Vitamins are essential to your health and body functions, and these days, poor diets and stressful lifestyles can often result in vitamin deficiencies. What many people don’t realize is the extent vitamin deficiency affects skin health.
Vitamin D is one of the best vitamins for your skin health, but because there is so much concern about the damaging effects of sun exposure, many people don’t get enough daily vitamin D. Just 10 to 15 minutes of daily exposure to the sun helps manufacture vitamin D throughout the skin; however, if that’s not an option, it may be necessary to take a man-made version of vitamin D3, which is the kind of vitamin D that humans produce. This vitamin deficiency can occur for several reasons.
- Lack of Vitamin D
Over a period of time, if you follow a strict vegan diet, lack of vitamin D can occur because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheese, fortified milk and beef liver.
- Limited Exposure to Sunlight
Your body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, so if you’re homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure, you may need a vitamin D supplement to help with skin health.
- Dark Skin
Melanin, the pigment in skin, reduces the skin's ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Older adults with darker skin can be at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin C aids in skin care because it is has antioxidant properties and it is important for collagen synthesis. Taking vitamin C orally can enhance the effectiveness of sunscreens applied to your skin for protection from the sun's harmful UV rays. It does this by decreasing cell damage and helping the healing process of bodily wounds. It can also help ward off signs of aging because of its vital role in the body's natural collagen synthesis. It helps heal damaged skin and, in some cases, helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Signs of this vitamin deficiency might include:
- Rough, dry, scaly skin
- Wounds that don’t heal quickly
- Easy bruising
- Increased infections
This is a severe form of vitamin C deficiency that causes anemia, debility, exhaustion, swelling in some parts of the body and sometimes ulceration of the gums and loss of teeth.
The main function of vitamin E in skin care is to protect against sun damage. Vitamin E absorbs the harmful UV light from the sun when applied topically and helps minimize the damage caused by UV rays. Topical products that contain both vitamin E and vitamin C have proven to be more effective than those that contain only one of the two. Vitamin E also helps in the treatment of skin inflammation.
Vitamin K is an essential nutrient necessary for responding to injuries, as it regulates normal blood clotting. In addition, by assisting the transport of calcium throughout the body, Vitamin K may also be helpful for bone health, as it may reduce bone loss and decrease risk of bone fractures. It also may help to prevent calcification of arteries and other soft tissue. Vitamin K helps ensure healthy skin and is beneficial in combating wrinkling and premature aging.
Signs of Vitamin K deficiency can include easy bruising, osteoporosis and gastrointestinal bleeding. Those most at risk for a vitamin K deficiency are people with chronic malnutrition, alcohol dependency and anyone with health conditions that limit absorption of dietary vitamins.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, plays a vital role in cell metabolism and the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis. Pellagra, the disease of late stage niacin deficiency, causes a variety of skin symptoms such as dermatitis and a dark, scaly rash. In fact, the word “pellagra” comes from the Italian phrase for 'rough or raw skin'. The skin symptoms are often the first to appear, and may be aggravated by even a slight deficiency in niacin over a long period of time.
Additional Nutrients for Good Skin Health
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
Vitamin supplements can be an important part of your overall health, including your skin. Like your mother said, “moderation in all things.” Don’t overdo it, and if you have questions, consult your board-certified dermatologist or physician.