Top Supplements for Healthier Skin
- When your skin’s healthy, your body is hard at work producing new cells to replace the ones you’ve lost.
- With time, environmental toxins, systemic inflammation, nutritional deficiencies and sun damage, skin loses its ability to regenerate.
- Skin damage causes lines, wrinkles, drier and looser skin, as well as acne, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
- Natural approaches that promote skin health have been shown to help.
Your skin is your body’s largest organ. While the amount of skin we have varies depending on someone’s size, a good estimate is that you have about 17,000 square centimeters of skin.1 That’s 18 square feet of skin!
Your skin naturally sheds dead cells in a process called desquamation. We lose about 1000 skin cells per square centimeter every hour.2 That’s seventeen million skin cells every day! When your skin’s healthy, your body is hard at work producing new cells to replace the ones you’ve lost. But with time, environmental toxins, systemic inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, and sun damage, skin loses its ability to regenerate.
When it comes to skin damage, there are two major underlying causes. One is caused by decreased collagen production creating the typical lines and that comes with getting older. People who once felt young and vibrant feel uncomfortable when they see crow’s feet, elevens and drier, sagging skin staring back at them in the mirror.
The other category of damage, which can contribute to acne, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis, is caused by chronic inflammation. In this situation, healthy cell turnover is disrupted, creating skin damage, redness and irritation.
While you should speak to your doctor about what she’d also recommend, natural approaches that promote skin health can help.
Probiotics have been shown to promote healthy skin in people with acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis. In my training as a naturopathic doctor, I was taught the gut plays a key role in systemic diseases. And in fact, research confirms that gut health has indirect benefits for the skin. Probiotics promote healthy skin by strengthening the intestinal lining, promoting healthy inflammation and immunity, and by manufacturing nutrients, such as butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids that help heal the gut.3,4
In healthy people, a healthy intestinal lining protects us from inflammatory molecules passing into the bloodstream and traveling throughout the body. However, during gut dysbiosis, the intestinal lining is damaged and inflammatory molecules can reach the bloodstream and create systemic inflammation, including skin inflammation. Fortunately, clinical trials demonstrate that probiotics promote a healthy gut microbiome and significantly improve skin health in people with acne, dry and sensitive skin, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis. Beyond skin health, some of the top benefits of probiotics include supporting healthy digestion, mood, liver function, and cardiovascular system.
In the winter, drier, colder weather can create cracked, irritated, and painful skin. While moisturizing is important, a clinical trial showed that supplementing with a mixture Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus significantly improved healthy skin barrier and moisture. Skin integrity was significantly improved within six weeks of starting the dietary supplement, and the amount of water lost through the skin was significantly reduced.5
Probiotics have also been shown to help people with acne. Acne is the bane of many teenagers, but older adults are not immune to flare-ups later in life. Acne affects 85% of adolescents and young adults (12-25 years old) in Western countries, and as many as 50% continue struggling with adult acne.6,7
In a 2013 randomized, open-label clinical trial, researchers evaluated the effects of an oral probiotic blend of B. bifidum, L. acidophilus, and L. bulgaricus on adult acne. Forty-five volunteers (18-35 years old) with adult acne who took the multistrain probiotic for 12 weeks experienced an 82% reduction in acne, which was significantly better than volunteers taking only the antibiotic.8
Two additional studies evaluated the effects of taking probiotics alone. One looked at using a single probiotic species of L. rhamnosus and showed a 30% improvement in acne over 12 weeks in adults.9 The other study, which combined L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus for twelve weeks resulted in an up to 66% decrease in adult acne.10
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory condition that makes your skin red and itchy. In a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial, fifty children with moderate atopic dermatitis ages 4 to seventeen years old were randomized to receive either a probiotic supplement containing B. lactis, B. longum, and L. casei or placebo for twelve weeks. All volunteers continued their topical anti-inflammatory steroid medications and moisturizing cream. At the end of the study, 96% of the children taking the probiotic improved, compared to 46% in the placebo group. Using a standardized symptom scoring model for atopic dermatitis, the researchers concluded that the main symptoms score decreased by 83% in the group taking the probiotic compared to only a 24% improvement in the placebo group, and topical steroid use also significantly decreased in the probiotic group compared to placebo.11
Another study determined that taking a probiotic blend shifts the gut microbiome to a healthier mix of bacteria, which is associated with improved skin health.12 Three clinical trials, each lasting 8 weeks, detected a 63-68% improvement in volunteers taking probiotics.12-15 They used probiotics mixtures containing B. bifidum, B. breve, B. infantis, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. rhamnosus, L. salivarius or S. thermophilus.
Probiotics have all been shown to be helpful for people with psoriasis, another skin condition characterized by chronic inflammation. Researchers conducted a 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial on ninety patients with psoriasis (ages 18-70 years old). The volunteers took a probiotic supplement containing B. lactis, B. longum and L. rhamnosus or placebo. At the end of the study, nearly 67% of the volunteers taking the probiotic experienced a reduction in the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index score of at least 75%, compared to only 42% of those taking the placebo.16 Another study that provided only B. infantis for 6-8 weeks to people with psoriasis. At the end of the study, there was a significant decrease in systemic inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha).4
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It’s the scaffolding that holds your body together. Collagen is actually three strands of repeating amino acids wrapped around each other that create the shape and support for tissues and provides a scaffold for cell growth and movement.17 Collagen is so strong that even its smallest building blocks, called tropocollagen, are five to ten times stronger than steel.18
Collagen is found in your muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, blood vessels, teeth, and even in the cornea and vitreous (a gelatinous substance) of your eye.19 It provides all these tissues with structure, strength, and flexibility, and is critical for skin, bone, and joint health.20
We all marvel over the fresh, plump skin of a newborn, and their flawless faces, without a single wrinkle. Pinch a baby’s cheeks and their skin snaps right back into place. That’s due to their skin’s high amounts of healthy collagen. Collagen composes about 80% of your skin.
When you look in the mirror, if your skin is getting looser, has more wrinkles, or is sagging a bit and looking dry, this is likely because you’re losing collagen. Skin health is considered one of the clues to overall “well-being”. We can’t see our internal organs aging, but skin offers us the first obvious signs of the mark of time. And what you see in the skin may also be happening in the bone. Both normal aging and chronic stress reduce collagen production.
Collagen improves skin elasticity and moisture. In one randomized, placebo-controlled study of 69 women who were between thirty-five and fifty-five years of old, supplementing with collagen for 8 weeks led to a significant improvement in skin elasticity.21 In another study, supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen improved skin hydration.22
A review of over sixty scientific studies on collagen in people with joint pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and skin aging found that taking collagen peptides promotes healthy tissue regeneration, collagen synthesis and supports healthy joints, bone density, and skin.23
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1 Leider M. On the weight of the skin. J Invest Dermatol. 1949;12(3):187-191.
2 Roberts D, Marks R. The determination of regional and age variations in the rate of desquamation: a comparison of four techniques. J Invest Dermatol. 1980;74(1):13-16.
3 Navarro-Lopez V, Nunez-Delegido E, Ruzafa-Costas B, Sanchez-Pellicer P, Aguera-Santos J, Navarro-Moratalla L. Probiotics in the Therapeutic Arsenal of Dermatologists. Microorganisms. 2021;9(7).
4 Groeger D, O’Mahony L, Murphy EF, et al. Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 modulates host inflammatory processes beyond the gut. Gut Microbes. 2013;4(4):325-339.
5 Puch F, Samson-Villeger S, Guyonnet D, Blachon JL, Rawlings AV, Lassel T. Consumption of functional fermented milk containing borage oil, green tea and vitamin E enhances skin barrier function. Exp Dermatol. 2008;17(8):668-674.
6 Lynn DD, Umari T, Dunnick CA, Dellavalle RP. The epidemiology of acne vulgaris in late adolescence. Adolesc Health Med Ther. 2016;7:13-25.
7 Tuchayi SM, Makrantonaki E, Ganceviciene R, Dessinioti C, Feldman SR, Zouboulis CC. Acne vulgaris. Nature Reviews Disease Primers. 2015;1(1):15029.
8 Jung GW, Tse JE, Guiha I, Rao J. Prospective, randomized, open-label trial comparing the safety, efficacy, and tolerability of an acne treatment regimen with and without a probiotic supplement and minocycline in subjects with mild to moderate acne. J Cutan Med Surg. 2013;17(2):114-122.
9 Fabbrocini G, Bertona M, Picazo Ó, Pareja-Galeano H, Monfrecola G, Emanuele E. Supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1 normalises skin expression of genes implicated in insulin signalling and improves adult acne. Benef Microbes. 2016;7(5):625-630.
10 Kim J, Ko Y, Park YK, Kim NI, Ha WK, Cho Y. Dietary effect of lactoferrin-enriched fermented milk on skin surface lipid and clinical improvement of acne vulgaris. Nutrition. 2010;26(9):902-909.
11 Navarro-López V, Ramírez-Boscá A, Ramón-Vidal D, et al. Effect of Oral Administration of a Mixture of Probiotic Strains on SCORAD Index and Use of Topical Steroids in Young Patients With Moderate Atopic Dermatitis: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(1):37-43.
12 Drago L, Iemoli E, Rodighiero V, Nicola L, De Vecchi E, Piconi S. Effects of Lactobacillus salivarius LS01 (DSM 22775) treatment on adult atopic dermatitis: a randomized placebo-controlled study. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2011;24(4):1037-1048.
13 Farid R, Ahanchian H, Jabbari F, Moghiman T. Effect of a new synbiotic mixture on atopic dermatitis in children: a randomized-controlled trial. Iran J Pediatr. 2011;21(2):225-230.
14 Iemoli E, Trabattoni D, Parisotto S, et al. Probiotics reduce gut microbial translocation and improve adult atopic dermatitis. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012;46 Suppl:S33-40.
15 Yeşilova Y, Çalka Ö, Akdeniz N, Berktaş M. Effect of probiotics on the treatment of children with atopic dermatitis. Ann Dermatol. 2012;24(2):189-193.
16 Navarro-Lopez V, Martinez-Andres A, Ramirez-Bosca A, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Oral Administration of a Mixture of Probiotic Strains in Patients with Psoriasis: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Acta Derm Venereol. 2019;99(12):1078-1084.
17 Burla F, Dussi S, Martinez-Torres C, Tauber J, van der Gucht J, Koenderink GH. Connectivity and plasticity determine collagen network fracture. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020;117(15):8326-8334.
18 Buehler MJ. Nature designs tough collagen: explaining the nanostructure of collagen fibrils. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006;103(33):12285-12290.
19 Lodish H, Berk A, Zipursky S. Section 22.3, Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix. In: Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. New York: W. H. Freeman; 2000.
20 Moskowitz RW. Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2000;30(2):87-99.
21 Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55.
22 Inoue N, Sugihara F, Wang X. Ingestion of bioactive collagen hydrolysates enhance facial skin moisture and elasticity and reduce facial ageing signs in a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study. J Sci Food Agric. 2016;96(12):4077-4081.
23 Figueres Juher T, Basés Pérez E. [An overview of the beneficial effects of hydrolysed collagen intake on joint and bone health and on skin ageing]. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32 Suppl 1:62-66.
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