Which Vitamins & Minerals Are Good for Skin Care?
by Kristan Nolan
Some vitamins and minerals play more direct roles in healthy-looking skin, whether obtained through food or as an ingredient in a skin care product. However, all vitamins and minerals contribute to good health, and a healthy inside can make you glow on the outside.
Vitamin A, or retinol, is necessary for maintaining healthy skin, among other functions. Retinol and other retinoids (a specific category of vitamin A compounds, often created synthetically) are frequently used to treat moderate to severe skin disorders such as acne and psoriasis; the anti-acne medication Accutane is a retinoid. Vitamin A is found in many animal and plant sources such as dairy products, fish oils, spinach, apricots and broccoli.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it protects cells against damage by free radicals, or unstable molecules. Vitamin C helps build, repair and heal bone and skin; maintain healthy teeth and gums; and build collagen, which keeps the face look elastic and young. It is found in such fruits and vegetables as oranges, broccoli, red peppers and strawberries as well as in such meats as calf liver and oysters.
Vitamin E, also an antioxidant, helps protect the skin on a cellular level from damage from the sun and environmental pollutants. As an ingredient in many skin care products (look for alpha-tocopherol), vitamin E acts as an emollient, keeping the skin soft and supple. It is readily obtained through such foods as leafy greens, meat, milk, eggs and nuts.
Minerals, which are mostly obtained through plant, water and animal sources, are critical for the body's overall function. Calcium, found in dairy products and leafy greens, helps strengthen bones, keeping your skeletal frame upright and strong. Manganese, found in whole grains, leafy greens and nuts, is required for the process of collagen formation in the skin. Iron, found in meat, beans, leafy greens and other sources, helps build red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body; poor respiratory function can affect the skin, which is, after all, the body's largest organ.
Conversely, the skin also helps vitamins, particularly vitamin D. Vitamin D's primary purpose is to build and maintain strong bones, thus preventing osteoporosis, and it is best synthesized in the body through direct exposure to sunlight. There is no agreement yet on how much exposure is necessary, and it is important to remember that prolonged, direct sunlight damages unprotected skin.
If you stick to a healthy diet and take vitamin and mineral supplements, be aware of the potential of overdosing. Exceeding the recommended daily allowance, especially on an ongoing basis, of some vitamins and minerals can lead to side effects ranging from gastrointestinal discomfort to toxicity.