Skin Health: What Vitamin Is Best For Your Skin?
If vitamins are the micronutrients our body needs in order to function, then it's only logical that using the best vitamins for your skin can have a profound effect on your appearance.
Vitamin-enriched skin-care products can protect against free-radical damage, treat fine lines and lessen hyperpigmentation.
Vitamins A and E are the most widely used vitamins in cosmetology. In addition to these vitamins, creams, lotions and other cosmetics often contain vitamin C, and recently, there's increasingly more talk about the beneficial effects of vitamin D on the skin.
Basically, there’s a vitamin out there for every one of your skin concerns — you just have to know which one provides which benefits.We know vitamins are critical for our overall health, but when applied topically, how exactly can they benefit our skin?
Therapeutic (vitamins A and D, and their analogs) and antioxidant (vitamins C, E, and coenzyme Q) vitamins play an increasing role in skin care. Their benefits range from skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis to the protection against environmental insults.
Can Ingesting Vitamins Help Your Skin?
According to Neuser, taking vitamins orally won’t necessarily make an impactful difference in the state of your skin. That’s because ingesting a vitamin doesn’t allow for the same targeted application as skin care. If you consume lots of vitamins, they will be distributed everywhere in your body and on your skin — not only to your face, says Neuser. And unless you’re actually deficient in a particular nutrient, you’re just urinating out the excess you’ve taken in.
VITAMIN E — called alpha-tocopherol — has been a staple in the skincare industry for a long time. It’s a moisturizing antioxidant, which guards the skin barrier and improves skin hydration. It also protects skin-cell membranes from oxidation by free radicals, specifically when the skin is hit by UV rays.
Topical vitamin E has also emerged as a popular treatment for a number of skin disorders, due to its antioxidant properties. One of the most popular applications is the treatment of burns, surgical scars, and wounds; studies are mixed about whether it’s actually beneficial, though. Be sure to consult your doctor before using it for these purposes.
VITAMIN C — also called L-ascorbic acid — is an antioxidant that boosts collagen production, decreases pigment formation, and protects against environmental stressors.
Like other antioxidants, vitamin C neutralizes free radicals to protect against damage caused to skin cells by things like pollution and UV rays. Damaged skin cells mean accelerated signs of aging — like lines, and discolouration.
You often see vitamin C combined with vitamin E, and sometimes even with ferulic acid — that’s because the combination of these ingredients improves the stability of the vitamins and doubles the sun protection for the skin. “[Vitamin C] is water-soluble and [vitamin E] is oil soluble, and you have water-soluble compartments and oil-soluble compartments in the skin, so you need an antioxidant for both,” explains Neuser.
When applying a vitamin C product, remember that it’s very potent. You only need to use a few drops per application in order to get results. (And beware of staining your pillowcase, as some can leave behind an orange-ish stain.)
VITAMIN A — Known in skincare terms as a retinoid—is the only molecule that can reprogram cells.
Vitamin A is widely-considered among the most effective skin-care ingredients around. It comes in many forms, though its most famous derivative is retinol. It works by binding to receptors in skin cells, in turn strengthening the protective function of the epidermis, protecting collagen against degradation, and stimulating skin cell turnover. For the same reason, vitamin A is a powerful acne fighter, too.
While the skin benefits of vitamin A are undeniable, many people are put off by the adjustment period that comes with using such a powerful product. If you’re new to using vitamin A products like retinol, begin with a lower concentration and do not use it every day. Instead, try it every other day — and only at night, since retinol can make the skin more susceptible to sun damage. Once your skin has built up a tolerance, you can begin to use it more often. “You really need very small amounts [of retinol],” says Neuser. “Don't just go for big numbers and percentages, because you are increasing your risk of irritation. Look for something that has words like ‘hydrating’ on [it.]”
And be patient: Using retinol for only a few days won’t give you a brighter complexion and fewer wrinkles. “We expect to see first results between two and four weeks,” says Neuser, who sees retinol as a “long term” ingredient ideal for maintenance over time. That said, if and when you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, it’s best to press pause on your usage.
BETA CAROTENE — the plant pigment that gives color to red, orange, and yellow vegetables, falls into the category of ‘provitamin A carotenoid’ — meaning that the body can convert it into vitamin A.
When applied topically, “it has antioxidant benefits for the skin, protecting against damage from free radicals that contribute to visible signs of aging and overall contributing to brighter skin,” Dr. Engelman shares. Unlike retinol and retinoids, beta carotene can be incorporated into your A.M. or P.M. routine, and she says it is often found in serums and creams.
VITAMIN D — There’s a lot of talk about vitamin D these days. We naturally produce this vitamin from sun exposure, and Vitamin D is also a key factor in bone health.
Slathering on a vitamin D-infused lotion won’t get you anywhere as vitamin D is not typically used in skincare products. Our skin is just the organ that helps with the production of vitamin D.
VITAMIN B — A class of water-soluble vitamins, there are eight types of B vitamins—B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. These vitamins are vital for maintaining our energy levels, brain functions, and cell metabolism and are easily derived from food sources such as dairy, meat, fish, vegetables, seeds and nuts, and more.
Used in skincare, vitamin B is an antioxidant that helps to treat signs of aging and alleviate sensitive skin. The most common ones found in topical skincare are vitamin B3 (niacinamide), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), and vitamin B12 (cobalamin).
Both VITAMIN B3 and VITAMIN B5 are suitable for all skin types. Vitamin B3 is especially beneficial for sensitive and acne-prone skin, while vitamin B5 is useful for normal to dry skin types. As vitamin B is water-soluble, use the serum after a toner and before any lotion- or cream-based products.
Both vitamin B3 and B5 are suitable for use in the day and/or night. Vitamin B3 reduces inflammation, signs of aging like fine wrinkles and blemishes, and improves the function of the skin's barrier. Vitamin B5 is a humectant that keeps skin moisturised.
How It’s Used: Neuser says you can be pretty liberal when using products with vitamin B derivatives like niacinamide. “Using niacinamide twice a day gives the best benefits,” says Neuser. “It doesn’t have any negative side effects or irritation.” (But check that your blend of choice doesn’t also contain irritants or exfoliants.)
VITAMIN B5 — (a.k.a. pantothenic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin that pulls double duty by acting as both a humectant that draws water into the skin and an emollient that locks it in. “As an emollient, it heals dry, damaged skin,” Dr. Engelman explains. “As a humectant, it attracts and binds water to the skin to aid in moisture retention, giving skin a plump, hydrated appearance.”
But vitamin B5 is not a one-trick pony. In addition to moisturizing the skin, Dr. Engelman says that it also reduces acne blemishes (particularly when taken as a dietary supplement) and calms skin conditions like rosacea and eczema. That soothing quality can be attributed to the fact that it has an anti-inflammatory effect that helps stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. It can be used to treat damage and trauma from ultraviolet (UV) radiation and is found in many after-sun treatments and sunburn ointments.
It should come as no surprise that vitamin B5 is found in an array of skincare formulas for both morning and evening. It plays well with other actives, but, for those looking for a serious hydration boost, consider pairing it with fellow humectants like hyaluronic acid (HA) and glycerin.
VITAMIN K — is an anti-inflammatory and has an effect on the vasculature of skin (by helping to induce quick blood clotting) and hence it helps reduce bruising and swelling quickly. Vitamin K can be used in a cream formulation post-surgery for wound healing and reducing the swelling, recently, Vitamin K creams are also being used to reduce the appearance of dark circles for the same reason.
VITAMIN F — is just starting to gain traction in the skin-care world. However, it’s always been known to play an important role in our health thanks to its ability to reduce some types of inflammation and improve heart health. While its name certainly implies otherwise, vitamin F is not actually a vitamin. That “F” refers to fatty acids. Vitamin F is primarily found in linoleic acid (an omega 6 fatty acid) and linolenic acid (an omega 3). Together these help regulate and promote the healthy function of our body, including playing a role in the health of our skin. Vitamin F aka fatty acids assist in normal skin function and protect a healthy skin barrier, while also acting as an effective skin-soothing agent.
Also of note: people who are acne-prone tend to have low levels of linoleic acid. Some studies have found that applying linoleic acid on the faces of people with mild acne helped diminish their blemishes.
The topical application of vitamins can go a long way towards correcting and preventing a number of skin concerns. While it is important to safely and mindfully add new ingredients into your routine, one of the benefits of these actives is that they tend to work well together. “Most of these vitamins can be used together and actually work synergistically to improve skin,” Dr. Engelman explains, noting that vitamins C, E, and K are common pairings.
Generally speaking, both of our experts caution against using vitamin A derivatives with other active ingredients since it can cause irritation and damage to the skin, but “any of the vitamins discussed above should pair well with vitamin A,” Dr. Engelman notes. Consult with a board certified dermatologist or skincare professional to determine the best vitamin pairings for your skin type and concerns.
Referencing Dr. Engelman via the Aedition, Neuser via Allure
Image courtesy of @fannyamandanilsson