We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!
By the Editors of Prevention
Your birthday suit is pretty good at taking care of itself, but this process changes over time. Through natural exfoliation, your skin sheds dead cells as younger ones, generated deep in the epidermis (skin's top layer), migrate upward to replace them. In young, healthy skin, cells take about 28 days to reach the surface and flake off 12 days later, but as you age, renewal slows; new cells aren't produced as quickly, and old ones hang on longer.
Your skin also loses its luster over time as free radicals — generated from things like stress, cigarette smoke, and the skin's top enemy, the sun--cause cell damage that leads to discoloration and even cancer. Your body starts producing collagen, a protein that helps keep your skin plump and elastic, more slowly, causing the outer skin to become more prone to creasing and wrinkling. Cells also tend to lose moisture faster, due to hormonal changes, so skin becomes drier and less glowy.
Lifestyle factors, like avoiding excess sun exposure and wearing sunscreen when you head outdoors, getting plenty of sleep, washing and moisturizing your face at night, combating stress, and getting plenty of exercise, can all keep your skin healthy and youthful longer. And certain vitamins and supplements can help fight wrinkles, discoloration, and other signs of aging, too. But a key distinction here is that most of them work best when applied topically, not through pills or diet.
Omega-3s: These supplements aren't just making headlines for heart health — dermatologists also recommend them to help prevent dry skin and problems like psoriasis and eczema. These fats are a key component of the lubricating layer that keeps skin supple, and they aid in the production of hormones that improve skin texture and help combat the inflammatory damage wrought by free radicals--one of the causes of wrinkles and blotchiness. To get enough omega-3s in your diet, supplements are often recommended in addition to eating fish, walnuts, and other food sources.
You can get these from food or multivitamins, but for optimal skin health, use products that contain them too.
Vitamin A: Derivatives of this vitamin are known as retinoids, and you can find them in OTC or prescription products. They're proven--through more than 700 studies! — to reduce wrinkles, fade brown spots, and smooth roughness. The downside to their effectiveness is potential side effects. Retinoids can cause redness, scaling, and flaking that can last for weeks or more; OTC products tend to be milder than Rx ones.
Vitamin B3: This B vitamin, commonly known as niacinamide, helps boost production of the compounds that comprise your skin's outer barrier, which helps it lock in moisture better. The ingredient is also shown to help reduce redness in rosacea patients and is especially helpful if you have dry or sensitive skin.
Vitamin C: Proven to mop up the free radicals that trigger wrinkling, sagging, and other aging changes, vitamin C also helps smooth and firm skin and fade brown spots. In one study, women who treated sun-damaged skin with a C cream for 6 months saw significant improvement in fine lines and discoloration. Though the benefits of retinoids and vitamin C sound similar, using both delivers more complexion perfection.
Vitamin E: This powerful vitamin eases dry skin (by helping skin retain its natural moisturizers) and bolsters UV defense. A slew of skin care studies document its superstar status. In one, E significantly reduced the number of skin-damaging free radicals created after exposure to cigarette smoke. Others show that when it's used before UV exposure, skin is less red, swollen, and dry, which is why the ingredient is often included in sunscreens.