Last week I received a simple question that did not have a simple answer– what is the most important vitamin for my skin, the true beauty vitamin? Just about every nutrient has been promoted for skin health, but three keep making the list:
1. Vitamin E-
Vitamin E is a powerful anti-oxidant found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables. Studies have shown that it can block free radicals and ( in theory) reverse signs of aging. There are also suggetions that vitamin E can reduce scar formation. But sad to say the impact and benefit of vitamin E has been somewhat oversold. Vitamin E creams and cleansers have been shown to actually provoke breakouts in oily or acne prone skin. And as for help in scar reduction, numerous researchers report it just doesn’t happen. In fact one study showed that not only did Vitamin E fail to help scars, 30% of patients developed an itchy red rash. This type of irritant reaction has been noticed with other vitamin E rich skin care products.
2. Vitamin A-
This seems like a no-brainer. Retin A , that super powerful skin care ingredient is derived from vitamin A and this supplement should be the true skin care care rock star. Not so fast.
Vitamin A is found in fish, greens, carrots and yellow squash. In the body, vitamin A helps normalize skin turnover and lack of vitamin A is linked to seriously dry, flaky skin. If you eat a healthy, well balanced diet and stay away from vitamin-poor fast foods you will meet recommended daily requirement. Yeah, right. Because it can be genuinely challenging to get what you need IRL, vitamin A ( and D) has been routinely added to milk, flour and butter since the 1930’s.
In skin care products, issues are rather complex. Effective products use Retin A in the form of a retinol- a baby version of the prescription only Retin A. Some like Retinol 1.% from Skinceuticals have enough retinol to be effective, but others may contain just trace amounts. Just plain vitamin A in personal care products will not take you where you want to go.
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C in food and supplements is certainly essential to healthy skin. It is found naturally in oranges, leafy greens and berries. Our bodies cannot store vitamin C and you need a fresh supply every day.
The NHANES study compared the diet of 17,000 Americans with the risk of common health problems including diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer. The good news for beauty junkies like us, they also tracked diets against signs of skin aging. After ten years the NHANES found that people who had diets high in vitamin C had fewer lines and wrinkles.
These are not really surprising results. Vitamin C is known for collgen formation– the same collagen that is essential for smooth firm skin. This is the same collagen that when old and weak is a major cause of lines and wrinkles. In foods, supplements and in properly formulated treatment products ( eg CF Ferulic from Skinceuticals), vitamin C is a valuable anti-oxidant, skin brightener and of natural collagen protector.
To get back to the original question, I think the case can be made that Vitamin C is the true beauty vitamin. It is widely available in food, supplements and treatment products. You can also whip up an amazing vitamin C serum at home with just three ingredients that costs less than $10. I will soon be posting a slide show showing how to do just that.