The skin is the largest organ in the human body, with an average weight of around 8 pounds.1 It works 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 the skin is damaged by the sun in the long term, premature aging of the skin can occur – this is called photoaging.2 In addition to photoaging, our skin also ages with us as it begins to thin and lose elasticity over the years.3 Other factors such as sleep deprivation, poor diet, and smoking can also impact skin health.2
The good news is that healthy skin can be maintained with a healthy lifestyle that includes eating foods and vitamins rich in antioxidants. Research on vitamins that 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 in high concentrations in healthy skin.4 Research on topical application of vitamin C suggests that when used daily, it can significantly improve the production of collagen, which is responsible for maintaining firmness and hydration in our skin.5 Vitamin C is also linked to protecting against photoaging as it has antioxidant properties and improving the appearance of wrinkles.6
Although most research generally focuses on the benefits of vitamin C for the skin when used topically, it can be consumed in supplement form or through foods like citrus fruits, black currants and peppers.2 In fact, the dietary intake of vitamin C is essential since our body does not produce it naturally.2
Vitamin D for skin health
When looking at which vitamins to take for skin health, vitamin D can be important. Unlike vitamin C, our bodies produce vitamin D in response to sun exposure.2 Vitamin D is involved in regulating skin cell growth, especially in keratinocytes which are the most abundant skin cells in the outer layer of the skin.seven According to research, vitamin D can also help control inflammation in skin conditions like atopic dermatitis.8 In fact, vitamin D levels are nearly 50% lower in people with inflammatory skin conditions compared to their healthy counterparts.8
Although 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 works as an antioxidant is vitamin K. In terms of skin health, vitamin K is involved in managing dark circles under the eyes as it can improve blood circulation.3 While studies have primarily looked at the effects of applying vitamin K topically to the under-eye area, it has been shown to help reduce the thickness of wrinkles and improve skin elasticity.3 Vitamin K is available in supplement form and is abundant in leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, and kale.
Ultimately, vitamins can help improve skin health, which could help prevent early signs of aging that are first reflected on the skin’s surface.4 However, consuming vitamins C, D and/or K may not be suitable for everyone. Please consult a dermatologist or health care provider to find out if you should take any 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. Discover 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 pad containing caffeine and vitamin K in an 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 the limits of skin aging: an ultrasound 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. Before 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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