Taking care of your skin should be an essential part of your health regimen. It is, after all, your body’s largest organ.
The first thing most health professionals will tell you to do in order to keep your skin healthy is to limit your exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and wear protective sunscreen when you’re exposed to sunlight.
But the sun isn’t all bad. Just 10–15 minutes of daily exposure helps manufacture vitamin D throughout the skin. Vitamin D is one of the best vitamins for your skin, along with vitamins C, E, and K.
Making sure you get enough vitamins can keep your skin looking healthy and youthful. This could translate to a reduction in:
- dark spots
- rough patches
- excessive dryness
Essential skin vitamins are available in supplemental form, but they are also found in skin care products. Learn more about these four essential vitamins and how they can help you achieve optimum skin health.
Vitamin D is most often made when sunlight is absorbed by your skin. Cholesterol converts to vitamin D when this happens. Vitamin D is then taken up by your liver and kidneys and transported throughout the body to help create healthy cells. This includes the skin, where vitamin D plays an important role in skin tone. It may even help treat psoriasis.
Calcitriol is a man-made version of a kind of vitamin D that humans produce naturally. Calcitriol is a topical cream that has been effective in treating people with psoriasis. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology found that applying calcitriol reduced the amount of skin inflammation and irritation in people with psoriasis and produced few adverse side effects.
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University recommends a daily vitamin D intake of 600 IU per day. You may need more if you are pregnant or over the age of 70.
You can increase your vitamin D intake by:
- getting 10 minutes of sun exposure a day (check with your doctor first, especially if you have a history of skin cancer)
- eating fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, orange juice, and yogurt
- eating foods that have vitamin D naturally, such as salmon, tuna, and cod
Vitamin C is found at high levels in the epidermis (outer layer of skin) as well as the dermis (inner layer of skin). Its cancer-fighting (antioxidant) properties, and its role in collagen production help keep your skin healthy. This is why vitamin C is one of the key ingredients found in many antiaging skin care products.
Taking vitamin C orally can enhance the effectiveness of sunscreens applied to your skin for protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. It does this by decreasing cell damage and helping the healing process of bodily wounds. Vitamin C can also help fend off the signs of aging because of its vital role in the body’s natural collagen synthesis. It helps to heal damaged skin and, in some cases, reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Adequate vitamin C intake can also help repair and prevent dry skin.
Due to the prevalence of vitamin C in over-the-counter products, dietary supplements, and foods we eat, deficiency of this nutrient is rare. The recommendation is 1,000 mg per day. If you find that you don’t get enough vitamin C in your diet, you can:
- eat for more citrus foods, such as oranges
- eat other plant-based sources of vitamin C, such as strawberries, broccoli, and spinach
- drink orange juice
- take supplements, as recommended by a doctor
- look for antiaging skin treatments with vitamin C for treating dryness, redness, wrinkles, and age spots
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant. Its main function in skin care is to protect against sun damage. Vitamin E absorbs the harmful UV light from the sun when applied to the skin. Photoprotection refers to the body’s ability to minimize the damage caused by UV rays. This can help prevent dark spots and wrinkles.
Normally, the body produces vitamin E through sebum, an oily substance emitted though the skin’s pores. In the right balance, sebum helps keep the skin conditioned and prevents dryness. If you have particularly dry skin, vitamin E can possibly help counteract a lack of sebum. Vitamin E also helps in the treatment of skin inflammation.
While vitamin E is available in many skin care products, the problem is that any effects could be minimized upon sun exposure. Getting enough vitamin E in your diet is preferable. Most adults need about 15 mg of vitamin E per day. You can increase your intake by:
- eating more nuts and seeds, such as almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds
- taking a multivitamin or separate vitamin E supplement
- using topical products that contain both vitamin E and vitamin C (this can be more effective in photoprotection than those that contain only one of the two)
Vitamin K is essential in aiding the body’s process of blood clotting, which helps the body heal wounds, bruises, and areas affected by surgery. The basic functions of vitamin K are also thought to help certain skin conditions, such as:
Vitamin K can be found in many different topical creams for the skin, and it can help treat a variety of skin conditions. Doctors frequently use creams that contain vitamin K on patients who have just undergone surgery to help reduce swelling and bruising. This may help speed up skin healing. However, research on vitamin K’s effects on the skin is more limited than that for vitamins E and C.
According to the University of Florida, vitamin K deficiencies are rare in the United States. Adults need between 90 and 120 ug per day. You can increase your intake by eating:
- green beans
As vitamins are essential to your health and body functions, vitamin deficiencies can cause adverse effects on the skin. Since vitamins C and E play such important roles in protecting your skin from the sun, deficiencies in either vitamin can increase the risk of skin damage, including skin cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.
Vitamin supplements are easy to come by these days, so consult with your dermatologist or doctor to start a regimen for your health. Next time you walk down the skin care aisle at the store, take a look to see if these four helpful vitamins are ingredients of your favorite products.
While vitamins are essential for skin health, you might already be getting enough of these vitamins through your daily diet. A blood test can help determine whether you have any vitamin deficiencies. You should only take vitamins with the guidance of a medical professional to prevent overdose.