ingredient. The nutrient zinc oxide shields skin by absorbing harmful UV radiation in a manner that is superior to other sunscreen ingredients . Sun damage from UV exposure is a top reason for premature aging of the skin (photo-aging).
Again, oral vitamin C is great, but topical vitamin C supplementation can also counteract UVA-induced oxidative stress . The photoprotective efficacy of vitamin C is enhanced by combining it with vitamin E .
Vitamin C is also thought to be involved in inhibiting the overproduction of melanin, which is associated with hyperpigmented diseases and the initiation of melanomas . The combination of vitamin C and other vitamins, including vitamin E, can be used topically to reduce the appearance of skin discoloration (age spots or melasma) .
Nicotinamide (a.k.a. Niacinamide; Active Vitamin B-3)
One symptom of vitamin B-3 deficiency is dermatitis, showing its roles in the body are directly connected with skin health . There are several forms of vitamin B-3, but the best known for topical use is nicotinamide. When used topically, nicotinamide can benefit most skin types.
For those with younger skin and acne, nicotinamide supports normal, healthy levels of inflammation, reducing the appearance of blemishes and aiding in healthy levels of sebum production .
If you have dry skin, nicotinamide has been shown to increase the production of natural hydrators in the skin (ceramide and other stratum corneum lipids, not associated with acne or pimples) and reduce water loss from skin cells .
For those concerned with the physical signs of aging in skin, daily nicotinamide application has been associated with improved skin elasticity and reduced fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation .
Nicotinamide is also a ceramide promoter. It helps to form a protective layer over skin, stopping toxins from entering pores and trapping moisture, reducing evaporative loss 
HLA (Hyaluronic Acid; HA)
The key, naturally-occurring hydration molecule in skin is HLA (hyaluronic acid or HA) . Hyaluronic acid is part of the extracellular matrix that helps maintain the structure of skin. It holds collagen and elastin fibers together. In addition, HLA binds water molecules to keep skin hydrated and firm . Many factors are associated with the cause of “aging” skin. One of which is the natural, gradual loss of HLA in the epidermis. This plays a role in the loss of skin elasticity, drying, and the physical appearance of aging skin.
When applied topically, HLA can do much of what it does naturally. HLA in creams, serums, and cleansers absorbs into the epidermis and binds water molecules replenishing moisture within skin. Regular use of topical HLA has also been shown to improve skin softness, elasticity, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles .
Hyaluronic acid has also been shown to facilitate wound healing and is the active ingredient in Restylane®, one of the most popular cosmetic skin fillers used in the US and Canada [21,22].
Sodium pyrrolidone carboxylic acid, or Na-PCA, is yet another naturally-occurring skin moisturizing factor. As a humectant, it draws moisture into the epidermis, from beneath the skin hydrating outer skin cells. Na-PCA-mediated hydration can reduce dryness and flaking, and improve firmness and texture .
An underlying theme to physical aging is the slowed production of internal enzymes and other functional molecules over time. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10 or ubiquinone) is yet another factor that our bodies produce less of as we age.
CoQ10 is a mitochondrial enzyme and supports cellular metabolism in every cell of the body. If you remember back to seventh-grade biology, the mitochondria are “the powerhouses of the cell”. They convert fuel into an energy source body cells can use to fulfill their many functions efficiently. Due to this relationship, topical CoQ10 application can keep mitochondria in skin cells functioning at a “younger” level . With more energy, skin cells can build more structural proteins to keep skin firm. Energy also helps to build more natural humectants to keep skin hydrated.
Which products can I trust to contain these nutrients?
There are a multitude of skincare products on the market that boast these beneficial ingredients on their labels. Unfortunately, with topical formulas, it is difficult to compare side-by-side the strengths and qualities of the ingredients different products.
Metabolic Maintenance would like to be the company that you trust with your skin nutrition needs.
You can find many of the nutrients described above in The Naturally Clear line of topical skincare products. We design formulas that deliver the most effective ingredient concentrations backed by research.
Lastly, The line includes two cleanser options and two skin-protectant options. Choose between a gentle foaming facial cleanser or an exfoliating, cleansing scrub depending on your sensitivity and skin type. Then, choose between a topical spray or serum to follow the wash.
Naturally Clear Products
The topical spray and serum protect your freshly cleansed skin from the day, sealing in moisture and keeping dirt out of pores. While the topical spray contains a formula that is best for acne-prone skin and blemishes, the serum may be a superior choice for aging skin, replacing some of the natural chemicals it has slowed production of over the years.
Until we formulate a specific oral supplement for skin health (which may be on the horizon…), Metabolic Maintenance can also provide the supplemental nutrients mentioned above in other formulas.
Vitamins C, D, A, and E, and zinc, are all available in Metabolic Maintenance’s multivitamin/mineral formulas (including FemOne™, Basic Maintenance®, The Big One®, etc.).
BAM® Balanced Amino Maintenance, Amino Acid Base Powder, and other individual amino acid supplements contain supplemental amino acids that support skin health.
As always, Metabolic Maintenance strongly urges you to have a conversation with your trusted healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your health regimen.