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Vitamins, Which, when how and why?

11 Sep 2021

Vitamins, Which, when how and why?

Media and marketing have bombarded consumers with all sorts of mixed information about vitamins in our cosmetics. Also known as anti oxidants that are able to repair damage caused by free radicals (crazy cells that send the skin in inflammatory mode). So they are considered a must in providing repair and keeping the skin in an optimal condition.

But do they really work, are they worth the hype, what is the age and skin type one should use and why such difference in prices between brands? Let’s break it down…

Are skincare vitamins same as your food vitamins? And are they all the same?

They are not the same, cosmetic grade vitamins cannot be consumed as they are not suitable for our digestive tract, whereas food grade vitamins won’t be able to penetrate the skin as molecules would be too big to be absorbed. Cosmetic grade vitamins come from various sources both lab made and from natural origin. The Natural origin is than again subcategorised from commercial or organic origin which also makes a difference since organic extracts have no pesticides therefore assimilated better through the integumentary system (AKA the skin).

Some are soluble in water and other in oils and that is why they would be in different textures when bought. Only vitamin E can be applied concentrated while others have to be diluted in the right concentration as too low leads to no effect while if it is excessive this may do more harm than good.

How do vitamins absorb through the skin?

A, D, E and K are fat soluble, meaning they need an oily base to be absorbed by the skin. If the molecules of the oil or cream are too thick it won’t be able to penetrate much. B vitamins, C, F, K and P are water soluble meaning they need a watery based mask, serum etc.. Most nutrients are absorbed by the hair follicles and most only to the epidermis . The tinier and finer the molecule is, the deeper it goes, the more stable the vitamin the more results will be achieved.

Let's break it down further...

Vitamin A: Retinoic acid

Topical vitamin A is also known as a topical retinoid, strengthens collagen, helps breakouts, brightens skin, and evens skin tone.” By accelerating cell turnover, vitamin A helps reveal firmer, brighter skin. And since retinoids can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, they should be applied at night, and you must be diligent with your sunscreen application during the day. There is no scientific data that taking Vitamin A orally helps with skin regeneration. Best to start with a low concentration and increase slowly. Starting at 0.25% till 1% of retinoic acid.

Sources: tomatoes, oily fish, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes and mangoes.

Vitamin C:L- ascorbic acid

Affects pigmentation, It helps to brighten the complexion. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C prepares skin for battle with environmental stressors which compromise the skin’s youthfulness, whilst also brightening and firming the face. Concentrations should be between 8 and 20% from a stable form of vitamin C. There are various forms of vitamin C on the market and one has to source a stable form that does not oxidise too quickly.

Sources: guavas, strawberries, pineapple, kale, broccoli and kiwis.

B vitamins are BOMB! They can fend off free radicals, prevent signs of ageing and have skin-healing properties. Not all are available for skincare use. B3, B5 and B12 are the ones mostly used and concentration should be higher than 3 up to 10%. There are also 20% concentrations on the market but it does not mean more than 10% would work better as most studies are done at such percent.

Sources: cauliflower, spinach, potatoes, dairy, nuts and asparagus

Vitamin B1 Thyamine

Helps with fine lines and age-related symptoms with its anti-ageing and antioxidant properties. It also firms and plumps skin by stimulating collagen production.

Vitamin B2 Riboflavin

Sufficient vitamin B2 intake leaves the skin looking bright and renewed as it promotes skin cell turnover. It also regulates the skin’s mucus secretion and reduces excessively oily skin.

Vitamin B3 Niacinamide

This is a standout vitamin for skin conditioning. Mostly used and very stable in skincare.It treats psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis and (listen up acne and rosacea-prone skin types!) helps reduce redness. It also keeps the skin’s barrier strong by increasing ceramide production, shrinks pores and even fades hyperpigmentation. It’s an overall skin-pleaser for a glowing complexion!

Vitamin B5 Panthenol

A humectant, vitamin B5 keeps the skin hydrated by pulling moisture from the air and bringing it to the skin. What does that mean? Supple skin that looks plump and full without a patch of roughness or flakiness in sight.

Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine hydrochloride

Vitamin B6 can even out hormone imbalances and irregularities in the body which sometimes lead to acne. But, don’t overdo it; too much can actually cause breakouts! This is a vitamin still needing a lot of study.

Vitamin B7 Biotin

to make things more confusing, vitamin B7 is also called vitamin H. Whilst it won’t drastically improve your skin, this vitamin helps keep scaly skin away. Used mostly in haircare to strengthen and coat hair but there is not enough data to know yet how effective it is against hairloss and damage.

Vitamin B8 Inositol

Your body can also produce inositol from the carbohydrates you eat. So whoever has a keto diet might start lacking in such vitamin. However, research suggests that additional inositol in the form of supplements may have numerous health benefits most with people suffering with hormonal imbalances. Inositol is only taken through food and supplements and not in skincare.

Vitamin B9: folic acid

Vitamin B9 encourages the turnover of skin cells and, along with its collagen-enhancing charm, helps keep the skin looking young and smooth. Taken internally when there is a lack as overdosing may be damaging. Through skincare this is still at initial phase though with very good results in skin turnover cells.

Vitamin B12 Cobalamin

A healthy supply of vitamin B12 makes skin more radiant and less fatigued (it reduces dark spots and discolouration which can make skin tone uneven). This is also helped by the increased skin cell regeneration that B12 encourages. It also calms dry, inflamed skin and eczema. This is a vitamin where topically it delivers more than when taken internally. There is not enough data yet and more studies are necessary. There is also an ongoing study where this vitamin in excess might be causing acne in some people.

B vitamins, both as supplements and skincare these are sometimes grouped together to give more effective end results. Although B vitamins can be applied both morning and night, one should be careful with sensitivities.

Vitamin D: ergocalciferol-D2, cholecalciferol-D3, alfacalcidol

Our skin always looks a bit healthier when we safely take in a bit of sun, right? Now, this does not necessarily mean that we should be applying vitamin D to our skin.There is little data on how vitamin D applied topically will help the skin, but one blood-level study showed that it may help vitamin D–deficient people.” Essentially, it does not do much for the skin, but can be absorbed into the blood for a more systemic effect. Vitamin D supplements is only recommended by doctor if needed. To my knowledge there is no vitamin D available for cosmetic skincare currently. But studies had been ongoing for a few years in regards.

Vitamin E: Tocopherol

This is a very hydrating ingredient when used topically. Vitamin E can be applied on its own, but is most efficient when used in conjunction with vitamin C and Ferulic acid. There are also recent studies where it is found that tocopherol applied topically does not really help in scar recovery aas supposed to be thought but does help with keeping the skin moisturised. Supplementation with vitamin E in 400 milligrams a day has been noted to reduce photodamage and improve skin texture. This vitamin can be used as a stand alone  oil but works better in conjunction with oils with a long chain of fatty acids.

Vitamin F: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA).

It’s a good fat - an essential fatty acid, to be precise. Not a vitamin to be exact, but it is important for skin health. It strengthens the skin’s outer layer (hello, hydration!) and keeps acne-prone skin clear. These are so important in skincare that should be a staple in every formula. There is no specific concentration for this since these are very versatile antioxidants used at different concentrations to treat different skin issues.

Sources: pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pecans, flaxseed oil, salmon and pumpkin seeds

Vitamin K: Phytonadione

Vitamin K is a skin-healer, speeding up the recovery process of damaged skin. Fine lines, discolouration and dark circles are all improved with a vitamin K-rich diet and skincare routine. Applied topically, vitamin K can also calm skin irritations like eczema and psoriasis. Found mostly in eye products to reduce dark circles. Sources: broccoli, spinach, kale, lettuce, kiwis and avocado (notice the green theme here?) Vitamin P: Osyritin Quercetin Flavonoids, also referred to as vitamin P, are antioxidants that help fight against free radicals - thereby helping protect against premature ageing.

Sources: dark chocolate, liquorice, garlic, grapefruit, green peppers and apricots.

Not all vitamins are created equal, but they are all essential from a balanced diet and good skincare regime. Choosing wisely what to consume as food and what we apply on our skin is up to us. Investing in our health is important today more then ever and skincare should not be regarded as cosmetics but as a healthy approach to protect ourselves from disease.


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