Hydrated, healthy-looking skin is always the goal. It's annoying and even downright uncomfortable when it's not.
Sure, adding heavier creams and moisturizers can be helpful, but skin care ultimately begins from the inside.
"Your skin reflects your overall health, vitality, and nutritional status; skin wraps our body, for better or worse," says holistic dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, M.D., a diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology. "Our skin is our body's biggest organ and, to have truly healthy skin, you need to have a healthy body."
You can support healthy moisture levels internally with the right kind of supplements.*
Evidence for some supplements can be anecdotal, but there is also plenty of research that suggests these are absolutely worth trying. And if you can get one that combines multiple skin-loving active ingredients? Well, that's even better.
Below, 10 supplements for dry skin.
Hyaluronic acid is naturally made by your body, and it is most often found in your skin, eyes, and connective tissues.
Hyaluronic acid works by drawing in water to keep your bodily tissues moist, explains Jamie Alan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University.*
Hyaluronic acid levels in your body typically decrease with age, Alan says, which is why supplements may help.
A 2017 study found that people who took 120 milligrams of hyaluronic acid a day for 12 weeks experienced a better aging trajectory for their skin, with less wrinkles1 compared with those who took a placebo.*
"Collagen is the main structural component of the skin," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. But with age and environmental exposures like UV rays, collagen can become weak and rigid, he says.
"The latest generation of collagen supplements actually contain hydrolyzed collagen or predigested collagen fragments, aka collagen peptides. There is data showing that these are absorbed and circulate to the skin."
Find our top collagen supplements here.
Vitamin E is an essential fat-soluble micronutrient that works to repair cells, including skin cells.*
Like hyaluronic acid, vitamin E works to retain moisture, Alan says. "It also works as an antioxidant, which scavenges free radicals,"* she adds.
Per Bailey: "Vitamin E also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and may soothe skin redness."*
This next antioxidant powerhouse vitamin is usually touted for its immune-boosting effects (and rightly so), but it can also help combat skin dryness, Bailey says.*
"The health and structure of the stratum corneum is critical to fend off skin dryness," Bailey says. Additionally, vitamin C is known to be essential for collagen production, thereby assisting the natural scaffolding structure of our skin.*
Find our top vitamin C supplements here.
Fish oil is the fat that's extracted from the tissues of oily fish and put into supplement form.
"Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which provide the building blocks to produce healthy cell membranes," says Zeichner. And those beneficial fatty acids can help the skin retain moisture, Alan adds.*
Omega-3 supplements have also been shown in studies to help balance the skin's inflammatory response2, thanks to the well-known anti-inflammatory properties of their bioactive lipids EPA and DHA, making them a great addition to your skin care routine.*
Find our top fish oil or omega-3 supplements here.
Your body contains microorganisms that live on your skin and in your gut, aka the skin microbiome and gut microbiome, respectively. "These organisms live synergistically with your body," he explains. So when the gut microbiome is not balanced, it can impact not only the health of the gut, but also of the skin.
"Probiotics can help normalize the future microbiome, maintain a healthy inflammatory response, and support the gut barrier,"* he says.
Find our top probiotics here.
Your body naturally makes vitamin D when you're exposed to certain wavelengths of UV light, but due to variable sun exposure (and skin-associated risks of cumulative UV exposures) and limited dietary sources of this essential vitamin, many people are vitamin D deficient, Zeichner says. (In fact, 29% of American adults are straight-up deficient4 and 41% are insufficient4). And that can contribute to dry, flaky skin, Alan says.
If you're found to be deficient, Zeichner says, "vitamin D supplements have been shown to be useful."* Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it's a good idea to consume it with a healthy fat, like avocado, or opt for a supplement that includes organic oils.
Find our top vitamin D supplements here.
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid antioxidant and reddish pigment found naturally in seafood. According to Alan, this unique phytonutrient "functions much like vitamin E," and there's some evidence to suggest the ingredient can also help with dry skin.*
A 16-week study followed 65 healthy women who were given either six or 12 milligrams of a daily astaxanthin supplement or a placebo. At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that women who took the astaxanthin had less visible wrinkles and more hydrated skin5 than those who took the placebo.*
As a result, the researchers concluded that regular doses of astaxanthin might help combat skin damage and dryness from environmental factors.*
Indeed, several clinical trials have corroborated this evidence, with a 2021 systematic review and meta-analyses in the journal Nutrients concluding that astaxanthin supplementation improves skin moisture content, elasticity, and wrinkles6.*
Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid, also known as omega-6. Along with the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and omega-9 oleic acid, this polyunsaturated fat is "essential for skin synthesis" of important natural fats that help make up your skin's natural barrier, Bailey says.*
"The omega-6 linoleic acid cannot be produced in the human body and must be consumed in the diet," she says.
Linoleic acid intake, in particular, has been shown7 to help reduce skin dryness, Bailey points out. Of course, it's always important to balance omega-6 intake with other healthy fats (e.g., omega-3s).
Zinc is a mineral8 that's necessary for your body to be healthy day in and day out. And on top of its immune-supporting properties, "zinc has also been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory properties,"* Zeicher says.
Similar to probiotics, by helping to maintain healthy inflammatory pathways in the body, Alan says zinc can indirectly help maintain healthy and hydrated skin.*
Consuming bioavailable forms of zinc that are gentle and efficacious, like zinc bisglycinate, are the recommended approach to maximize this mineral's benefits.
The bottom line
Skin care isn't just about topicals—what you put inside your body matters, too. If you're struggling with dry skin, talk to your healthcare provider about whether trying out a supplement might help. It could make a huge difference when combined with the right topicals.
As Zeichner says, "While applying topical products can help repair and strengthen the skin from the outside in, ultimately your skin can only function optimally if it has the proper building blocks from the inside out."*
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, relationships, and lifestyle trends with a master’s degree from American University. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, Prevention, Self, Glamour, and more. She lives by the beach, and hopes to own a taco truck one day.