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Oral Nutritional Supplements for Skin Care

Oral Nutritional Supplements for Skin Care Oral Nutritional Supplements for Skin Care


Nutritional supplements aren't regulated by the FDA, so manufacturers cannot legally make health claims regarding their use as skin care agents. As a result, such claims are largely anecdotal and unsubstantiated. However, because of the increased incidence of skin cancer, there have been a number of well-designed scientific studies that examined nutritional supplements as a means to help prevent sun damage. The most extensively studied are vitamins C, E and A.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is well known as an effective antioxidant, and is capable of counteracting the effects of sun exposure when applied topically. The American Society of Nutrition is one of the few sources to publish studies demonstrating the vitamin's efficacy as a nutritional supplement for preventing skin damage. Researchers studied the association between nutrient intakes and skin aging in 4,025 women between 40 and 74 years of age. Dermatologists performed clinical evaluations of their skin. The study concludes that higher vitamin C intake is associated with a less wrinkled appearance and less likelihood of dry skin resulting from aging.

Vitamin E

The journal "Dermatologic Surgery" reports that although vitamin E has been used for more than 50 years in clinical and experimental dermatology, there are no controlled studies that demonstrate the exact conditions and dosages for its use. Nonetheless, there is ample scientific evidence suggesting that topical and oral vitamin E can help prevent skin cancer and improve the skin's barrier function. On the other hand, the journal "Archives of Dermatology" published a study in which a daily dose of 400 IU vitamin E did nothing to help or protect skin.

Vitamin A

Beta-carotene is the most common form of vitamin A studied for its role in protecting the skin from sun damage. Beta-carotene is the antioxidant that gives plant foods like carrots their orange color. When ingested, the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A. German researchers performed an analysis of vitamin A and beta-carotene studies published through 2007, and report that 10 weeks of supplementation yields a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 4 that affects the skin over the entire body. The safety of beta-carotene supplements was called into question, though, with the publication of a study linking high doses to increased risk of lung cancer in smokers.


The "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" reports that a combination of 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day of vitamin E plus 2,000 to 3,000 mg per day of vitamin C provides significant protection from sun damage. Researchers studying combinations of vitamin E and carotenoids found doses of 335 IU and 25 mg, respectively produced significant protection and may be useful in diminishing sensitivity to ultraviolet light. While oral supplements can provide protection, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends daily use of a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

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