Ever envied your baby cousin’s perfect, plump, oh-so-smooth facial skin?
That baby-smooth face is full of elasticity—the trait that helps it spring back into shape after being touched—and elasticity decreases as you age.
Certain vitamins and minerals help skin maintain its shape, but beware of expensive products and their false advertising claims: some vitamins should be taken internally, some should be applied externally, and some lose their potency very quickly. Here’s what to take and how to take it.
Vitamin C: Internally
Collagen, the most abundant protein in your body, is literally what holds you together and keeps skin firm, plump, and smooth. Your friend vitamin C is essential for collagen production. It’s practically impossible to overdose on the vitamin, since it’s water-soluble (you’ll pee out whatever your body doesn’t use). So load up on citrus fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, berries, kale, and cauliflower.
Vitamin C: Externally
But that’s not all vitamin C does: it’s one of the few vitamins that can effectively penetrate skin when applied topically. It may help reduce sun damage and wrinkling, and as an antioxidant, it combats free radicals produced by the sun that damage your skin.
However, vitamin C in a topical form is highly unstable. Check for products that have a concentration of higher than 5 percent, and watch out for yellowing—that means the vitamin has oxidized and is no longer effective.
Vitamin E: Externally
Vitamin E is another potent antioxidant that reduces free radical damage to skin. It comes in an oil form, and helps to soothe and moisturize burnt skin. Apply the thick, slightly sticky oil to your skin after you’ve been in the sun.
You can buy the oil in drug and health food stores, or just purchase vitamin E capsules and cut them open with a pair of scissors (or channel MacGyver: poke the capsules with a bobby pin or safety pin and squeeze out the oil!)
Vitamin A: Externally
Don’t rush to the health food store and overdose on vitamin A pills. Too much of this fat-soluble vitamin can dry out your skin and make you lose your hair – pretty much the exact opposite of what you want.
However, vitamin A does have striking effects when applied topically via Retin-A, a drug derived from the vitamin. It improves circulation to the skin and literally renews it, increasing cell turnover and boosting collagen production. You’ll need to pair it with a good moisturizer and sunscreen, since it makes skin sensitive to sunlight.
Selenium, a trace mineral found in the soil, doesn’t get quite the press that the more well-known vitamins do. But don’t underestimate this powerful nutrient.
Selenium is an antioxidant, saving your skin from free radicals, and is particularly effective in fighting skin cancer. Too much is highly toxic, so don’t take more than 400 mcg a day. Find it in Brazil nuts, the highest naturally occurring source of selenium, as well as in tuna, garlic, onions, and broccoli.
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