December 17th 2018
What should you look for in a skin supplement?
February 7th 2019 / 0 comment
Skin expert and award-winning dermal facialist, Jennifer Rock, CEO and founder of The Skin Nerd, is known for her zero-crap approach to all things skincare. She’s often asked which skin supplements are actually worth it. Here’s her guide on what to buy
One question I’m often asked is this: “Is a balanced diet enough for good skin?” In my experience, not quite, though I wish it was. Your skin will benefit from the combination of a colourful, veg-rich diet and supplements. Rainbow plates result in healthy, bouncy, fresh-looking skin.
Supplements cannot be used in the place of food in your pursuit of skin health, but they can help. The reason I believe in the addition of supplements is because we live such fast-paced lives and experience such high amounts of stress, it’s hard to know the levels of nutrition we’re truly getting from our food. We overcook our food, we microwave it, we fry it, we horse it in without chewing thoroughly (affecting the way the nutrients are absorbed) and all of these things can deplete the value of the food.
Then, there’s the challenge of getting higher volumes of nutrients into your diet: the fact that we’re not always that hungry. What’s more, the food you eat is only as good as the soil it’s grown in. Without going too deep into agriculture, crop rotation is an issue. In the past, there would always be one dormant field which enabled the soil to rest, but, today, mainly because of demand, farmers can’t rest their soil, so it’s not as jam-packed full of minerals as it once was.
So supplements, are a helping hand, delivering higher levels of nutrients than we’d get from food alone. They are not an alternative but should be taken in addition to a healthy diet. Just like with the Sunday papers, the weekly supplement is a bonus.
What to look for in a skin supplement
Whatever brand you go with, you need to know that there are two kinds of supplements: water-soluble for those who hate swallowing tablets, and capsule form – which you use is really just a personal choice. My rule of thumb is to look for case studies, testimonials and before and after pics; more often than not, these are a better guide than reading about clinical trials.
When looking for supplement ingredients, consider additional essential fatty acids (EFAs). Then, you want to add more antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, probiotics (which boost immunity and promote gut health which improves our healing ability) and digestive enzymes (which help to break down our food more easily).
Is there one wonder supplement for all of the above? Usually, you won’t get all of these in one tablet but ZENii ProClear gets pretty close. However, if you’re taking an all-in-one, it’s important to consider how much (in terms of dosage) the manufacturer was able to get into one capsule. You’re going to get higher amounts of one thing if it is in a supplement pretty much on its own.
Maybe, however, you’ll be like me, and need six different supplements per day – it all depends on what you’re trying to do. I take:
Vitamin A (Advanced Skin Nutrition Accumax), to prevent future spots and balance my hormones. I take one to two a day with dinner.
Diindolylmethane (DIM) (Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Accumax) for regulating hormones as above and assisting the inner rocky fluctuations that trigger hormone-related skin issues.
Digestive enzymes (Advanced Skin Nutrition Digestive Enzyme), one before each meal to make sure I’m digesting my food properly and absorbing all of my nutrients.
It’s OK to take more than one supplement at once, but make sure you’re not getting toxic levels of anything – be especially careful with vitamin A. You shouldn’t be getting more than 300,000 IU (international units) of vitamin A per day as this can lead to vitamin A toxicity. Also, you shouldn’t take vitamin A supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Post-baby and breastfeeding, take all the A you can get because babies age you. Teens … no comment!
How to pick a supplement for your specific skin concerns
Taking multiple supplements just means multiple benefits and targeting concerns from all angles.
If ageing is your concern, go for vitamin A, omegas, vitamin C and collagen supplements.
If acne/oily skin is your worry, go for vitamin A, diindolylmethane (DIM), zinc, omegas and probiotics.
For pigmentation help, choose vitamin A and vitamin C.
Beyond the specific ingredients, look for a supplement with a high rate of bioavailability (the rate at which the nutrients will be absorbed by your body). If a supplement has a high rate of bioavailability/absorption and a fab mode of doing it, the producer will probably a) rave about it on the packaging and marketing and b) have lots of info on it on their website. Research the brand as much as possible – heck, you can even email their customer service team asking questions! Two things to look for are whether a brand’s supplements are lab-tested and tested on humans.
The skin supplements I recommend
Yana Daily Collagen Shots by Image contain hydrolysed collagen peptides – which is collagen that has been treated so that it can be extracted and absorbed by the body, as the molecules are smaller in size. It reduces the appearance of wrinkles, increases the skin’s elasticity and slows down how quickly we naturally lose our collagen. It contains vitamin C to boost our skin’s own production of collagen, biotin to help with skin strength, vitamin B6 to tackle the breaking down of collagen within the skin as well as an antioxidant complex that contains HA (hyaluronic acid), green tea leaf extract, acai fruit extract and pomegranate fruit extract.
Skin Accumax are incredible supplements designed to create hormonal homeostasis which is great for acne sufferers. They are packed with vitamins A, C and E but the magic ingredient is DIM one of my all-time favourite skingredients. The thing is, to get high levels of DIM into your diet, you’d need to be eating your broccoli by the truckload.
With Skin Accumax, you can expect a reduction of size and redness of spots, as well as them clearing in general – though it does depend on your skin in the first place. At the very least, it will help to bring spots from a level where they are red, inflamed, painful and very infected to being smaller, less painful, less red and just less vicious.
Probiotic supplements for a healthy gut
When there is an imbalance of bacteria in the gut, it causes inflammation and this, in turn, can cause inflammation of the skin. This connection between gut flora, which are the microorganisms that live in our gut, and the skin is known as the gut–skin axis.
Your balance of gut bacteria is altered through daily life. Medication (specifically antibiotics) that is taken regularly can upset the delicate ecosystem of your gut, as can stress and not sleeping properly. By taking probiotic supplements, you can help to repair the balance of bacteria in your gut, and thus stop the gut inflammation from occurring in the first place. This is why taking probiotic supplements is so important, especially for those with rosacea, eczema and even severe congestion.
In terms of brands and options on the market right now, I adore Symprove as it is live bacteria in a drinkable form.
Symprove isn’t freeze dried and reactivated as many probiotic-based supplements are. Its delivery system means that the digestive system doesn’t see the live and active bacteria in the formulation as food and so doesn’t attack it. This means it can pass straight through the stomach to start work colonising your gut bacteria. It also contains four different probiotic strains. It’s not the easiest to manage as it needs to be stored in a fridge and it is not the most appealing to the eye. My tip is to close your eyes and drink it. Daily. It’s expensive but it’s really brilliant. Udo’s Choice is another option, and Optibac is a more affordable probiotic option. Affordability is key. I also believe in prioritising differently, depending on your key concerns.
When will you see results? Supplements are slow burners. Advanced Nutrition Programme say that you sometimes need to take Skin Accumax for over three months to see a result but some see it in a few weeks. Consistency is key.
Jennifer Rock is an award-winning skin lecturer and a multi-award winning dermal facialist and aesthetician. She is the founder of The Skin Nerd online skin consultancy and the Cleanse Off Mitt Makeup Removal Tool. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
An edited extract from The Skin Nerd: Your straight-talking guide to feeding, protecting and respecting your skin by Jennifer Rock (£17.99, Headline). Buy your copy here.