The skin is the largest organ of the body1 and performs functions that are essential for health and wellbeing. These functions include acting as a barrier against harmful external agents, including chemicals, temperature changes, pathogens, dehydration, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.2

The health of the skin and the integrity of its barrier function can be affected by various factors, and especially by nutritional status.3 Basic skin functions accompanied by changes in cutaneous structure and texture that affect the appearance of skin can also be modulated by dietary intake and nutritional supplementation.3

A nutraceutical can be defined as “a food (or part of a food) that provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and/or treatment of a disease.”4 Unlike nutraceuticals that may be presented as a sole item of a meal, dietary supplements often contain 1 or more essential ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals,  or herbs, and are often used to increase the intake of nutrients in addition to a meal.5

The roles of various dietary supplements and nutraceuticals in enhancing skin health and appearance can be observed in the vitamin deficiency diseases that present with dermal manifestations. These include patchy red rash and seborrheic dermatitis on account of vitamin B deficiency, as well as the vitamin C deficiency called scurvy, which can be observed through skin fragility and impaired wound healing6. This reaction to deficiency helps to illuminate, for example, how dietary supplementation with vitamin C can promote cutaneous wound healing, increase epidermal moisture content, and improve skin hydration.7 It can also aid in collagen formation and functions as an antioxidant.

Supplements containing vitamin A and its derivatives, such as retinoids, play an important role in regulating the proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis of skin cells.7 Retinoids are able to enhance the repair of UV radiation-damaged skin through their ability to increase proliferation of epidermal keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts.7

Vitamin E has been shown to suppress lipid peroxidation, modulate photocarcinogenesis, and photoaging. It also exhibits anti-inflammatory roles.7 Additional supplementation with α-tocopherol, flavonoids, β-carotene, lycopene, and lutein may help protect the body from UV damage, which can lead to photoaging and cancer.1

Apart from vitamins and other elements, such as selenium, that protect the skin from UV damage, nutraceuticals containing a combination of marine collagen peptides (MCPs) and plant-derived antioxidants can help improve skin properties safely and effectively without oxidative damage.2 Also, studies show that coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplementation can decrease some dermal signs of aging, such as wrinkles, and improve overall skin smoothness.2

Another class of nutraceuticals that improve dermal health are polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA)-based formulations. PUFAs are recommended for consumption and are beneficial for skin health. Omega-3 PUFAs, such as eicosapentaenoic acid, have been reported to protect the skin from dangerous UV radiation effects and reduce UV-induced inflammation and indicators of photoaging and photocarcinogenesis.2

It is apparent that among all the organs in the body, the skin is the most exposed to external agents, placing it at risk of certain factors, particularly UV radiation. The resultant photo-oxidative damage is a significant cause of extrinsic skin aging, a term popularly referred to as photoaging.8 Exposure to the sun is also considered a major risk factor for non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers.1

For these reasons, it is important to introduce dietary supplementation with nutraceuticals containing vitamins, essential trace elements, and oils not present in sufficient amount in daily food intake. This will aid in no small way to provide photoprotection, antioxidant activity, ensure skin integrity, and improve the general appearance of the skin.

REFERENCES
  1. Evans JA, Johnson EJ. The role of phytonutrients in skin health. Nutrients. 2010;2(8):903-928. doi:10.3390/nu2080903
  2. Pérez-Sánchez A, Barrajón-Catalán E, Herranz-López M, Micol V. Nutraceuticals for Skin Care: A Comprehensive Review of Human Clinical Studies. Nutrients. 2018;10(4):403. Published 2018 Mar 24. doi:10.3390/nu10040403
  3. De Spirt S, Stahl W, Tronnier H, et al. Intervention with flaxseed and borage oil supplements modulates skin condition in women. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2009;101(3):440-445. doi:10.1017/S0007114508020321
  4. Brower V. Nutraceuticals: poised for a healthy slice of the healthcare market? Nature Biotechnology. 1998;16:728-731.
  5. Kalra, E.K. "Nutraceutical-definition and introduction." Aaps Pharmsci 5, no. 3 (2003): 27-28.
  6. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):866. Published 2017 Aug 12. doi:10.3390/nu9080866
  7. Park K. Role of micronutrients in skin health and function. Biomolecules and Therapeutics. 2015;23(3):207-217. doi:10.4062/biomolther.2015.003
  8. Scapagnini G, Davinelli S, Di Renzo L, et al. Cocoa bioactive compounds: significance and potential for the maintenance of skin health. Nutrients. 2014;6(8):3202-3213. Published 2014 Aug 11. doi:10.3390/nu6083202