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April 29, 2007

Beauty from the Inside Out

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So why can't you just eat better to look better? "Foods we ate as little as 100 years ago had 10 times the nutrients they do today," says New York-based nutritionist Esther Blum, author of Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous. "But don't blame the farmers. To survive financially, they're driven to overuse the soil, which in turn depletes the minerals that once enriched the produce." Couple that with the fact that your blood ships most of the nutrients gleaned from food to major organs, like the heart and liver, first — leaving your hair, skin, and nails with the dregs — and you can understand why you need to do more than consume those "healthy" carbs, fats, and proteins.

So will the increasing number of vitamins and supplements on the market that target skin mean it will soon be time to junk those jars of expensive creams? Not quite yet. These so-called topicals work by penetrating the skin's dermis (bottom-most layer), and by plumping the surface and speeding up exfoliation. This is why cosmetics companies can claim that their potions promote a smoother complexion. But it's almost as difficult to accurately measure how many digested nutrients are reaching your hair, skin, and nails as it is to measure how deeply your products are penetrating from the other end. We say, hedge your bets by attacking on both fronts.

To know whether you're getting the optimum dosage for your skin type, it can't hurt to seek a professional opinion. What follows is a list of supplements you might incorporate into the daily feeding of your precious face:

USE ANTIOXIDANTS FOR ANTIAGING. Vitamins C and E, alpha-lipoic acid, selenium, and CoQ10 all fend off free radicals in the environment, preserving collagen and elastin (skin's "plumpers") and slowing fine-line accumulation.

"B" SMART ABOUT FIRM SKIN AND FORTIFIED HAIR AND NAILS. Even a mild vitamin-B deficiency will show up as brittle tips or slack skin.

TRY OMEGAS FOR ALPHA SMOOTHNESS. To calm irritation, consider essential fatty acids (omegas-3 and -6): Recent evidence suggests they can calm psoriasis, eczema, and acne.

HYDRATE WITH HYALURONIC ACID. We know it's successful topically. Taken orally, it may also help skin stay moist.

POLISH WITH PROBIOTICS. Lackluster skin may be a reflection of a compromised intestinal tract, says Blum. Probiotics can keep skin radiant by minimizing yeast overgrowth.

ZAP ZITS WITH ZINC. To regulate the oil production that can cause flareups, think zinc.

Vitamin brands deemed reputable by the experts interviewed for this piece include Standard Process; Twin Labs; Olay Vitamins; Innate; N.V. Perricone M.D.; Kinerase Multi-Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements; and Weil Nutritional Supplements. Available at health, drug, and online stores.

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