Skin function and immunity: What’s the connection?

The skin is the largest organ in the body1. It is an important part of your immune system, protecting your internal organs from the outside world2.
However, the skin is still vulnerable to many external and internal factors. Read on to learn how antioxidants for skin can help combat these effects.

External factors affecting skin

Many environmental factors may cause skin aging, inflammation, allergies and in serious cases, skin cancer.

  • Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun
    Ultraviolet light is linked to skin aging, as well as various skin cancers. Together with other factors like car exhaust or compounds from burning wood or coal, UV rays can boost visible photodamage3.
  • Cigarette smoke
    Many smokers experience premature skin aging in the face. In fact, a study found that heavy smokers are nearly five times more likely to get wrinkles than non-smokers3.
  • Particulate matter
    Particulate matter comes from factories, power plants, vehicles, construction activities, and fire. These tiny particles may lead to harmful oxidative stress in the skin3.

Internal factors affecting skin

Several factors that affect the internal workings of the body impact the skin as well.

  • Stress
    Life changes, pressure from work or school, or other causes of stress may trigger acne flares, cause dry, scaly skin, and even worsen hair loss4, 5.
  • Lack of sleep
    Research6 has found that sleep lasting less than six hours negatively affects the skin and face7.
  • Poor nutrition
    Proper nutrition is an integral part of skin health. A lack of certain nutrients can compromise the skin’s structure and function8.

How antioxidants help your skin immunity

The body produces substances called free radicals, which in high amounts, can damage cells and even alter genetic material. Free radicals are also produced by exposure to pollution and sunlight. Too much free radicals leads to oxidative stress, which can result in chronic illnesses. Fortunately, antioxidants combat them, repair DNA, and maintain health9.

Antioxidants for healthier skin

Here are some antioxidants that can help your skin and its ability to protect your immunity:

  • Vitamin C protects against UV rays, lessens photodamage, speeds up wound healing, and is a factor in collagen synthesis10.
  • Vitamin E is found in skin oil. It helps in forming a natural barrier to lock in moisture11.
  • Vitamin A, another antioxidant for skin, plays a role in the production of collagen, which helps decrease fine lines and wrinkles. It can also improve skin color by promoting the formation of new blood vessels12, 13.
  • Vitamin B6 controls mood and sleep, thereby helping prevent breakouts and premature aging14.
  • Vitamin D is activated through exposure to sunlight, but is also found in food sources15. A deficiency of this vitamin is linked to skin problems like psoriasis and atopic dermatitis16.
  • Topical zinc can help protect against UV rays, and can be used to treat infections, inflammatory skin conditions, and pigmentary disorders17.
  • Copper promotes skin health, helping reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and improving skin elasticity and wound healing18.
  • Another antioxidant for skin, iron, fights oxidative stress and protects against photodamage. Some research suggested that iron helps wounds heal faster19.
  • Selenium helps both to protect your immunity and delay signs of aging. A deficiency of this mineral has been found to be closely related to aging as well as aging-related diseases due to oxidative stress20.

Antioxidants for skin help fight free radicals that come from internal and external factors, such as smoke, pollution and ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure. These antioxidants help repair skin, slow down signs of skin aging, and can help protect against skin conditions.


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  2. Woodby, B., Penta, K., Pecorelli, A., Lila, M.A., & Valacchi, G. (2020). Skin Health from the Inside Out. Annual Review of Food Science and Technology 25(11), 235-254. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-032519-051722
  3. Drakaki, E., Dessinioti, C. & Antoniou, C.V. (2014). Air pollution and the skin. Frontiers in Environmental Science Air Pollution. doi:
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  16. Umar, M., Sastry, K.S., Al Ali, F., Wang, E., & Chouchane, A.I. (2018). Vitamin D and the Pathophysiology of Inflammatory Skin Diseases, Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 2018(31), 74-86. doi:
  17. Gupta, M., Mahajan, V.K., Mehta, K.S., & Chauhan, P.S. (2014). Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review. Dermatology Research and Practice 2014. doi:
  18. Borkow, G. (2014). Using Copper to Improve the Well-Being of the Skin. Current Chemical Biology 8(2), 89-102. doi: 10.2174/2212796809666150227223857
  19. Wright, J.A., Richards, T., Srai, S.K.S. (2014). The role of iron in the skin and cutaneous wound healing. Frontiers in Pharmacology 2014. doi:
  20. Cai, Z., Zhang, J., & Li, H. (2019). Selenium, aging and aging-related diseases. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research 31(8), 1035-1047. doi: 10.1007/s40520-018-1086-7