An introduction to vitamins
Your skin functions as your body’s first line of defence against bacteria, allergens and other pathogens. It protects you from airborne infections and parasites but when this crucial barrier is compromised, it can make you extremely vulnerable and susceptible to catching common viruses and illnesses.
This is why it is so important to support and maintain your healthy skin cells. One of the most significant ways that you can accomplish this is by improving our intake of nourishing vitamins. Dr Georgiana Donadio, founder of the National Institute of Whole Health, once stated that skin is “a fingerprint of what is going on inside your body.”1
If your body is lacking in certain nutrients such as vitamins or minerals, then this need will be reflected in the condition of your skin, therefore making it possible to suggest that these nutrients are integral to the health and wellbeing of your skin cells.
Certain types of vitamins can be very effective at revitalising and sustaining your skin, even relieving the symptoms of skin conditions such as rosacea and acne.
If you are aware of these vitamins and understand the way in which they work to improve your skin cells, then you can start to recognise what you yourself might be lacking and how you can increase your intake of these helpful and supportive nutrients.
Vitamin A is an anti-oxidant that is normally found in food products such as cod liver oil, tuna or some carotenoids such as carrots and sweet potato.
The vitamin is also considered to be a retinoid due to its ability to prevent dead skin cells from clogging pores. This makes it especially useful at treating skin conditions such as acne, because it promotes the growth of new skin cells and reduces the likelihood of spores and pimples developing on the surface of your skin.
Vitamin A also has anti-inflammatory properties, allowing it to ease swelling and relieve any distensions of the skin.
There are a number of other benefits that vitamin A can bring to your skin. It can influence the development of collagen, a protein that supports your skin by improving its elasticity and durability, strengthening your skin cells and making skin appear smoother and firmer.
It also protects you against bacterial infections by inhibiting the release of sebum, a food source of bacteria, keeping your immune system strong and preventing potential pathogens from entering your body.
It is not advisable to take vitamin A as a supplement if you are pregnant. This is because too much vitamin A can potentially harm your unborn foetus. If you are going to take vitamin A, NHS guidelines state that you should make sure that your intake does not exceed 0.7mg if you are a man or 0.6mg if you are a woman.
This includes any other sources of vitamin A that you might ingest during the day from certain food products.2
Vitamin A can also be applied topically as a cream to the affected area if you are suffering from skin conditions such as acne or even as an anti-wrinkle solution for aged skin. It can be bought over the counter at certain health stores or pharmacies. Make sure that you read any instructions and take as directed.
There are a variety of B vitamins responsible for many different functions in the body, such as converting carbohydrates into energy, breaking down nutrients and releasing energy.
Good sources of B vitamins are usually wholegrains, vegetables like broccoli or potatoes, or certain types of fish and meat. Here are the best B vitamins to consider when trying to improve the condition of your skin.
- B3: Vitamin B3 contains anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful in the treatment of acne. It can also inhibit the formation of sebum, again reducing the possibility of acne or bacterial infections3
- B5: B5 can act as a humectant, meaning that it can retain water and keep your skin hydrated, decreasing your chances of developing dry, flaky skin
- B6: B6 can inhibit the formation of sebum, limiting the oil on the surface of our skin and reducing acne symptoms
- B12: People who are deficient in B12, such as sufferers of anaemia or thyroid conditions often find that their skin becomes pale or discoloured. This is because vitamin B12 is important when it comes to skin pigmentation, making it useful for keeping your skin looking bright and healthy. It also heals your skin too, although a recent report indicated that too much B12 can cause acne.4
Vitamin C is needed for the absorption of iron, making it very important to those who struggle with an iron deficiency, such as anaemic and sufferers of hypothyroidism. It also helps to keep your skin looking firmer and free of wrinkles by promoting the synthesising of the collagen protein.
Vitamin C used to be used as a remedy for scurvy and is one of the few vitamins that cannot be produced naturally in your body, meaning that we must ingest the vitamin from food sources such as oranges, tomatoes and green leafy vegetables.
As an anti-oxidant, vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties and can even relieve the swelling in the blood vessels, which can ease skin conditions such as rosacea and acne.5
It can also be considered a de-pigmenting agent, protecting our skin against the damaging effects of UV light. It is also recommended for patients of cellulitis to rejuvenate the impaired skin cells.
Vitamin C supplements can be taken if you feel that you are not getting an adequate supply from your diet, although you should be careful if you are on medication to thin your blood and speak to your doctor about the possible ramifications. If you want to take a natural vitamin supplement to support your immune system then you could try our Nature-C chewable vitamin tablets, made from fruit extracts.
Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ vitamin D is closely associated with the sun as sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D, although it can also be found in oily fish, eggs and almond milk.
The vitamin has also been linked to a variety of skin conditions, such as psoriasis, acne and eczema, with lowered levels of the nutrient often exacerbating symptoms or increasing your risk of contracting the skin complaint.
For example, a report conducted in South Korea concluded that “vitamin D-insufficient adult individuals within the general Korean population have an increased likelihood of developing atopic dermatitis.6”
This research implies that lowered levels of vitamin D could be responsible for the development of eczema, but also that vitamin D is integral towards reducing the symptoms of the skin condition.
Acne is another skin condition that can be associated with vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in support our immune system, by aiding the absorption of calcium – which cannot be done without vitamin D – and maintaining the health of your bones.
If you lack vitamin D, it can place our immune system under stress prompting a reaction from our sebaceous glands which may start to produce more sebum, making our skin oilier and worsening any existing acne symptoms.
When your immune system is weakened, it also makes it easier for you to contract a bacterial infection, again affecting your symptoms of acne.
Finally, psoriasis also has a close relationship with vitamin D. Dermatologist Dr. Richard Gallo has remarked that vitamin D can alter the development of skin cells, slowing their growth and reducing symptoms of Psoriasis.7
If you are considering taking a vitamin D supplement, we don't generally recommend taking any more than 25mcg on a daily basis. Otherwise you could risk increasing your intake too much, potentially disrupting the absorption of calcium in the body.8
Vitamin E is often found in food sources such as avocado, sunflower seeds or almonds.
It is considered to be an anti-oxidant but it does not contain anti-inflammatory properties. Instead some studies suggest that Vitamin E can reduce the pain that comes with certain types of inflammation, making it popular amongst those that suffer from joint-pain or PMS.
In study conducted by the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Germany, it was suggested that Vitamin E can protect the skin against oxidative stress, including the harsh effects of UV light and photoaging.9
This makes it very effective against skin conditions such as sunburn as it can decrease the healing time of cells and protect the cell membranes from damage.
Vitamin K has a close co-dependant relationship with Vitamin D, so much so that a deficiency in one vitamin will often prevent the other from functioning properly. This is why it is essential to maintain our levels of vitamin K, so that vitamin D can continue to do its job properly.
The vitamin is also essential in sealing calcium into your bones, preventing health concerns such as osteoporosis and some cardiovascular diseases.
Vitamin K is also well known for aiding with clotting of the blood and strengthening capillaries.
A leading cause of varicose eczema is varicose veins, a condition where your veins become damaged or inflamed. Vitamin K is often applied topically to support the capillaries in our legs – for more information please read our blog about the best vitamins to take if you have varicose veins.
If the underlying cause of varicose eczema is treated then sometimes it can relieve the agitating symptoms. Vitamin K is also used as a cream for other skin conditions such as rosacea, to diminish the appearance of blood vessels on the skin’s surface and to help them heal naturally.10
A deficiency of vitamin K can also sometimes causing skin pigmentation under the eyes, with dark circles often forming.