The skin is the largest organ in the human body, with an average weight of about 8 pounds.1 It functions to create a protective barrier between our internal organs and different insults from the outside world such as ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure.2 When there is long-term sun damage to the skin, premature aging of the skin can occur – this is referred to as photoaging.2 In addition to photoaging, our skin also ages with us since it begins to thin and lose its elasticity as the years go by.3 Other factors such as sleep deprivation, having a poor diet, and smoking can also impact skin health.2
The good news is that skin health may be maintained with a healthy lifestyle that includes consuming foods and vitamins full of antioxidants. Research on which vitamins improve skin health suggests that vitamins C, D and K – as well as foods rich in these vitamins – may be beneficial to consume.2
Vitamin C for skin health
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is found at high concentrations in healthy skin.4 Research on topical vitamin C application suggests that when used daily, it can significantly improve the production of collagen, which is responsible for keeping our skin firm and hydrated.5 Vitamin C is also linked to protecting against photoaging since it possesses antioxidant properties, and improving the appearance of wrinkles.6
Although most research is generally focused on the skin-related benefits of vitamin C when used topically, it can be consumed in the form of a supplement or through foods like citrus fruits, blackcurrant, and peppers.2 In fact, dietary intake of vitamin C is critical since our bodies do not naturally produce it.2
Vitamin D for skin health
When looking at which vitamins to take for skin health, vitamin D may be an important one. Unlike vitamin C, our bodies produce vitamin D in response to sun exposure.2 Vitamin D is implicated in regulating skin cell growth, particularly in keratinocytes which are the most abundant skin cells in the outer layer of skin.7 According to research, vitamin D may also help control inflammation in skin diseases like atopic dermatitis.8 In fact, levels of vitamin D have been found to be almost 50% lower in people suffering from inflammatory skin diseases in comparison to healthy counterparts.8
While you can take a vitamin D supplement, its intake can be increased by eating foods such as fish, fortified yogurt and tofu, as well as, drinking orange juice.
Vitamin K for skin health
Another vitamin that functions as an antioxidant is vitamin K. In terms of skin health, vitamin K is implicated in managing dark under-eye circles since it can improve the circulation of blood.3 While studies have primarily examined the effects of topically applying vitamin K in the under-eye area, it has been shown to help reduce wrinkle thickness and enhance skin elasticity.3 Vitamin K is available as a supplement, and is abundant in leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and kale.
Ultimately, vitamins may help improve the health of skin, which in turn could help prevent early signs of aging that are first reflected on the skin’s surface.4 Consumption of vitamins C, D and/or K, however, may not be right for everyone. Please consult a dermatologist or healthcare provider to learn more about whether you should take vitamins or supplements for skin health.
1. National Geographic. Skin information and facts. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/skin-1. Accessed June 3, 2022.
2. Schagen SK, Zampeli VA, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):298-307. doi:10.4161/derm.22876
3. Shatalebi M, Ahmadraji F. Evaluation of the clinical efficacy and safety of an eye counter pad containing caffeine and vitamin K in emulsified Emu oil base. Adv Biomed Res. 2015;4(1):10. doi:10.4103/2277-9175.148292
4. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The roles of vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8). doi:10.3390/nu9080866
5. Crisan D, Roman I, Crisan M, Scharffetter-Kochanek K, Badea R. The role of vitamin C in pushing back the boundaries of skin aging: An ultrasonographic approach. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:463-470. doi:10.2147/CCID.S84903
6. Wang K, Jiang H, Li W, Qiang M, Dong T, Li H. Role of vitamin C in skin diseases. Front Physiol. 2018;9:1-9. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00819
7. Umar M, Sastry KS, Al Ali F, Al-Khulaifi M, Wang E, Chouchane AI. Vitamin D and the Pathophysiology of Inflammatory Skin Diseases. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2018;31(2):74-86. doi:10.1159/000485132
8. Amon U, Baier L, Yaguboglu R, Ennis M, Holick MF, Amon J. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in patients with skin diseases including psoriasis, infections, and atopic dermatitis. Dermatoendocrinol. 2018;10(1). doi:10.1080/19381980.2018.1442159
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