The importance of vitamins has been instilled in us since childhood. Mantras such as ‘eating carrots will allow you to see in the dark, oranges will keep colds away and eating spinach makes you strong’ were commonplace at the dinner table, all relaying the importance of a vitamin-rich diet and the foods that help us to achieve it.
Vitamins are chemical compounds our body needs in limited quantities to function properly but cannot produce on its own. That means we must acquire these vitamins from external factors such as our diet and environment. There are thirteen essential vitamins our body needs, split into two categories: fat and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in our body’s fatty tissues and liver and used when needed, while water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and are generally excreted with urination. This difference is important to note, especially when taking vitamin pills, as it influences the dose and frequency that is safe for our body.
While vitamins are crucial for a healthy, functioning body on the inside, they’re also vital when it comes to skincare. As well as eating your daily recommended allowance, it’s a good idea to top up your skin’s vitamin intake with a bit of topical application, too. After passing through the muscular and circulatory system, the skin is one of the last organs to receive ingested vitamins, meaning they often are left with an insufficient supply.
Eight essential vitamins for your skin
1. Vitamin C:
Be it beauty products or your home-made face masks, Vitamin C is popularly used to treat various skin issues like acne, hyperpigmentation, dark spots and fine lines. It is naturally found in the epidermis (topmost layer of your skin). Even the inner layers of the skin contain this ingredient. Vitamin C enhances collagen production in the skin. Collagen is a protein fiber that gives your skin strength and keeps it firm. As you age, the production of collagen reduces naturally. Years of sun exposure can also break down this protein in your skin.
Topically applied Vitamin C can increase the production of this protein, reducing the appearance of fine lines. It also lightens pigmentation spots and reduces tan by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, which is responsible for the production of melanin (skin pigment). Vitamin C consumed orally may enhance the efficacy of your sunscreen. It speeds up the body’s healing process by reducing cell damage.
2. Vitamin B3:
Vitamin B3 is a magic ingredient in the dermatological world. Vitamin B3 (niacin) is not stored in your body naturally. Consuming it through your diet or applying it topically is essential to maintain good skin health. This ingredient is a powerhouse in itself. Vitamin B3 in its niacin amide form helps the skin restore its moisture content, improving texture and smoothness. It contributes to glowing, healthy skin in many ways. Studies suggest that topical forms of Vitamin B3 can help reduce the appearance of signs of aging.
Vitamin B3 has also proved to be effective in reducing non-inflammatory acne symptoms. When applied topically, it can improve skin barrier functions by repairing your skin’s protective layer and locking-in moisture. This allows your skin to stay hydrated, soft and supple. Niacin amide is also a free radical scavenger, preventing these molecules from creating havoc and damaging your skin.
3. Vitamin E:
With similar UV fighting abilities as vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the skin from sun damage. Vitamin E is transported to the skin via sebum, that is, the stuff that comes out of your pores to protect your skin but also makes you oily. In this case, oily skin is great! The vitamin E in sebum helps reduce damage from the sun and keeps your skin fresh and healthy.
Unfortunately, there are mixed results with topical application of vitamin E. When the vitamin is exposed to the sun, it produces free radicals. Those free radicals can then cause a bit of damage to the skin. Now, this damage is pretty mild, but it’s best to either apply topical vitamin E when you’re not going out in the sun (like a p.m. face mask) or get your E through food.
4. Vitamin A:
Vitamin A is popularly used in a number of skincare products because of its antioxidant properties. Your serums, sunscreens and moisturizers likely contain this magic ingredient. Retinoids are a form of Vitamin A that are widely used in anti-acne topical and oral medicines. They have anti-inflammatory properties that help improve acne symptoms.
Vitamin A is also good to reduce the appearance of signs of aging by interrupting the process of collagen damage. It prevents sun damage and can also prevent sunburn.
5. Vitamin D:
There is an ongoing debate about whether or not applying sunscreen everyday can cause Vitamin D deficiency. Your body produces the most Vitamin D when sun rays penetrate through your skin. However, deficiency is not as serious as the harm UV rays can cause to your skin. Ten minutes of sun exposure early in the morning is enough to get your daily dose of Vitamin D. Stay away from the sun during its peak hours. Vitamin D can also be taken through certain foods and supplements. It creates healthy cells in the body.
6. Vitamin K:
Vitamin K plays a major role in treating a host of skin conditions and issues. It is suggests that Vitamin K deficiency is rare as it can be found in a variety of foods. Some of the major benefits include fading of stretch marks, scars, dark spots, under eye circles and spider veins. Vitamin K also aids in the body’s healing process and is effective in treating wounds and bruises. Dermatologists may recommend topical creams containing this Vitamin to reduce skin issues or swelling and bruising.
7. Vitamin B5:
Also known as pantothenic acid, Vitamin B5 contributes to healthy, firm-looking skin. Another vitamin with moisture-retaining capacities, Vitamin B5 improves skin barrier functions and prevents moisture loss. This keeps your skin hydrated, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Zinc helps reduce skin inflammation and irritation whilst providing broad-spectrum sun protection that prevents burns and sun damage. It also improves wound healing and prevents bacterial infections as well as treating acne breakout.
Healthy and beautiful skin is achieved when you pay as much attention to your nutrient intake as much as you do to skincare. Vitamin deficiencies often manifest on the skin, so it goes to show that vitamins play a vital role in skin health.