Nutritional skin care: health effects of micronutrients and fatty acids

Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 May;73(5):853-64. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/73.5.853.


Human skin is continuously exposed to internal and external influences that may alter its condition and functioning. As a consequence, the skin may undergo alterations leading to photoaging, inflammation, immune dysfunction, imbalanced epidermal homeostasis, or other skin disorders. Modern nutritional science is developing new insights into the relation between food intake and health, and effects of food ingredients may prove to be biologically relevant for optimal skin condition. The objective of this review was to evaluate the present knowledge about the interrelation of nutrients and skin, particularly the photoprotective effects of nutrients, the influences of nutrients on cutaneous immune responses, and therapeutic actions of nutrients in skin disorders. The nutrients of focus were vitamins, carotenoids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Supplementation with these nutrients was shown to provide protection against ultraviolet light, although the sun-protection factor was relatively small compared with that of topical sunscreens. An increase in delayed-type hypersensitivity skin responses after supplementation with nutrients has proven beneficial, especially in elderly people, and may boost cell-mediated immunity. Dietary consumption of certain plants or fish oil is known to modulate the balance of lipid inflammatory mediators and, therefore, is valuable in the treatment of inflammatory skin disorders. It was concluded that nutritional factors exert promising actions on the skin, but information on the effects of low-to-moderate doses of nutrients consumed long term by healthy individuals is obviously lacking, as are data on direct effects on basal skin properties, including hydration, sebum production, and elasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carotenoids
  • Diet
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Micronutrients*
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Skin Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Skin Diseases / prevention & control
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena* / drug effects
  • Vitamins


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Micronutrients
  • Vitamins
  • Carotenoids