Which vitamins are most important for healthy skin?

Keri Peterson, MD
Internal Medicine

Watch as internal medicine specialist Dr. Keri Peterson discusses which vitamins are most important for healthy skin.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
You know you need to take vitamins, but they are also important as topical agents for healthy skin. Here are three favorite vitamins for good Skin health:

Vitamin A: Our vote for the most valuable skin care nutrient applied to the skin is vitamin A. Without vitamin A (a "retinoid"), your skin, hair, and nails will be dry. Vitamin A is found as retinoic acid (Retin-A), or retinol, retinaldehyde, or retinyl propionate. All these forms work because your body can transform one into another. Retinoic acid helps acne by knocking out bacteria and decreasing the thickness of the dead layer of skin and oils that plug pores - and this decreases visible pore size. Topical vitamin A increases stretchy elastin fibers, hearty structural collagen, and the natural moisturizer hyaluronic acid. It lessens dark pigmentation in skin and is the drug of choice for acne, rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis. Retinoids are the only thing you can put on your skin that can repair sun damage, giving you less wrinkled skin. Most important, retinoids decrease actinic keratoses that can become skin cancer. These wonder drugs might even help stretch marks.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is one of your skin's main water-based antioxidants, although in your skin, lipid-soluble vitamin E gets top honors. You can boost vitamin C levels in skin by 40 times by rubbing in at least a 10% concentration of L-ascorbic acid. Vitamin C protects against sunburn and sun-induced wrinkling. And it can decrease the rosy look of rosacea. It also helps with brown age spots. Use it along with vitamin A to get a better effect.

Vitamin E: The major lipid-soluble antioxidant in your skin hitches a ride to the stratum corneum, the dead upper layer of skin, with your natural oils, called sebum. Topical vitamin E needs to be in the form of DL-alpha-tocopherol for good results in your skin. Many skin creams contain a form called tocopherol acetate, but this doesn't do the job, and in fact may actually hurt your skin. Vitamin C is water soluble and an effective free radical scavenger in the water soluble parts of the skin, while vitamin E works on the lipid-soluble portion. But if all you have is vitamin C, the lipid part of the cell ages. The real vitamin E stuff (DL-alpha-tocopherol) blocks the cancer causing effects of UV light, stops the immune system from getting blitzed, and slows wrinkle production.

Because UV light and/or oxygen degrades vitamins A, C, and E, they should be at night, when they can do the most good.
YOU: Being Beautiful: The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty

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Vitamins are the superstars of the cosmeceutical world for two reasons: One, many are powerful antioxidants that scarf up the destructive molecules called free radicals. Two, some vitamins may help repair the damage to skin structures that has been done by those free radicals.
Shirley M. Madhere, MD
Plastic Surgery

When it comes to healthy skin, three vitamins are most important. In this video, plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Shirley Madhere explains what each vitamin can do.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.