Skin care should not stop at you cleansers, toners and night creams . Our diet (and what we supplement to it) dictates the overall condition of our skin. Though some may be blessed with good skin, we cannot discount the importance of nutrition for skin health.
Since I’ve got my self into fitness and watched my diet (both quantity and quality of my food), I felt significant changes in my body. I have more energy and much lighter. I was also able to relieve myself with the frequent stomach pains I used to have back in college. Besides how my body feel (and look), another major reward of watching my diet and avoiding junk food is the improvement I noticed in my skin.
Today, for the sake of sheer vanity, let me share to you some supplements and food that I swear to have improved my skin. I’ll do the best that I can to support my claims with available literature. This is my personal list and how the food/supplements below may affect you differently. Also, please note that supplements are “supplements” because they are not meant to replace healthy eating and regular exercise.
So let’s head on to my list
Alpha-Tocopherol (Vitamin E Supplement)
Active Ingredient: d-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate
How much? : I take once daily, of 400 IU capsule
When: I take it every morning
Vitamin E supplements come in different forms, depending on its source. I have tried dl-tocopheryl acetate (Myra 300 E) and dl-alpha tocopherol (Kirkland) and d-alpha tocopherol (Myra 300 E) . I would recommend d-alpha tocopherol because I personally experience its noticeable effect compared to other forms of vitamin E I’ve tried. After finishing 2 bottles of (Myra E) I, finally settled to Watson’s d-alpha tocopherol just because its cheaper.
Vitamin E with the prefix “d” is the natural form, compared to those with prefix “dl” which indicates synthetic forms of vitamin E. A study of Kiyose et al (1997) has shown that it took 300 mg of synthetic vitamin E to equal 100 mg dose of natural vitamin E in blood levels . In short, Natural form of vitamin E contains more molecules that humans can assimilate effectively.
What’s in it for my skin?
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that delays the aging process of cell death. Skin Cell death is natural and inevitable. When the rate at which the skin cells die is much faster than the rate of which new cells are formed, early signs of aging is manifested in skin. It gives dull, dark and dry skin. Premature aging is primarily caused by presence of free-radicals. Antioxidants like vitamin E reacts with free radicals and sacrifice themselves to keep cells from oxidizing (and eventually dying).
Ascorbic Acid / Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C Supplement)
Active Ingredient: Ascorbic Acid / Sodium Ascorbate
How much? : I take once daily, of 500 mg tablet
When: I take it every morning, with breakfast
There are different forms of Vitamin C to choose from. In this article I will feature both sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid – the two Vitamin C’s I’ve tried. Both contains ascorbate, an antioxidant. The only difference is their acidity level. For Sodium ascobate, the addition of sodium buffers the acid content of Vitamin C which results to a lowered acidity and is less likely to upset the stomach, especially for those who have problems with hyper acidity.
Ascorbic acid vs sodium ascorbate
Both forms are bioavailable and is absorbed very well in the body. Ascorbic acid is generally cheaper compared to sodium ascorbate. If you cannot tolerate the acidity of ascorbic acid, then opt for sodium ascorbate. It is very important to note though that 1000 mg of Sodium ascorbate contains about 115 mg of sodium. Individuals who are advised to keep their sodium levels low should take note of this additional sodium intake.
What’s in it for my skin?
Vitamin C can work synergistically with vitamin E, that’s why I chug both supplements together every morning. Vitamin C can strengthen the antioxidant effect of Vitamin E by regenerating d-alpha tocopherol after it is oxidized by free radicals.
Active Ingredient: Hydrolyzed marine collagen
How much? : I take one serving daily, of 5000-6000 mg
When: I take it every morning, I mix it with my cocoa/hot beverage
Collagen can come from marine (fish) or bovine (beef) sources. Both differ in the types of collagen that they contain. Bovine collagen contains a combination of Type 1 and Type 3 collagen which great for all-around health and muscle repair. If your priority is for improved skin, hair and nails, then type 1 collagen will do the job best, which is predominantly present in fish collagen, or better known as marine collagen. For more on this topic, I have written an entire post dedicated only for collagen supplement.
What’s in it for my skin?
Around 25 to 30% of proteins in your body is collagen. Collagen holds our skin together to keep it firm and elastic. Sadly, on our twenties, our body’s natural production of collagen starts to decline. The decreasing number of collagen molecules in our body is manifested by fine lines, aging skin, joint pains, thinning hair and many others. There are number of studies showing the positive effect of collagen supplementation in improving the skin’s elasticity and firmness, specifically with marine type collagen. [3,4,5,].
EPA and DHA ( Omega 3)
Active Ingredient: Omega 3 : docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (or Omega 3 fatty acids)
How much? : about 1200 mg per day (equivalent to 100 grams of mackerel)
When: Anytime of the day
I do not take omega 3 supplements. I just make sure I eat fish everyday as a daily source of omega 3. Since my mom was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, we switch to healthier protein source, avoid canned goods and make sure we eat fish every day. If you think you do not get enough omega 3 in your diet, supplementing can be an option.
What’s in it for my skin?
Omega 3 has several health benefits but let’s focus on what it can do to your skin. In microscopic level, each skin cell is protected by a cell wall. The cell wall consists of phospholipid bilayer- basically a layer of fat. A healthy cell wall would give a plump, well-hydrated, and elastic skin. As skin is exposed to UV damage and intrinsic aging (natural aging), our cell walls become thinner which can affect the skin’s ability to retain moisture and elasticity.
It has been shown  that Omega 3 is incorporated in the phospholipid bilayer, which can improve the skin’s appearance. An interesting study  also found that supplementation of omega 3 can reduce acne inflammation in some patients. It is worth noting though that not all acne patients showed improvement after omega 3 supplementation. However 60% of the test subjects in this study showed significant improvement. Omega 3 has also anti-inflammatory properties which can improve eczema and other skin related inflammations.
Plant Polyphenols from Cocoa
Active ingredient: Plant Polyphenols
How much : 5 mg (1 tbsp) of sugar free, Cocoa Powder
When: Usually morning, with my Collagen powder
My one and only bad comment about most collagen powders is that they stink and taste really bad. That’s why I mix my collagen powder with my other beverage. By far, the best beverage that can effectively mask the taste (though not completely the smell) is my cocoa powder. I choose it because it tastes really good and the additional good stuff it can do to the skin, to boost the effect of collagen – plant polyphenols.
What’s in it for my skin?
Cocoa Powder is rich in polyphenols. Cocoa Beans contain 6-8 Polyphenols by dry weight while one serving of cocoa powder (1 tablespoon) contains about 298 mg of plant polyphenols . Besides the well known antioxidant effect of polyphenols, they possess great anti-inflammatory properties. It only does not help delay the signs of aging, but also help in prevention of skin-related inflammation.
Important Note: Choose unsweetened cocoa (or sugarfree)
Your skin may benefit from cocoa but this can easily be cancelled out by high amounts of sugar. Consumption of sugary drinks can cause elevated inflammation (which can worsen different skin-diseases eczema, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis), insulin resistance and weight gain.
More Plant Polyphenols – Green Tea
Okay, First thing first. Teas are not my favorite thing in the world. Unless I have exceeded my personal limit of caffeine consumption for the day, I would always prefer my hot chocolate or coffee over a cup of tea. But I know tea is rich in antioxidants and all other good stuff so I drink tea – in a way that is for me, more drinkable.
What’s in it for my Skin?
Green tea is approximately 20-45 percent polyphenols by weight, of which 60-80 percent are catechins such as EGCG. Catechins are antioxidants that are said to help prevent cell damage. Remember that cellular damage is the cause of visible signs of aging.
Again, I believe that including all these in my diet, along with healthy food and regular exercise (and enough sleep!) has made improvement in my skin. This shouldn’t, however, replace professional advise, especially if you have other health issues.
 Kiyose C, et al. Biodiscrimination of alpha-tocopherol stereoisomers in humans
after oral administration Am J Clin Nutr 1997 (Mar); 65 (3): 785-9
 Schagen, S. K., Zampeli, V. A., Makrantonaki, E., & Zouboulis, C. C. (2012). Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermato-endocrinology, 4(3), 298-307.
 De Luca, C., Mikhal’chik, E. V., Suprun, M. V., Papacharalambous, M., Truhanov, A. I., & Korkina, L. G. (2016). Skin Antiageing and Systemic Redox Effects of Supplementation with Marine Collagen Peptides and Plant-Derived Antioxidants: A Single-Blind Case-Control Clinical Study. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2016, 4389410.
 Duteil L, et al (2016) Specific Natural Bioactive Type 1 Collagen Peptides Oran Intake Reverse Skin Aging Signs in Mature Women, Journal of Aging Research & Clinical Practice, Vol 5, pp 84-92
 Pei, Xin-rong & Yang, Ruiyue & Zhang, Zhao-feng & Xu, Ya-jun & Han, Xiao-long & Wang, Jun-bo & li, Yong. (2008). Effects of marine collagen peptide on delaying the skin aging. Zhonghua yu fang yi xue za zhi [Chinese journal of preventive medicine]. 42. 235-8
 Grassi D, Desideri G, Necozione S, Lippi C, Casale R, Properzi G, Blumberg JB, Ferri C. Blood pressure is reduced and insulin sensitivity increased in glucose-intolerant, hypertensive subjects after 15 days of consuming high-polyphenol dark chocolate. J. Nutr. 2008;138:1671–1676. [PubMed]
 (2008). The science behind dietary omega-3 fatty acids. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 178(2), 177-80.
 Khayef, G., Young, J., Burns-Whitmore, B., & Spalding, T. (2012). Effects of fish oil supplementation on inflammatory acne. Lipids in health and disease, 11, 165. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-11-165