Bioactive Compounds for Skin Health

Human skin is continually changing. The condition of the skin largely depends on the individual’s overall state of health. A balanced diet plays an important role in the proper functioning of the human body, including the skin. The present study draws attention to bioactive substances, i.e., vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, polyphenols, and carotenoids, with a particular focus on their effects on the condition of the skin. The aim of the study was to review the literature on the effects of bioactive substances on skin parameters such as elasticity, firmness, wrinkles, senile dryness, hydration and color, and to define their role in the process of skin ageing.

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It is composed of the epidermis, which consists of epithelial tissue, and the dermis, which consists of connective tissue. Under the dermis, there is a layer of subcutaneous tissue called the hypodermis (Figure 1). The epidermis comprises a horny layer (stratum corneum), a clear layer (stratum lucidum), a granular layer (stratum granulosum), a spinous layer (stratum spinosum) and a basal layer (stratum basale). Apart from keratinocytes—cells involved in keratinization—the five-layer epidermis also contains pigment cells and melanocytes, as well as Langerhans cells, mastocytes, and Merkel cells. It is closely connected to the dermis underneath by the basement membrane. The dermis, which comprises a papillary layer (primarily loose connective tissue) and a reticular layer (dense connective tissue), contains fibroblasts responsible for the production of collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), as well as numerous blood vessels, nerve endings, and appendages, such as hair follicles and sweat and sebaceous glands. The subcutaneous tissue consists of loose connective tissue containing fat cells (adipocytes) forming fat lobules.

Features characteristic of mature skin include wrinkles, a loss of elasticity, changes in color, uneven pigmentation and discoloring, dryness, foci of abnormal epidermal keratosis, telangiectasias, susceptibility to irritation, and slower skin regeneration and healing. One of the most common dermatological and cosmetic concerns is skin ageing: a natural, complex process influenced by two mechanisms—intrinsic (genetic, chronological) ageing resulting from the passage of time, and extrinsic ageing (photoaging), caused by environmental factors (including UV radiation, environmental pollution and cigarette smoke). The two processes overlap and are closely linked to increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress in the skin. Both the intrinsic and extrinsic processes are associated with biochemical disturbances (e.g., the excessive formation of oxygen radicals, leading to protein and DNA damage, amino acid racemization, and non-enzymatic glycosylation, leading to the abnormal cross-linking of collagen fibers and other structural proteins), as well as changes in the physical, morphological and physiological properties of the epidermis and dermis. These include disturbances in the function of the epidermal barrier, the flattening of the dermal–epidermal junction, a reduced number and activity of fibroblasts, the accumulation of abnormal elastin fibers (elastosis), and the impaired functioning of Langerhans cells. (Nutrients. 2021 Jan; 13(1): 203.)