You've likely heard this before, but let's say it one more time for the people in the back: What you consume shows up on your skin, and you can literally "feed" your complexion with hydrating, high-fat, antioxidant-rich foods.
It's a relatively low-lift task—many foods for supple skin might be in your daily meals already. However, two special nutrients are commonly missed in the U.S. diet, and they're essential for maintaining your glow.*
"Folks may not know, vitamins C and E are literally required for collagen peptides to be both synthesized and to cross-link correctly,"* says mbg's director of scientific affairs and in-house nutritionist, Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., R.D., on the mindbodygreen podcast. "Vitamins C and E are, by the way, common gaps in the U.S. diet, per the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)."
Here's what you need to know about these two skin-healthy actives and how to best nourish your skin.*
Many people don't get optimal amounts of vitamins C and E.
Both vitamins C and E are essential for skin health. First, a little refresher on C, shall we? The beloved antioxidant is an essential nutrient your body needs to make collagen, as it's actually able to promote fibroblast production1, tend to damaged collagen DNA, and regulate collagen synthesis2, or the pathway in which collagen is made.*
But that's not all: Vitamin C stabilizes the collagen you already have, thanks to its antioxidant properties that can help neutralize free radicals. In other words, a thoughtfully made collagen supplement should contain vitamin C as well.*
Vitamin E is also essential for maintaining skin health, considering it's the most prevalent fat-soluble vitamin in the skin3. It works to retain moisture and strengthen the skin barrier, which is perhaps why "vitamin E [insufficiency] has been associated with skin dryness," board-certified dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, M.D., previously tells mbg. Vitamin E intake also protects against collagen cross-linking4 (aka, when collagen becomes hard and stiff), a process that plays a role in skin aging.*
Alas, vitamin C and E have a common caveat: Your body cannot make the two nutrients on its own. Therefore, they must be ingested daily—and this is where many people fall short.* While true deficiency is quite rare (as you can get vitamins C and E from a bunch of foods, including almonds, spinach, broccoli, kiwi, and citrus), many people still don't get the recommended amount for optimal skin health. Ferira puts it this way: "The reality is that we have a nation walking around with widespread nutrient inadequacies. This is a fact rooted in data5, and meanwhile, there's a simple solution."*
"It turns out, 35% of U.S. adults5 are not eating the recommended amount of vitamin C," says Ferira. "That's over a hundred million Americans." Estimates of the national vitamin E gap reveal an even more dire situation: 80% of U.S. adults5 aren't meeting vitamin E needs from food alone. That may be a conservative estimate, as another study shows up to 90% of Americans do not consume sufficient dietary vitamin E6. In other words: To optimize the skin benefits of these two vitamins, you may need to up your intake.*
How to support nutrient sufficiency for your skin (and more).*
"This could be as simple as nourishing your body and becoming vitamin C and E sufficient, and maybe you would see skin improvements from that inside-out approach,"* says Ferira.
One easy way to get your fill of these nutrients is with targeted supplements—plenty of beauty supplements include both vitamins (along with other high-quality bioactives), so they can enhance each other's potency. (In case you're curious, research shows vitamin E increases the antioxidant power of vitamin C fourfold7; it's the same reason you might see vitamin C serums incorporate vitamin E into the formula.)
Take mbg's beauty & gut collagen+, for example: Along with 17.7 grams of pasture-raised, grass-fed bovine collagen peptides, the formula is a rich source of both vitamins C and E to enhance collagen production (remember when we said a well-constructed collagen supplement includes both?), as well as hyaluronic acid for hydration, biotin to help strengthen hair and nails, and the protein building block L-glutamine.* It's a well-rounded collagen powder that supports your skin health from multiple angles—and it can help you optimize the famed (and necessary) vitamins C and E.*
You likely know that antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, are good for your skin.* But did you know that these two vitamins are commonly missed in the U.S. diet? According to research, many people fall short when getting their fill of these essential vitamins, and this can have a direct impact on skin health. The answer, simply, is to up your intake—which may be easier with targeted supplements.*
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.