Nutrition has long been associated with skin health, including all of its possible aspects from beauty to its integrity and even the aging process. Multiple pathways within skin biology are associated with the onset and clinical course of various common skin diseases, such as acne, atopic dermatitis, aging, or even photoprotection. These conditions have been shown to be critically affected by nutritional patterns and dietary interventions where well-documented studies have demonstrated beneficial effects of essential nutrients on impaired skin structural and functional integrity and have restored skin appearance and health. Although the subject could be vast, the intention of this review is to provide the most relevant and the most well-documented information on the role of nutrition in common skin conditions and its impact on skin biology.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Prendiville JS. Skin signs of nutritional disorders. Semin Dermatol. 1992;11:88–97.
Smith KE. Cutaneous manifestations of alcohol abuse. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2000;43:1–16.
McLaren DS. Fat soluble vitamins. In: Garrow JS, James WPT, editors. Human nutrition, dietetics. 9th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 1993. p. 208–38.
Boelsma E, Hendriks HFJ, Roza L. Nutritional skin care: health effects of micronutrients and fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;73:853–64.
Fisher GJ et al. Mechanisms of photoaging and chronological skin aging. Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(11):1462–70.
Monboisse JC, Borel JP. Oxidative damage to collagen. EXS. 1992;62:323–7.
Kawaguchi Y, Tanaka H, Okada T, Konishi H, Takahashi M, Ito M, et al. Effect of reactive oxygen species on the elastin mRNA expression in cultured human dermal fibroblasts. Free Radic Biol Med. 1997;23:162–5.
Sander CS, Chang H, Hamm F, Elsner P, Thiele JJ. Role of oxidative stress and the antioxidant network in cutaneous carcinogenesis. Int J Dermatol. 2004;43:326–35.
Darvin ME, Patzelt A, Knorr F, Blume-Peytavi U, Sterry W, Lademann J. One-year study on the variation of carotenoid antioxidant substances in living human skin: influence of dietary supplementation and stress factors. J Biomed Opt. 2008a;13:044028. 2008;69:943–7.
Schroeder P, Lademann J, Darvin ME, Stege H, Marks C, Bruhnke S, et al. Infrared radiation-induced matrix metalloproteinase in human skin: implications for protection. J Investig Dermatol. 2008;128:2491–7.
Schroeder P, Calles C, Benesova T, Macaluso F, Krutmann J. Photoprotection beyond ultraviolet radiation—effective sun protection has to include protection against infrared A radiation-induced skin damage. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2010;23:15–7.
Zastrow L, Groth N, Klein F, Kockott D, Lademann J, Renneberg R, et al. The missing link—light-induced (280–1,600 nm) free radical formation in human skin. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2009;22:31–44.
Heinrich U, Gartner C, Wiebusch M, Eichler O, Sies H, Tronnier H, et al. Supplementation with beta-carotene or a similar amount of mixed carotenoids protects humans from UV-induced erythema. J Nutr. 2003;133:98–101.
Heinrich U, Neukam K, Tronnier H, Sies H, Stahl W. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. J Nutr. 2006;136(6):1565–9.
Garmyn M et al. Effect of beta-carotene supplementation on the human sunburn reaction. Exp Dermatol. 1995;4(2):104–11.
Sies H, Stahl W. Carotenoids and UV protection. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2004;3(8):749–52.
Meinke MC et al. Bioavailability of natural carotenoids in human skin compared to blood. Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2010;76(2):269–74.
Gerster H. The potential role of lycopene for human health. J Am Coll Nutr. 1997;16(2):109–26.
Stahl W, Sies H. Uptake of lycopene and its geometrical isomers is greater from heat-processed than from unprocessed tomato juice in humans. J Nutr. 1992;122(11):2161–6.
Chandler LA, Schwartz SJ. Isomerization and losses of trans-.beta.-carotene in sweet potatoes as affected by processing treatments. J Agric Food Chem. 1988;36(1):129–33.
Sundaresan PR et al. Effects of dietary taurocholate, fat and protein on the storage and metabolism of dietary beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol in ferrets. Int J Vitamin Nutr Res Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin-und Ernahrungsforschung Journal international de vitaminologie et de nutrition. 2005;75(2):133–41.
Zanutto ME et al. Effect of citric pectin on beta-carotene bioavailability in rats. Int J Vitamin Nutr Res Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin-und Ernahrungsforschung Journal international de vitaminologie et de nutrition. 2002;72(4):199–203.
Unlu NZ et al. Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. J Nutr. 2005;135(3):431–6.
Ribaya-Mercado JD. Influence of dietary fat on beta-carotene absorption and bioconversion into vitamin A. Nutr Rev. 2002;60(4):104–10.
Kostic D, White WS, Olson JA. Intestinal absorption, serum clearance, and interactions between lutein and beta-carotene when administered to human adults in separate or combined oral doses. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995;62(3):604–10.
Van den Berg H, van Vliet T. Effect of simultaneous, single oral doses of beta-carotene with lutein or lycopene on the beta-carotene and retinyl ester responses in the triacylglycerol-rich lipoprotein fraction of men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;68(1):82–9.
Olson JA. Bioavailability of carotenoids. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 1999; 49(3 Suppl 1):21 S–5 S.
Alaluf S et al. Dietary carotenoids contribute to normal human skin color and UV photosensitivity. J Nutr. 2002;132(3):399–403.
Bayerl C, Schwarz B, Jung EG. A three-year randomized trial in patients with dysplastic naevi treated with oral beta-carotene. Acta Derm Venereol. 2003;83(4):277–81.
Cantrell A et al. Singlet oxygen quenching by dietary carotenoids in a model membrane environment. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2003;412(1):47–54.
Stahl W, Sies H. Antioxidant activity of carotenoids. Mol Asp Med. 2003;24(6):345–51.
Palombo P et al. Beneficial long-term effects of combined oral/topical antioxidant treatment with the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin on human skin: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2007;20(4):199–210.
Morganti P et al. Role of topical and nutritional supplement to modify the oxidative stress. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2002;24(6):331–9.
Mathews-Roth MM et al. A clinical trial of the effects of oral beta-carotene on the responses of human skin to solar radiation. J Investig Dermatol. 1972;59(4):349–53.
McArdle F et al. Effects of oral vitamin E and beta-carotene supplementation on ultraviolet radiation-induced oxidative stress in human skin. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(5):1270–5.
Lee J et al. Carotenoid supplementation reduces erythema in human skin after simulated solar radiation exposure. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 2000;223(2):170–4.
Stahl W et al. Carotenoids and carotenoids plus vitamin E protect against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71(3):795–8.
Gollnick HP et al. Systemic beta carotene plus topical UV-sunscreen are an optimal protection against harmful effects of natural UV-sunlight: results of the Berlin-Eilath study. Eur J Dermatol. 1996;6(3):200–5.
Kopcke W, Krutmann J. Protection from sunburn with beta-carotene—a meta-analysis. Photochem Photobiol. 2008;84(2):284–8.
Stahl W et al. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. J Nutr. 2001;131(5):1449–51.
Krinsky NI. Carotenoids as chemopreventive agents. Prev Med. 1989;18(5):592–602.
Mathews-Roth MM, Pathak MA, Fitzpatrick TB, et al. Beta-carotene as a photoprotective agent in erythropoietic protoporphyria. N Engl J Med 1970; 282:1231-1234.
Mathews-Roth MM, Pathak MA, Fitzpatrick TB, et al. Beta carotene therapy for erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitivity diseases. Arch Dermatol. 1977;113(9):1229–32.
Bollag W. Vitamin A, and vitamin A acid in the prophylaxis and therapy of epithelial tumours. Int Z Vitaminforsch. 1970;40(3):299–314.
Fung TT et al. Vitamins and carotenoids intake and the risk of basal cell carcinoma of the skin in women (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 2002;13(3):221–30.
McNaughton SA, Marks GC, Green AC. Role of dietary factors in the development of basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer of the skin. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005;14(7):1596–607.
Fung TT et al. Vitamin and carotenoid intake and risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. Int J Cancer. 2003;103(1):110–5.
Green A et al. Daily sunscreen application and betacarotene supplementation in prevention of basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas of the skin: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 1999;354(9180):723–9.
Greenberg ER et al. A clinical trial of beta carotene to prevent basal-cell and squamous-cell cancers of the skin. The Skin Cancer Prevention Study Group. N Engl J Med. 1990;323(12):789–95.
Darlington S et al. A randomized controlled trial to assess sunscreen application and beta carotene supplementation in the prevention of solar keratoses. Arch Dermatol. 2003;139(4):451–5.
Schaumberg DA et al. No effect of beta-carotene supplementation on risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer among men with low baseline plasma beta-carotene. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004;13(6):1079–80.
Aust O et al. Supplementation with tomato-based products increases lycopene, phytofluene, and phytoene levels in human serum and protects against UV-light-induced erythema. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2005;75(1):54–60.
Stahl W et al. Stimulation of gap junctional communication: comparison of acyclo-retinoic acid and lycopene. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2000;373(1):271–4.
Teicher VB et al. Biological activities of apo-canthaxanthinoic acids related to gap junctional communication. Arch Biochem Biophys. 1999;365(1):150–5.
Phillips CL, Combs SB, Pinnell SR. Effects of ascorbic acid on proliferation and collagen synthesis in relation to donor age of human dermal fibroblasts. J Investig Dermatol. 1994;103:228–32.
Humbert PG, Haftek M, Creidi P, et al. Topical ascorbic acid in photoaged skin. Clinical topographical and ultrastructural evaluation: double-blind study vs. placebo. Exp Dermatol. 2003;12:237–44.
Burke DE, Clive J, Combs GF Jr, et al. The effects of topical and oral vitamin E on pigmentation and skin cancer induced by ultraviolet irradiation in Skh:2 hairless mice. Nutr Cancer. 2000;38:87–97. Published by Taylor and Francis, Ltd. www.informaworld.com.
Thakkar et al. “Carotenoids and skin” nutrition and skin, chapter 4, Springer ed. Pappas The Skin Cancer Foundation—guidelines. http://www.skincancer.org/Guidelines/ (2010). Accessed July 2010.
Reichrath J, Lehmann B, Carlberg C, Varani J, Zouboulis CC. Vitamins as hormones. Horm Metab Res. 2007;39(2):71–84. Review.
Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A, et al. The effect of a high-protein, low glycemic-load diet versus a conventional, high glycemic-load diet on biochemical parameters associated with acne vulgaris: a randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;57:247–56.
Melnik B. Milk consumption: aggravating factor of acne and promoter of chronic diseases of Western societies. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2009;7:364–70.
Robinson HM. The acne problem. South Med J. 1949;42:1050–60.
Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Fw D, et al. High school dietary dairy intake and acne. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005;52:207–11.
Betsi GI, Papadavid E, Falagas ME. Probiotics for the treatment or prevention of atopic dermatitis: a review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2008;2:93–103.
Foster RH, Hardy G, Alany RG. Borage oil in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Nutrition. 2010;26:708–18.
Van Gool CJ, Zeegers MP, Thijs C. Oral essential fatty acid supplementation in atopic dermatitis—a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials. Br J Dermatol. 2004;150:728–40.
Van Gool CJ, Thijs C, Henquet CJ, et al. Gamma-linolenic acid supplementation for prophylaxis of atopic dermatitis—a randomized controlled trial in infants at high familial risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:943–51.
Kitz R, Rose MA, Schonborn H, et al. Impact of early dietary gamma-linolenic acid supplementation on atopic eczema in infancy. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2006;17:112–7.
Callaway J, Schwab U, Harvima I, et al. Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis. J Dermatolog Treat. 2005;16:87–94.
Brosche T, Platt D. Effect of borage oil consumption on fatty acid metabolism, transepidermal water loss and skin parameters in elderly people. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2000;30:139–50.
Muggli R. Systemic evening primrose oil improves the biophysical skin parameters of healthy adults. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2005;27:243–9.
De Spirt S, Stahl W, Tronnier H, et al. Intervention with flaxseed and borage oil supplements modulates skin condition in women. Br J Nutr. 2009;101:440–5.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
About this article
Cite this article
Pappas, A., Liakou, A. & Zouboulis, C.C. Nutrition and skin. Rev Endocr Metab Disord 17, 443–448 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11154-016-9374-z