The ABC’s of Vitamins and What They Do for Our Skin
Over the years, we have all heard doctors say how important it is to take our vitamins. Recently we have started seeing vitamins pop up everywhere- from our skin care product labels to our water! So is all the hype about vitamins just that, hype? Or should we be reading our skin care labels looking a bit more closely? By now, or at least I would hope, we should all know the keys to healthy skin are protection from the sun, drinking plenty of water, and eating a nutrient-rich diet. As a skin care professional, I've spent many months studying ingredients in order to help my clients understand benefits for their skin, so today I am going to break down these vitamins so that you know what you should be looking for your own specific needs.
(Of course insert disclaimer here! I am a Licensed Medical Aesthetician, aka skin care professional, I am not a doctor. I have been licensed by the State of Arizona. This information is for topical skin care use, although ingestion may be mentioned! For vitamins and supplements taken orally, please consult your own medical professional.)
What even is a vitamin? By definition, a vitamin is any group of organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition. They are required in the diet as they cannot be synthesized by the body. There are three main ways to get vitamins into our systems: ingesting, penetrating, and absorbing vitamins topically.
- Ingestion occurs when a vitamin is consumed, as it goes to feeding the vital organs.
- Penetration, is when a product is applied topically to the skin and it makes its way to the deeper layers of the skin, such as the dermis.
- Absorption is when a topical application has penetrated through to the deepest layers of the skin and has been absorbed into the bloodstream. It should be noted that in most cases that the vitamins applied topically to the skin have molecules too large to actually get absorbed into the bloodstream.
So which vitamins should we use? What are the benefits of putting them on our skin versus taking them internally?
Vitamin A -
My personal favorite of the skin vitamins. We commonly know this as retinoic acid, retinal, or RETINOL! So what does it do? Vitamin A encourages healthy skin cell production and growth. Vitamin A stimulates fibroblasts, the cells within the skin that are responsible for developing the firm healthy tissue that is located deep in the skin's dermis. Fibroblasts secrete collagen. So in laymen’s terms, Vitamin A can help stimulate collagen production! Vitamin A helps to heal damaged skin, exfoliate, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. You can find Vitamin A in many forms including moisturizers, sunscreens, infused oils, anti-aging creams, and even capsules.
PRO TIP: If the product says RETINOL on the label and Retinol is not the first ingredient, it will not be a very effective Retinol product, if at all. The first ingredients listed on the label are the biggest concentration of ingredients. Pay close attention to your labels. Also, products have an expiration date! Do not purchase professional grade products from discount stores (like Ross, TJ Maxx, or Marshall's) without looking at your label. Often times these products have expired! You may think you are saving money, but if the product is not effective, you're wasting your money. Shelf lives matter people!
REMEMBER: When using any Vitamin A product, use only at night as sunlight can increase photosensitivity! Please also use your SPF by day when incorporating any retinol product into your regimen as to protect the integrity of the skin you are treating. (For goodness sake just wear sunscreen all the time! You’ll thank me in 30 years. Yes you don’t need to ask, I will blog about healthier sunscreen options for you as well in our upcoming posts!)
To find out more about checking the expiration dates on your products, visit http://cosmeticswizard.net
Vitamin B is another big vitamin in skin care; especially B3 also known as Niacin. Niacin helps to improve acne, eczema, dermatitis, rosacea, psoriasis hyperpigmentation, sun damaged, dry or aging skin, and so on! Vitamin B strengthens skins barrier, our acid mantle as us esties call it, and protects the skin from pollutants, bacteria, and other environmental factors that damage the skin. Vitamin B is a key ingredient in anti-aging skin care. Niacin improves the top layer of the skin, the epidermis, while Niacinamide (another form of Niacin aka B3) when applied to the skin, locks in moisture and helps the skin to retain it. For those that struggle with acne, B3 prevents pigmentation and helps to balance oil production. As with the others, look for Vitamin B, Niacinamide, or Niacin on the label. Typically Vitamin B can be applied night or day.
Vitamin C is also commonly known as ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and plays a vital role in collagen synthesis, strengthening skin, slowing down the aging process. Research has shown that Vitamin C applied topically has the ability to neutralize free radicals, as well as protect the skin from the suns UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. Vitamin C has been proven to protect the integrity of skin, and there is also scientific evidence to support that it may also undo UV-induced photodamage by encouraging cell turnover and regeneration. (See link below.) This multi-tasker also has the ability to lighten and brighten the skin by diminishing dark spots caused by sun exposure or acne. This is due to the fact that Vitamin C can inhibit the overproduction of melanin in the skin. For those that suffer from acne, Vitamin C not only aids cell turnover, it is also anti-inflammatory and can calm red, irritated, inflamed skin caused by an active breakout. Like Vitamin A, Vitamin C can be found in various skin care products, from lotions to serums, and everything in between.
PRO TIP: When using Vitamin C, you will want to incorporate this into your morning routine. Follow with SPF.
*Sun Ray Cheat: UVA - aging rays
UVB - burning rays
UVC - cancer causing
Link to the study of Vitamin C by Oregon State University https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-C
When we hear Vitamin D, many of us this good ole’ whole milk like from when we were kids, or a warm summer day soaking up sunshine (seriously though stop doing that, it’s aging your skin!) First thing we should talk about is that the Vitamin D we take orally. D3 is not the same as the Vitamin D we use topically, D2, which is produced by plants. Vitamin D has been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory that has shown major improvements in treating psoriasis and eczema, as well as calming inflamed skin caused by acne. Vitamin D contributes to skin cell growth, repair, and to skin cell metabolism support. Vitamin D helps to optimize skin’s immune system and destroys free radicals that contribute to premature aging and wrinkles, by protecting against environmental aggressors like UV radiation and promoting cell turnover. Vitamin D comes in serums and creams, and there is a debate on the time of day that it is best used. My own personal theory is that Vitamin D can help to regulate sleep, so I use my cream at night while my skin repairs itself.
Fun Fact: Skin repairs up to 3x faster while sleeping!
Vitamin E, like its vitamin relatives, is chock full of antioxidant properties that are known to reduce UV damage and help to protect the skin from free radicals. Topically, Vitamin E is known to be soothing, and to hydrate the skin restoring skins moisture barrier. Vitamin E can help to smooth and repair the appearance of scars, as well as reduce redness and inflammation. Vitamin E is found in many forms. Personally, I love Vitamin E as an oil. It hydrates my skin and leaves me with a healthy glow. I recommend Vitamin E oil in the eve especially if you are someone who has oily skin like me.
Pro Tip: If you suffer from extremely dry knees and elbows during the winter months, a little Vitamin E oil rubbed in before bed and you will wake with soft, hydrated, supple skin!
While we see Vitamins in our day to day lives, I highly recommend incorporating more of them into our skincare routines especially as we age. These fierce antioxidants will be what keeps our skin at its healthiest for many years to come....and yes that SPF.
If you're interested in learning about the Ultimate Guide to Skincare Health, check out this super-informative blog as well!
For questions, feel free to write!
Cheers to healthy skin!