Skin bioavailability of dietary vitamin E, carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamin C, zinc and selenium

Br J Nutr. 2006 Aug;96(2):227-38. doi: 10.1079/bjn20061817.


Dietary bioactive compounds (vitamin E, carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamin C, Se and Zn) have beneficial effects on skin health. The classical route of administration of active compounds is by topical application direct to the skin, and manufacturers have substantial experience of formulating ingredients in this field. However, the use of functional foods and oral supplements for improving skin condition is increasing. For oral consumption, some dietary components could have an indirect effect on the skin via, for example, secondary messengers. However, in the case of the dietary bioactive compounds considered here, we assume that they must pass down the gastrointestinal tract, cross the intestinal barrier, reach the blood circulation, and then be distributed to the different tissues of the body including the skin. The advantages of this route of administration are that the dietary bioactive compounds are metabolized and then presented to the entire tissue, potentially in an active form. Also, the blood continuously replenishes the skin with these bioactive compounds, which can then be distributed to all skin compartments (i.e. epidermis, dermis, subcutaneous fat and also to sebum). Where known, the distribution and mechanisms of transport of dietary bioactive compounds in skin are presented. Even for compounds that have been studied well in other organs, information on skin is relatively sparse. Gaps in knowledge are identified and suggestions made for future research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • Biological Availability
  • Carotenoids / pharmacokinetics
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Flavonoids / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Micronutrients / pharmacokinetics*
  • Phenols / pharmacokinetics
  • Polyphenols
  • Selenium / pharmacokinetics
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Vitamin E / pharmacokinetics
  • Zinc / pharmacokinetics


  • Flavonoids
  • Micronutrients
  • Phenols
  • Polyphenols
  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Ascorbic Acid