Seabuck thorn is just one of many types of vitamins and nutrients that can help you have healthier skin. | Photo by www.seabuckthorninsider.com
The shelves framing an entire vitamin section of a grocery store or drugstore can be overwhelming. You might have a buzzword on your lips, but faced with a wall of colorful bottles, it’s easy to stumble over the terminology. Collagen? Sea Buckthorn? Silica Gel? Which of those bottles, when opened, will work best for me?
As it turns out, all of them will— but you don’t have to stick to the bottle. On the shelves of homeopathic and naturopathic stores, most of the products boasting skin-tightening, anti-aging and moisturizing virtues borrow their glory. Compounds and chemicals listed as active ingredients in the vitamins on the wall have natural sources, and sometimes it can be easier, cheaper, and tastier to go straight to the source for better skin!
Rachael Pontillo, a licensed aesthetician and wellness coach at Holistically Haute, has some common feel-good solutions for your skin:
Omega fatty acids: Essential fatty acids are essential for a reason. Omega-3s, helps maintain balance in our cells by getting rid of waste and maintaining a water balance. Our bodies don’t make them, so we have to find them in food or as supplements. For people fond of seafood, “smaller fish, like mackerel and sardines are preferred, because there’s less chance of heavy metal toxicity,” Pontillo said. If you don’t like fish, seek out Omega-3s in walnuts or macadamia nuts.
Sea buckthorn: Recently lauded as a weight-loss miracle berry, the sea buckthorn (a European and Asian shrub that yields small orange berries) has a number of therapeutic properties for skin. Applied topically, creams made with sea buckthorn are said to help clear eczema and help heal cuts and scrapes. You can also find sea buckthorn, although less commonly, in herbal teas, or in jams and jellies.
Vitamins A and C: Converted to rentinoic acid in the body, Vitamin A helps even skin tone. It’s also a supportive sidekick to collagen, which helps maintain skin’s elasticity. Vitamin C promotes collagen production—plus, it helps speed up healing, cuts down on scarring, and, as Pontillo notes, “inhibits the formation of an inflammatory chemical called arachidonic acid. This chemical has been linked to psoriasis, and also can accelerate the aging process of the skin.” Eat carrots, sweet potatoes and squash, spiced with cayenne or paprika, to give yourself a natural boost of Vitamin A. To up your intake of vitamin C, arrange your plate with bell peppers and brussels sprouts, or grab strawberries and an orange for a snack.
Collagen: Lending structure and elasticity collagen is part of the body’s connective tissue. Collagen itself is made up of proteins, specifically proline and lysine, so eating foods rich in those proteins— including egg whites, wheat germ, lean meats and fish, and peanuts, can help support collagen.
Hyaluronic Acid: In cells this is a fluid with an incredible affinity for water. It helps skin look smooth and full because it bonds to water in the body, rounding out and filling in parched skin and wrinkles. Additionally, it plays a positive role in healing wounds. It’s a newly popular ingredient in skin supplements, but it’s naturally abundant in poultry. Try making soup stock out of chicken bones. If you’re vegetarian eating vegetables high in magnesium works too. Snack on pears, avocados and add some black-eyed peas to your lunch.
Silica Gel: A topical ointment, silica gel is said to both absorb toxins (which helps prevent acne and infection) as well as strengthen blood vessels. Try eating oatmeal or a spinach omelet for breakfast to enjoy some of silicon’s benefits; the element is present in whole grains and leafy greens!
Antioxidants: They help keep skin tissue from breaking down, as well as aiding in the repair of already damaged cells. Additionally, as the name suggests, antioxidants help detoxify the body. Some of the best sources for antioxidants are berries, green tea, avocados, black beans, pistachio and even dark chocolate.
Probiotics: Our stomach and skin might be more intimately involved than we think. New research on the “gut-brain-skin axis” suggests a connection between persistent acne and an imbalance of intestinal flora (caused at times by stress). As far as a food fix goes, Pontillo suggests increasing consumption of fermented foods and probiotics, as they help restore and support healthy levels of beneficial bacteria and enzymes within our digestive tracts.
Water: Quenching thirst ought to hydrate all of us, inside and out. However, the water we drink “first goes to nourish internal organs, and skin is the last to get it,” Pontillo said. “People completely underestimate [our requirements]. Even when we think we’re drinking too much water, it’s usually still not enough.” Get in the habit of starting and ending your days with a big glass of the good stuff- before your coffee and after a nightcap. Eating fruits and vegetables, which have high water contents, can also help keep your skin hydrated. Then, seal in some of that moisture by including high-quality fats (like olive or coconut oil) in your meals.
Nothing’s wrong with picking up a vitamin, of course, but sometimes tracing beneficial chemicals back to their dietary sources can be fun. Pontillo said we have “a better chance of absorbing those nutrients through the (right) diet rather than having to resort only to supplements.”