Your skin is your body’s barrier, protecting it from the world around you. It’s also your largest organ ‒ and just like you take care of your internal organs with exercise and diet, there are steps you can take to protect your skin. Wearing sunscreen is one way, but it doesn’t end there. Oral and topical supplements of vitamins and minerals can play a large part in the health and appearance of your skin.
The Six Best Vitamins for Your Skin
By definition, vitamins are nutrients that your body must get from an external source, such as the foods you eat – and most of us do an excellent job of it. True vitamin deficiencies are relatively rare when you’re eating a well-rounded diet, but they’re not unheard of. Getting the right balance of vitamins is good for your overall health; these six vitamins are good for the health of your skin, specifically.
Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” most of your natural vitamin D production comes from exposure to the sun’s rays. Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth as well as supporting your brain, immune system, and nervous system health. Despite being called a vitamin, vitamin D is actually a prohormone, or precursor of a hormone.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in regulating skin-cell growth, enhancing your skin’s natural immune system, and helping to destroy free radicals that can cause premature aging. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it a great addition to lotions and creams to treat eczema and psoriasis.
Looking to up your vitamin D intake without baking in the sun? Mushrooms, plain yogurt, sardines, and eggs are all high in vitamin D.
The popularity of vitamin C has been on the rise, particularly in the world of skin care. Serums and creams containing vitamin C have shown to reduce hyperpigmentation and fine lines. Vitamin C is an amino acid and an antioxidant, fighting harmful free radicals to protect your skin from sun damage and signs of aging. It’s especially useful when combined with sunscreen. Studies – like this small one from 2017 – have shown that using vitamin C alongside sunscreen reduced sun damage effects on the skin.
Collagen is the protein responsible for maintaining your skin’s elasticity and makes up nearly one-third of the stuff your skin is made of. As an amino acid, vitamin C is one of the building blocks of collagen. Because of its role in collagen production, vitamin C is also a popular addition to anti-aging skin-care supplements and topicals.
It’s common knowledge that oranges are high in vitamin C, but other vitamin C‒rich foods include tomatoes, bell peppers, and strawberries.
Just like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help slow the effects of aging. Normally, our bodies produce vitamin E through the sebum found in our pores. People who have dry skin often find that lotions, serums, and creams with vitamin E help reduce dryness, and it works best in tandem with vitamin C to improve damaged skin. Vitamin E is also a popular burn, wound, and scar treatment, although research on its efficacy is anecdotal at best.
Vitamin E is found in plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables ‒ like almonds, pumpkins, and avocados.
Zinc is often marketed as a way to shorten the length of colds, due to its ability to prevent rhinovirus (the culprit behind the common cold) from multiplying, effectively stopping your cold from worsening. Although zinc might be best-known for its ability to fight bacteria and viruses, it’s also one of the most widely studied acne treatments.
The hype around zinc’s acne-fighting acumen comes from its anti-inflammatory properties. Zinc relieves redness and skin irritation caused by acne and can even help reduce the severity and appearance of acne scarring. An important note: Zinc deficiency can mimic eczema, but this itchy rash won’t get better when you put moisturizers and steroid creams on it.
Red meat and poultry make up most of the zinc found in American diets, but some plant-based sources include beans, nuts, and whole grains.
Vitamin A is one of the most important vitamins when it comes to the health of your skin. As an antioxidant, vitamin A works with every layer of your skin to prevent sun damage and strengthen the epidermis (the outermost layer), improving the appearance of your skin.
The most common form of vitamin A is the skin-care product retinol, which is a derivative of the vitamin. Retinol encourages increased skin-cell turnover and stimulates collagen production. Retinol has exploded in popularity as a skin-care treatment over the past few years.
Like vitamin E, vitamin A is primarily found in animal products, like salmon, beef liver, and eggs. Plant-based sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, mangoes, and cantaloupes.
Vitamin K is an essential vitamin in your body’s blood clotting process; clotting is an important part of how bruises and wounds heal. Without the ability to clot, blood would keep flowing to and out of injuries – not good, to say the least.
Vitamin K has also been shown to reduce the amount of swelling and scaring after surgeries. It’s said to help treat spider veins, dark spots, stretch marks, and under-eye circles, making it a popular additive to skin care.
If you’re looking to bump up your vitamin K intake, add more leafy greens (like kale, spinach, and cabbage) to your diet.
The Bottom Line
Diet isn’t the only way to take care of your skin, although you do meet a fair number of your vitamin requirements with food. The benefit of adding vitamins – whether topically, in your skin-care routine; in supplement form; or by adding vitamin-rich foods to your diet – is clearer, healthier, happier skin. Before starting any new supplement regimen, speak with your healthcare provider. If you have any further concerns about your skin, a dermatologist is your best resource.