Natural products to improve skin

Category: collagen, Integrative Nutrition, Sin categorizar, Skin Care

Discover how to care for your skin naturally

Víctor Blasco,Doctor in Chemistry. Specialist in Medicinal Chemistry.

With the arrival of the good weather, the days full of brightness, warmth, energy and good atmosphere return. But, as is well known, the arrival of the sun also brings with it the first challenges for our skin. Solar radiation increases and we spend much more time outdoors, which translates into greater exposure of our dermis to the inclemency of ultraviolet radiation.

This excess of solar radiation can have serious consequences for our bodies, and in particular for our skin care. The dreaded photoaging, the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots and other signs of external cell damage, can promote a much more aged and deteriorated appearance. In addition, we cannot ignore the importance of protecting our skin against more serious diseases, which may end up affecting our body more severely. In this regard, the risk of melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, increases exponentially during this time. [1]

In view of all this, it is essential to take the necessary precautions to avoid excessive exposure to this type of radiation and to use all the tools at our disposal to take proper care of our skin. To this end, there are a multitude of natural and effective solutions that minimise the risk of suffering from this type of condition and, at the same time, strengthen our immune system. In this regard, we present a series of natural compounds that can help protect and rejuvenate our skin during this time of year.

The first and most important of these is vitamin A, also known as Retinol. This is an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of our body, which can be obtained from the diet in two different ways. On the one hand, its preformed form comes mainly from animal foods such as meat, dairy products and fish. However, it can also be obtained in the form of provitamin A, from plant products that exhibit red or orange tones, typical of the carotenoids from which it is derived. This compound is noted for its multiple health and beauty benefits, being of great importance for vision, cell differentiation, the development of immune function and skin care, among others. [2]

Vitamin A is essential for maintaining good vision. It is necessary for the correct development of the eye, for the normal functioning of the retina, for sharpening vision in dim light and for colour vision. It is also involved in the production of a pigment known as rhodopsin, which is present in retinal cells and plays a crucial role in night vision and in the eye’s gradual adaptation to changes in light. Therefore, given its importance, when the amount of this substance is insufficient, it can cause serious vision difficulties and even blindness. [3]

In terms of the immune system, this vitamin helps to maintain the integrity of the mucous membranes which act as barriers against certain external pathogens, thus helping to improve the body’s response to multiple infections. [4]

Finally, for the case in point, Vitamin A is especially relevant for skin care, being one of the major components of creams, lotions and all types of cosmetics. Exposure to solar radiation causes the appearance of wrinkles and the gradual degradation of collagen, which results in premature ageing of our skin. Well, this vitamin actively acts as a precursor to the synthesis of retinoic acid, a molecule that counteracts the aforementioned effects, stimulating the synthesis of collagen and elastin, and reducing the appearance and thickness of wrinkles. In addition, by promoting cell differentiation, it also contributes to the constant renewal and maintenance of tissues, including the dermis and epidermis. [5]

Likewise, vitamin A also solves another of the problems resulting from ultraviolet radiation, such as skin pigmentation disorders and the appearance of dark spots, which are due to a deregulation in the production and storage of melanin. [6]
Finally, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that promote healing, it is also used for the treatment of acne, psoriasis, and other types of acute dermatitis. [5] All this, without forgetting its enormous capacity to enhance tanning, thanks to the presence of beta-carotene.

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In addition to this compound, there are a large number of other substances, especially minerals, which also have important benefits for the health of our skin.

Magnesium has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, moisturising and collagen synthesis-stimulating properties, making it a powerful ally in maintaining radiant, healthy skin. It is also involved in the synthesis of some natural antioxidants such as glutathione, which prevents premature ageing of tissues exposed to free radicals. It is also known to have an important wound-healing action. [7]
Another of these minerals is selenium. It is noted for its antioxidant power, which protects the skin against oxidative stress caused by UV radiation. It has been found to play a role in the treatment of psoriasis and epidermolysis, and its deficiency is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. [8]

Manganese also plays an active role in wound healing through collagen synthesis. This mineral activates the enzyme prolidase, which is responsible for supplying the amino acid proline for collagen formation in human epithelial cells. It also has an antioxidant effect as a cofactor of the enzyme Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD). [9]
Finally, zinc is an essential mineral involved in the production and renewal of the body’s cells, including those of the skin. It plays an important role in the endogenous production of collagen and maintains the integrity of cell membranes, which act as contingency barriers. In addition, as with manganese, it also shows a potent antioxidant effect as it acts as a cofactor for both cytosolic and mitochondrial SOD. [10]

In short, nature provides us with a valuable range of nutrients that play a fundamental role in skin care. They have different modes of action due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, moisturising, healing or collagen production-stimulating properties, which demonstrate the great potential of these substances to maintain youthful, healthy and flawless skin.
Therefore, whether through a balanced diet, the use of natural products or the incorporation of food supplements, it is possible to provide our skin with the protection and care it deserves and thus face all the threats and challenges that we face during this time of year.

[1] González-Púmariega, M., Tamayo, M. V., Sánchez-Lamar, Á. La radiación ultravioleta. Su efecto dañino y consecuencias para la salud humana. Theoria, 2009, 18 (2), 69-80.
[2] McEldrew, E. P., Lopez, M. J., Milstein, H. Vitamin A. In StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL). StatPearls Publishing LLC. 2023.
[3] Saari, J. C. Vitamin A and vision. The Biochemistry of Retinoid Signaling II: The Physiology of Vitamin A-Uptake, Transport, Metabolism and Signaling. Subcellular Biochemistry. Springer. 2016, 81, 231-259.
[4] Huang, Z., Liu, Y., Qi, G., Brand, D., & Zheng, S. G. Role of vitamin A in the immune system. Journal of clinical medicine, 2018, 7 (9), 258.
[5] Griffiths, C., Russman, A. N., Majmudar, G., Singer, R. S., Hamilton, T. A., Voorhees, J. J. Restoration of collagen formation in photodamaged human skin by tretinoin (retinoic acid). New England Journal of Medicine, 1993, 329 (8), 530-535.
Kong, R., Cui, Y., Fisher, G. J., Wang, X., Chen, Y., Schneider, L. M., Majmudar, G. A comparative study of the effects of retinol and retinoic acid on histological, molecular, and clinical properties of human skin. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 2016, 15 (1), 49-57.
[6] Martín Aragón, M. Nutrición y salud de la piel y el cabello. Farmacia Profesional. 2009, 23 (1).
[7] Proksch, E., Nissen, H. P., Bremgartner, M., Urquhart, C. Bathing in a magnesium‐rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin. International journal of dermatology, 2005, 44 (2), 151-157.
Linus Pauling Institute. Office of Dietary Supplements. Micronutrient Information Center- Magnesium (consultada 18/06/23)
[8] Nazıroğlu M, Yıldız K, Tamtürk B, Erturan I., Flores-Arce M. Selenium and psoriasis. Biol. Trace Elem. Res. 2012, 150 (1-3), 3-9.
[9] Linus Pauling Institute. Office of Dietary Supplements. Micronutrient Information Center – Manganeso. (Consultada 18/06/23)
[10] Ramos Castellano, I.G., Pérez Alcalá D. Antioxidantes en dermatología. Dermatología, 2010, 8 (4), 272-277.

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