A great complexion starts from the inside out, with plenty of water, a regular good night’s sleep, and a healthful diet rich in nutrients from supplements. A great skincare regimen also includes vitamins that work together with your lifestyle to heal, protect, and maintain your healthy skin.
What vitamins can be used in topical skincare? What do vitamins do? Which vitamins do you need in your diet? Which supplements won’t make my skin turn red?
We’ve got the ABC’s of your RDA to help you know what to choose, when to use it, and what to look for when you buy it.
1. Vitamin A
In skin care products, vitamin A is present in retinoid products. You’ll see these labeled as “retinol”, “tretinoin”, or “isotretinoin”. Tretinoin and isotretinoin are prescription-only treatments for severe acne.
Retinol is available over-the-counter in milder and stronger forms, and if you use it, you’ll usually start out with a milder one and work your way up over time. Retinol fights photoaging and skin damage by working with your skin to boost collagen production and regulate pigmentation for a more even, smoother tone and texture. All factors come into play when using Vitamin A supplements, especially when boosting collagen production.
It’s one of the most popular and effective skin care treatments for a great complexion. Try our SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.25 for a beginner-friendly formula, and SkinCeuticals’ Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 for a daily use moisturizing cream that can help reduce your skin’s adjustment period when you first use retinols.
2. Vitamin B3
Also called niacinamide or nicotinamide, vitamin B3 has become massively popular in skin care formulas for its range of brightening benefits.
It’s an anti-inflammatory, it strengthens the skin’s natural barrier to make moisturizing more effective, and it prevents the formation of dark spots.
Best of all—it repairs damaged DNA and counters some of the negative effects of UV light exposure, meaning it can help both protect your skin from and repair photodamage, which is usually the real culprit when we talk about “premature aging”.
Check out SkinCeuticals’ Metacell Renewal B3 to grab a light, soothing serum that works hard behind the scenes.
3. Vitamin B5
Look for “panthenol” in skin care product labels for deep healing and moisturizing. Vitamin B5 is a humectant, meaning that it binds water to itself and penetrates the skin to replenish moisture in the upper layers.
Vitamin B5 supports the skin’s barrier function and improves overall elasticity and softness. At the same time, dermatology studies have found B5 to enhance wound healing, reduce inflammation and itching, and protect damaged skin. Products containing panthenol work best when very thoroughly massaged in to ensure that they’ve penetrated deeply.
4. Vitamin C
Thanks to citrus, most people associate vitamin C with brightness—and they’re not wrong! Used in external skin care, vitamin C is an anti-inflammatory that also helps prevent uneven and excessive pigmentation, to get a vibrant and even skin tone without the wrinkles.
Vitamin C is also a powerhouse antioxidant that fights the damaging free radical effects of UV light, air pollution, and environmental stressors like secondhand smoke. Scientific breakthroughs in skin care have developed more shelf-stable formulations of vitamin C to make it an effective topical treatment. Vitamin C loves vitamin E and works best in combination with it.
Plus, vitamin C boosts collagen production to keep skin firm and healthy. Try Obagi’s Professional-C Serum 20% for the highest concentration of L-ascorbic acid—the most bioavailable form of vitamin C.
And check out SkinCeuticals’ bestselling, award-winning C E Ferulic for a serum that combines vitamins C and E with ferulic acid for an antioxidant champion, having less wrinkles tucked in!
5. Vitamin E
Also seen in ingredients as tocopherol, it’s an oil-based vitamin that’s one of the heavier nutrients you can use on your skin.
It’s best to stick to formulas containing vitamin E rather than using pure E oil for skin care for that reason. It’s another powerful antioxidant that, as noted above, works beautifully in combination with vitamin C.
Vitamin E also has deep moisturizing properties as an emollient, meaning it conditions the outermost layers of skin and helps repair and strengthen the skin’s barrier against water loss. Unlike some vitamins, vitamin E occurs naturally in human skin, but less is produced as skin ages. A topical formula can replace it to slow the signs of aging.
The jury’s still out on whether vitamin E actually speeds the healing and appearance of scars, but many people swear by it for that purpose.
Try SkinMedica’s Vitamin C + E Complex for a luxurious-feeling, silky serum that nourishes and protects your skin.
6. Vitamin K1
It’s pretty rare to see vitamin K1 included in a skin care product, although vitamin K creams are sold for the treatment of bruises, scarring, dark circles, and spider veins.
However, clinical research into its use has offered up some early evidence that vitamin K may combine well in formulas including other ingredients like retinol to reduce under-eye circles, redness, and other skin coloration issues.
It’s theorized that it may work because of its coagulant properties, so it could successfully affect any discoloration caused by broken capillaries or blood pooling. Be on the lookout with this vitamin to possibly become a new addition to the vitamin hero ingredient supergroup in skin care!
Topical skin care vitamins are often sensitive to sun exposure in the container, so make sure your products come in opaque packaging, use pumps or droppers rather than jars, and are stored out of sunlight. Make note of their expiration dates, and toss any product that changes color or smell or seems to have separated or thinned.
With regular use, adding vitamin-rich products to your skin care “diet” can transform your complexion from dull and damaged, to smooth, firm, and glowing with health!