“Great skin starts from within” is a phrase we hear frequently but it really is true, assures nutritionist Lorraine Peretta. Yes, super facial oils and serums, can do wonders for hydration, texture and wrinkles but what we put on our skin is only 50 per cent of the skin nutrition story. "The other 50 per cent comes from feeding from within — the skin is a two-sided organ,” she says.
You may already be well invested in a good skincare routine, but a good supplement can help you get more from your creams and serums. The aim is to "create healthy skin cells through nutrition so that when you use topicals you’re working with better skin," says Peretta.
Why do you need an anti-ageing skin supplement?
In an ideal world, we would get all of our vitamins and minerals from real food, but that requires dedication (and an organic food budget) that not many of us have. “Though nothing replaces a healthy diet and lifestyle, good quality supplements can count for a lot when it comes to skin health and anti-ageing," says Alice Mackintosh, registered nutritional therapist and founder of supplement brand Equi. "And there is some really robust evidence behind many ingredients when it comes to enhancing brightness and glow, fighting signs of ageing and promoting collagen levels.”
As we age we become less efficient at absorbing all the nutrition from our food, Peretta points out. This is when supplements can be a particularly effective boost.
What to look for in an anti-ageing skin supplement?
When it comes to the products that support our skin as it ages, we should be looking for ingredients that do three main things, according to Peretta, who is head of nutrition at supplement brand Advanced Nutrition Programme.
1. Support digestion
To absorb more nutrients from our food, support your digestion with probiotics and prebiotic fibres. The body of research suggesting a link between a happy gut environment and a healthy skin biome continues to grow. Interestingly, in clinical trials for Advanced Nutrition Programme's newly reformulated Skin Youth Biome supplements, which combines four probiotic bacteria strains with two new postbiotics, participants saw significant improvement in skin elasticity improvement and wrinkle reduction.
2. Fight free radical damage
Protect your skin from the inside out against internal and external stressors, such as the sun, pollution, life stress, etc., that can all contribute to dullness and premature ageing. Look for supplements with a broad range of antioxidants (as you would eat a broad range of fruits and veg) such as vitamins C and E plus the master antioxidant glutathione, but also lycopene, lutein, curcumin and grapeseed extract. Mackintosh favours two anti-ageing antioxidants in particular: astaxanthin and pine bark. While Pine bark is a powerful pigmentation fighter - see below - astaxanthin is a powerful anti-inflammatory too.
"When we think of antioxidants we often think of brightly coloured veggies and fruit, but the incredibly powerful carotenoid astaxanthin is predominantly found in salmon, lobster, krill, crayfish, brown crab meat and prawns. It's potently anti-inflammatory and great for protecting fatty membranes found deep within our skin, which helps to keep it hydrated, bouncy and dewy.”
Peretta also rates astaxanthin. "It works at every layer of the skin — in the lower layers it helps blood flow from the hypodermis, as it moves up it strengthens collagen and when it gets to the top, it protects skin from UV light.”
3. Reduce inflammation
We want a certain level of 'emergency' inflammation in our bodies as the process helps, for example, wounds to heal, but too much of it on a chronic basis is not only linked to a risk of a number of health conditions such as dementia and heart disease. From a skin perspective, inflammation can show up as redness, itchiness and dryness. Here your best friends are omega 3 fatty acids, which work by creating chemicals called prostaglandins that dampen down inflammation Peretta explains.
Once you've tackled the big three, there are other age-proofing powers to look for. Seek out supplements that...
• Power up skin cells' batteries
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is not only a free radical fighting antioxidant powerhouse, but it gets into the skin's mitochondria, or energy supply, says Peretta — natural levels of which diminish with age.
• Tackle pigmentation and sun damage
Studies have found pine bark improves hydration and elasticity, as well as hyaluronic acid levels, and strengthens the skin against UV damage. "Other trials have shown that it may help with pigmentation-prone skin, combatting brown marks and patchiness resulting from sun-exposed skin," points out Mackintosh.
• Plump out wrinkles and increase cell turnover
Again, something that slows down as we age. Just like topical retinol, 'ingestible retinol,' aka vitamin A, supports healthy cell turnover and helps to plump out fine lines. Rhian Stephenson, founder of health brand Artah, explains "It helps maintain cellular turnover, collagen production and in addition to helping with fine lines, it can help reduce pigmentation over time. It should be combined with co-factors such as biotin, zinc, antioxidants and plumping hyaluronic acid, she says.
Remember though that too much vitamin A can be toxic. Don't take more than 10,000 IU per day long-term and strictly avoid if you're pregnant, Stephenson adds.
• Promote collagen production
We all know that our natural collagen production begins to drop off from the age of around 25, and celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Davina McCall are proponents of taking supplements containing collagen peptides. Do they work? Feelings are mixed.
Peretta believes that most of us get enough protein to make collagen in our diets and what we should look for in a supplement are the factors that help lay it down. She likens the production of collagen in our bodies to making bread. "You don't need more collagen, you need more of the yeast, the rising agent, and things like vitamin C and B vitamins help with lay down, taking the protein and turning it into collagen."
Mackintosh argues that our modern diets no longer include good amounts of natural sources of collagen, found in foods such as bone broth, animal skin, and organ meats. For this reason, she does formulate some of her skin supplements with collagen. Though echoing Peretta, she adds: "The best results come when we support the body to do what it naturally wants to do. The body cannot make collagen if we don't supply it with protein, vitamin C, zinc and sulphur which help to build our collagen. But remember that if we are using them up elsewhere or not getting enough in via the diet, this process can slow down which is why supplements can help.”
Supplements work synergistically and their efficacy depends on the quality and bioavailability of the ingredients — here are 10 quality supplements to try now.