The best supplements for beautiful skin

What if beauty was as simple
as popping a pill? It seems like almost daily we encounter the latest
pill, beverage, powder, or cream that promises to have found a way to bottle
the fountain of youth — and at a steep price. 
But what ingredients and
supplements have really proven to boost the vitality and beauty of our
complexions, beyond the vitamins and minerals we already consume in our diets?
Which ones are just a lot of hype? Is popping a pill always the right choice,
or would a topical supplement lead to better results? Here are your answers!

Vitamin C is integral to the
health of our skin, and is a key ingredient in many topical anti-aging serums
and lotions. Vital to the formation of collagen, the building block of skin,
vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is essential for wound healing, and
can help the body to fight the damages of UV exposure. But will it keep you
looking beautiful? According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it
will. A 2008 study on over 4000 middle-aged British women showed that higher
vitamin C intake was associated with less skin dryness and wrinkling.
Unlike most other animals,
humans cannot synthesize vitamin C, meaning we need to ingest it regularly to
not only receive its health benefits, but to prevent scurvy. Scurvy, the
vitamin C deficiency that once plagued sailors at sea, can manifest within a
month, and includes nasty symptoms like bleeding gums, weak connective tissues,
visible capillary damage, skin thickening, poor wound healing, and eventually
The good news is, it’s easy to
get all the vitamin C we need, from eating a diet that includes fruits and
vegetables. If your diet is not up to par, a vitamin C supplement is a wise idea
to ensure you are getting the 75 mg per day recommended for adult women,
especially smokers, who are recommended to consume an additional 35 mg daily.

Vitamin C works even better in
the body when teamed up with one of its favorite dance partners, vitamin E.
Vitamin E, found naturally in
many seeds, oils, and nuts, acts as an antioxidant in the body, protecting our
cells against free radical damage, and premature aging. While that may be
enough to make you want to run right out and stock up on an oral vitamin E
supplement, there is much debate as to whether oral vitamin E supplementation
is healthy, with some studies linking it to cases of prostate cancer and death.
Applying it topically,
however, is a completely different matter. Vitamin E, when applied topically,
is absorbed by all the layers of the skin quickly, but when taken orally, could
take up to seven days to reach the skin’s layers. Topical vitamin E is mostly
destroyed when exposed to sunlight, but when blended with vitamin C, the
two antioxidants work synergistically to fight wrinkles, and protect against
sun damage and skin cancer.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble
compound also known as retinol. Retinol is essential for healthy vision, cell
growth, and immune function. Deficiencies are rare, but vegetarians may be
lacking due to the fact that vitamin A is only found in animal foods, though
the body can also synthesize it from the beta carotene contained in vegetables.
When it comes to skin health, the real wonders come from supplementing with
vitamin A not orally, but topically.
Considered the gold standard
in the anti-aging industry, retinol is available in prescription strength
applications, which contain powerful doses of retinoic acid. Over the counter
products are also available, which slowly convert to retinoic acid when applied
to the skin. While results are faster with prescription formulas, they are
famously irritating to the skin, so building up your tolerance to retinol by
starting out with a drugstore brand may be a smart move. 
But is all the trouble even
worth it? You betcha. As Jennifer Chwalek, MD of Union Square Laser
Dermatology, told Elle, “Prescription Retin-A and Tretinoin and over the
counter retinols increase skin cell turnover and stimulate collagen synthesis.
With consistent use of a topical retinol or Retin-A you can see improvement of
fine lines, dark spots, texture, and tone.”
Sound too good to be true?
Here’s the catch — the anti-aging effects of retinol don’t happen overnight.
Dermatologist, Dr. Kenneth Beer told the New York Times, “By 24 weeks,
patients will see dramatic, marked improvements.”

Unless you are familiar with
the mind-body science of Ayurveda, you may have never heard of Triphala. So
what is it exactly? Triphala is a time-honored, Ayurvedic herbal remedy made up
of the combination of three different plants: amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki.
The Charaka Samhita, a classic Ayurvedic text, says that taking triphala daily
can “make a person live for one hundred years devoid of old age and
According to Dr. Sheila Patel,
medical director of the Chopra Center, triphala has traditionally been used as
a detoxifier, rejuvenator, and mild laxative. Practitioners prescribe its use
for a variety of ailments including obesity, allergies, liver problems, eye
disorders, and skin inflammation. Scientific studies have shown that the
synergistic qualities of these “three fruits” known as triphala do
indeed produce a host of positive effects in the body, with triphala displaying
anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibacterial, and wound healing properties.
But will it improve your skin?
Yes. Medical journal, Foods and Dietary Supplements in the Prevention and
Treatment of Disease in Older Adults, reports, “Triphala provides cosmetic
benefit and improves skin tone and complexion.” The journal goes on to say
that triphala can boost collagen production, prevent skin infections, and even
combat the graying of hair.

Omega-3s are the essential
fatty acids found primarily in seafood, but also in some nuts, seeds,
vegetables, and oils. Long touted as a nutritional miracle, omega 3 fatty acids
have been scientifically shown to improve eye health, combat depression, fight
autoimmune conditions, prevent age-related mental decline, and improve bone and
joint health. Added bonus: they will also contribute to beautiful, glowing
The omega-3 acid, DHA, is a
key structural component of the skin, keeping the skin’s cell membranes healthy
and supple. EPA, another member of the omega-3 family, manages the skin’s
hydration system, prevents premature aging, combats acne, and halts the
inflammation of hair follicles. But how much omega-3 do you need to enjoy its
The key lies in getting the
proper balance of omega-3 acids with its fatty acid cousins, the omega-6s.
While both are essential for our bodies, Americans get far too much omega-6 in
our standard diet. Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D, and director of the Arizona Center for
Integrative Medicine, says that we should aim to cut down on our intake of the
omega-6s found in processed foods, and consume more of the omega-3s found in
oily, wild fish. Two to three servings per week would be optimal. If
supplementing, he advises seeking a product that offers a minimum of 700 mg of
EPA, and 200mg of DHA, daily.

Though we likely already get
too much omega-6 in our diet, there is one type of omega-6 fatty acid that is
much harder to come by. Gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid
found in hemp oil, spirulina, and the oils of plants like borage, black
currant, and evening primrose. Dr. Weil says, “GLA is an effective
anti-inflammatory agent that I recommend for arthritis, autoimmune disorders,
premenstrual syndrome and for healthy growth of skin, hair, and nails.” Weil
advises supplementing with 500 mg of evening primrose oil or black currant oil
twice per day, but recommends avoiding borage oil supplements, which could
cause liver toxicity.
Dermatologist Elizabeth K.
Hale, MD, agrees. She tells Glamour, “I love evening primrose oil. It’s a
plant extract that comes from the seeds of a wildflower. It’s not only
emollient (hydrating) but a powerful anti-irritant, which means it will have a
significant anti-inflammatory effect on the skin.”
As with many herbal supplements,
patience is a virtue. A study published in the International Journal of
Cosmetic Science reported on the effects of daily evening primrose
supplementation in a group of healthy adults. The researchers saw no benefits
in the skin of the participants after four weeks, but reported a marked
improvement in skin elasticity, firmness, and moisture after 12 weeks of use.

Did you know that the effects
of the UV rays we are exposed to on a daily basis can contribute up to 80% of
visible signs of aging? So by all means, continue donning that sun hat and
slathering on the sunscreen. But what if there was a sunscreen pill that could
also protect your skin from those harmful rays? It turns out, there is.
Polypodium leucotomos is the
extract of a Central American fern plant. Studies published by The American
Academy of Dermatology have shown that supplementing with the fern extract can
provide the skin with lengthened exposure to UV rays before burning, as well as
protect individuals with a condition called polymorphous light eruption, which
causes those afflicted to suffer from itchy rashes when exposed to
Dr. Henry W. Lim, chairman of
the department of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital, said in the article,
“We’re not completely sure how sunscreen pills work, but the main
understanding is that polypodium leucotomos acts as an antioxidant, so it
protects the skin from oxidative damage caused by sun exposure.” 
As sunscreen pills offer sun
protection comparable to a level SPF three to five, Dr. Lim says, “If
someone wants to take a sunscreen pill, they should continue protecting their
skin by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and applying sunscreen.
While there have been promising results, more research needs to be done to know
the optimal way of using these pills and their long-term safety.”

Biotin is a water-soluble
vitamin that makes itself at home amongst the B-complex family. It’s also known
as B7, and sometimes is referred to as its old name, vitamin H, or coenzyme R.
Biotin has long been touted as a miracle supplement for the beauty of hair,
skin, and nails, appearing as an ingredient in many over the counter beauty
formulations. But does it live up to the hype?
The answer is debatable. A
deficiency in biotin can lead to hair loss, brittle nails, and cause cradle cap
in infants, indicating that this vitamin is indeed essential to the health of
hair, skin, and nails. But deficiency of biotin is extremely rare, since it is
found in many of the foods we likely eat often, like eggs, cheese, nuts, beans,
and leafy greens. Our bodies are also capable of synthesizing a small amount of
it per day.
Any excess of the
water-soluble vitamin is excreted in our urine, and there are no known toxicity
levels of biotin, making it a safe supplement to try out, but the truth is that
very few studies show it makes any difference in individuals who are not
deficient in the nutrient. The most promising studies indicate it will help
with brittle nails, and mega doses are thought to be effective in treating
multiple sclerosis.

Collagen “is the most
abundant protein in the human body.” It provides the building blocks for
bones, tendons, ligaments, teeth, muscles, and yes, the body’s largest organ —
the skin. Our bodies make collagen when we eat the proper amounts of certain
minerals, vitamin C, and protein, but as we age, our bodies produce less and
less, and we lose skin suppleness and firmness. So why not just supplement with
collagen to beautify our skin?
Animal proteins, particularly
bone broth, gelatin, and animal skin, are very high in collagen. But does
eating more of them translate to more collagen in our bodies? What about all of
the collagen supplements found in pills, powders, and beverages? The common
criticism of collagen supplementation is that the collagen is broken down as
soon as it hits the stomach. As dermatologist Dr. Karen Grossman explained to
Vogue, it is difficult to determine how much of the collagen we ingest
gets absorbed as collagen, and how much the body repurposes. She says,
“More studies need to be done to help to figure out how these products may
or may not be affecting our bodies.”
But there have been promising
studies that show that collagen supplementation can improve skin quality —
provided you consume the right kind of collagen. Both hydrolyzed collagen and
gelatin have been broken down into peptides that may be more bioavailable, with
studies showing that they provide benefits when supplemented both orally and
topically, improving skin elasticity and hydration.
does it all mean for you?

Are you now excited to add
some more nutritional supplements to your beauty regimen? Before you jump right
into a bevy of new supplements, be sure to consider the following
recommendations on choosing which supplements are right for you.
Quality is important when it
comes to nutritional supplements, so seek out a trusted, reputable brand. The
cheapest drug store vitamins are not always going to be the most effective.
When purchasing herbal supplements, look for “standardized”
formulations that contain a specific amount of the herb’s desired compounds.
High-quality herbal supplements will be certified by organizations like The
United Natural Products Alliance, NSF International, or The United States Pharmacopeia.
With any supplement, consult
your doctor if you are currently on any medications, as there are possible drug
interactions with over the counter vitamin and herbal supplements. Once you
embark on your supplementation process, remember, patience is a virtue. When
taken consistently, it can take two to three months for you to see and feel the
changes the supplement may bring you. But for your most gorgeous skin ever, it
will certainly be worth it!

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.