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Supplements For Healthy Skin
New Orleans LA, 25 February 2002

Protecting yourself from ultraviolet radiation and reversing photoaging takes more than an instant or a miracle. It takes the medical advice of a dermatologist, the correct formulations and the most effective method to deliver vitamins to the skin.

Speaking today at the American Academy of Dermatology's 2002 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, New York-based dermatologist Karen E. Burke, MD, spoke about the antioxidants that have proven to be the most effective in protecting against and reversing photoaging of the skin.

"Although many topical formulations contain antioxidants, very few are actually effective in preventing or reversing damage to the skin," said Dr. Burke. "Despite advertising claims, almost all available topical formulations contain very low concentrations of antioxidants that are not well absorbed by the skin. There are three antioxidants that have been proven to decrease the effect of the sun on the skin and actually prevent further damage: selenium, vitamin E and vitamin C."

Antioxidants are designed to keep free radicals from damaging cell walls and other cell structures, as well as cellular DNA, thus leading to precancers and cancers. Free radicals are the result of oxygen molecules being oxidized, but they can also be created by exposure to various environmental factors, smoking and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Free radicals can also accelerate the aging process.

New research on the efficacy of topical vitamins E and C and selenium in protecting against acute and chronic ultraviolet (UV) radiation to the skin and in reversing photoaging, has shown the most effective methods to deliver each of these vitamins to the skin.

"When adding a new treatment or supplement to your daily routine, it's important to work with your dermatologist to ensure that you're using effective formulations and dosages," explained Dr. Burke. "It's also important to be forthcoming about other medications or supplements you are taking which may interact with your new treatments."


The mineral selenium is necessary to the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase, which helps protect the body from cancers, including skin cancer caused by sun exposure. Selenium also preserves tissue elasticity, and slows down the aging and hardening of tissues through oxidation. The best dietary sources of selenium include whole grain cereals, seafood, garlic and eggs.

When taken orally, in daily supplements of 50 to 200 micrograms, selenium has been show to offer protection from the damaging rays of the sun. Recent animal studies have found that when taken orally or applied topically in the form L-selenomethionine, selenium demonstrated protection against both daily and excessive UV damage, with less burning after exposure. The study also showed that there was a delay in the onset, and a decrease in the incidence, of skin cancer in the animals.

"The preliminary results of the use of selenium are very promising in reducing the risk for several kinds of cancer, including skin cancer," said Dr. Burke.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is the most important antioxidant in the body that protects cell membranes and prevents damage to membrane-associated enzymes. It can be found in vegetable oils, especially sunflower oil, whole grains such as wheat germ, brown rice and oats, as well as nuts, dairy products and meats.

New laboratory research has shown that as an antioxidant, vitamin E helps inactivate free radicals. There have also been numerous studies that show that topical natural vitamin E, also called d-alpha-tocopherol, reduces sunburn cell production, chronic UV-induced damage and the production of cancer causing cells. Previous studies have demonstrated that regular vitamin E supplements, taken in conjunction with vitamin A supplements, were associated with a 70 percent reduced risk for basal cell carcinomas.

"For additional sun protection, individuals may consider taking vitamin E supplements," said Dr. Burke. "Supplementation with natural vitamin E in 400 milligrams per day has been noted to reduce photodamage, wrinkles and improve skin texture."

In addition, topical d-alpha-tocopherol can soothe dry, rough skin. When combined with vitamin C, both vitamins create a highly protective lotion against sun damage.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant found naturally in the skin. It is commonly found in vegetables and citrus fruits. Much like vitamin E, vitamin C is important in repairing free radicals and preventing them from turning into cancers and accelerating aging.

"Vitamin C is depleted when the skin is exposed to the sun, pollution or smoking," said Dr. Burke. "Even minimal UV exposure can decrease the vitamin C levels in the skin by 30 percent, while exposure to the ozone of city pollution can decrease the level by 55 percent."

Topical vitamin C can prevent the consequences of prolonged sun exposure which can lead to skin cancer. A recent study showed that by applying topical vitamin C to human skin, 15 to 30 minutes after UV exposure, sunburn cells decreased and repair work began on the damaged skin. Vitamin C is most commonly found in the form L-ascorbic acid. Unfortunately, this form is a highly active antioxidant that breaks down immediately when exposed to oxygen, thus losing stability rapidly and becoming less effective. Research is still being done to optimize a stable topical vitamin C formulation.

In recent animal studies, oral vitamin C was found to reduce UV-induced tumors, while when applied topically, vitamin C minimized low level, chronic UV-exposure to mouse skin. "It is recommended that individuals consume 500 to 1000 milligrams of vitamin C per day," said Dr. Burke. "Most people will get their recommended daily allowance if they eat more than five servings of fruit, vegetables and juices, but we all can benefit by taking a supplement."

"While there still needs to be further study regarding the effects on photodamage and UV protection for some of the most common and important vitamins, there are definite benefits for the skin which should not be discounted when considering supplements," said Dr. Burke. "Your dermatologist can help you determine which vitamins, in which form, will be most effective for you."

About the American Academy of Dermatology

The American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of over 14,000 dermatologists worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin. For more information, contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM or visit www.aad.org.


American Academy of Dermatology, via PRNewsWire, 25 February 2002.end-of-story




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