Vitamins for Your Skin
Vitamins for Your Skin
There is an alphabet soup of vitamins in skincare products. You have probably heard of vitamins A, B3, C, and E, but what do they each of them do? We will them break down here so that you know what you’re applying on your skin. Hopefully, you will be more knowledgeable about what specific vitamins you may need to target your specific skin concerns.
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Vitamin A, or retinoids, generally consist of cosmeceutical retinol and prescription tretinoin (also known as retinoic acid). The difference between retinol and tretinoin is that retinol requires an extra step to become activated by enzymes in the skin to become retinoic acid, while tretinoin is already active and therefore more powerful. Vitamin A is most commonly used to treat acne. Out of all skincare ingredients, vitamin A also has the most robust evidence for anti-aging to smooth fine lines and wrinkles. It accomplishes this by accelerating the turnover of skin cells and boosting the production of collagen.
When starting on a retinoid, these products can be quite irritating causing redness, dryness, and peeling in a process known as retinization. This period of skin adaptation can last for around a month. Retinoids should be used at night while sunscreen needs to be used during the day due to the risk of increased sun sensitivity. Products containing AHA, BHA, and benzoyl peroxide should not be used with retinoids as they will either exacerbate the irritation or reduce the effectiveness of retinoids. Moreover, retinoids should be avoided in pregnant women to reduce the risk of birth defects.
Vitamin B3, or niacinamide, facilitates a broad spectrum of improvements in the skin barrier. It has a synthetic function by building skin cells and boosting the production of keratin and ceramides. Specifically, keratin is a protein which maintains the structural integrity of the skin. Ceramides are lipids which maintain moisture in the skin. Niacinamide helps decrease pore size and smooth fine lines and wrinkles which may help reduce the signs of aging. Vitamin B3 can even be anti-inflammatory and diminish the redness due to eczema, acne, and rosacea. Its ability to decrease oil production can further improve the severity of acne. Niacinamide can protect the skin from oxidative stress due to sunlight and environmental toxins. Finally, Vitamin B3 can also help reduce irritation due to retinol use.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant that helps defend the skin from free radicals which promote the signs of aging. Free radicals are unstable molecules caused by UV rays and pollution that can wreak havoc by stealing electrons from other molecules in the body. It addresses many common concerns regarding skin complexion. One of its claims to fame is the ability to brighten the skin. It fades dark spots and hyperpigmentation by inhibiting melanin production, the molecule responsible for skin pigmentation. In addition, vitamin C boosts the production of collagen and elastin to keep the skin plump and elastic, and can even assist with wound healing. Vitamin C is most potent when applied as a serum instead of a cream because it can penetrate the skin better. However, vitamin C is extremely sensitive to air and light, and is susceptible to degradation.
Vitamin E, or tocopherol, is an another antioxidant reduces skin damage by neutralizing free radicals due to environmental pollution and sunlight. For this reason, vitamin E is often added to sunscreen products to provide increased protection. It also moisturizes the skin and is anti-inflammatory. It occurs naturally in the skin but decreases with age. Vitamin E complements vitamin C very well which is why many skincare products include both of these ingredients. However, people with oily or acne-prone skin may want to avoid the use of heavy products with vitamin E as these can cause break-outs.
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Vitamins A, B3, C, and E show lots of promise for improving the quality of your skin. Vitamin A is an acne and anti-aging powerhouse while vitamin B3 is a multitasker that promotes general skin health. The hydrating antioxidants vitamins C and E are notable for their skin brightening and sun protective abilities, respectively.
If you have noticed a persistent issue or anything else that is suspicious on your skin, then we would recommend consulting a dermatologist for a closer examination. Here at First Derm, we have online board-certified dermatologists ready to take a look at your skin concerns. Simply upload an image anonymously and we’ll do the rest!
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Medical student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and aspiring dermatologist. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. I have published peer reviewed medical papers, including on basic science research in dermatology.