Nutrients to Nourish Dry Skin
Vitamin A & D
Skin issues like acne, eczema, psoriasis, keratosis polaris and rosacea are common. In fact, 40% of adults in the developed world have keratosis polaris. Dry skin is a common complaint in clinic and there are several possible causes. I start by optimizing nutrients.
Conventional medicine largely discounts the connection between diet and skin yet synthetic retinoids (vitamin A) have been used to treat both acne and psoriasis for the last thirty years. Retinol promotes cellular regeneration and inhibits the sebaceous glands. A deficiency can lead to dry, rough skin, wrinkles, sun damage, rashes and make fungal infections more likely.
Sun exposure is the best form of vitamin day. Lack of exposure to sun is as much of a risk as too much sun for skin cancer. Don’t let yourself burn but also don’t apply sun screens except for oils that provide natural protection. Zinc is safe as is shea butter, sesame oil and others.
Good Oils & Organs
Vitamin A in the form of retinol, the active form, is found in organ meats like kidney and liver. Grass-fed dairy, pastured egg yolks and cod liver oil at 1 tsp per day offer a significant amount. If you are up for it, experiment with adding liver into your diet. There are many reasons to eat liver including for skin health because you get a good dose of all the cofactors needed to absorb these nutrients that nourish the skin.
Increase omega 3’s from cold water fatty fish while reducing omega 6 from industrial meat and seed oils. Whole food omega 6’s don’t seem to increase inflammation or skin conditions. Avocado, nuts, poultry and pork are fine despite their omega 6 content.
Zinc Is Great!
Zinc is essential for protein and DNA synthesis, wound healing and cell division. It is protective against UV and is anti-inflammatory. Zinc works with vit A to increase the blood levels of retinol though by binding its proteins. Studies show that dietary zinc may reduce acne as effectively as tetracycline, a popular antibiotic. Those suffering with bad acne have lower levels of serum zinc
Zinc is more bioavailable in animal food because phytic acid in plant foods binds zinc. Organ meats, red muscle meats and shellfish are good sources. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source if prepared properly by soaking and sprouting.
Vitamin C & Collagen
Vitamin C helps produce and regulates collagen which maintains the skin’s cellular stability. It also protects against loss of structure like wrinkles and sagging. Scurvy is a severe deficiency and has early signs that include red, dry, rough skin and bleeding gums. Keratosis polaris is a moderate deficiency characterized by damaged hair follicles as collagen formation is impaired. Vitamin C is an anti oxidant. It prevents UV damage, reduces transdermal water loss, supports wound healing and improves scar tissue repair.
Food sources include strawberry, citrus fruit, leafy greens, broccoli and a wide variety of plant foods. Steaming lightly or raw (fruit) is best b/c this vitamin is heat sensitive. You can read more about the benefits of collagen here.