If you are what you eat, it comes as no surprise that more and more skin care products are advertising benefits more often found on cereal boxes. From vitamin A to vitamin C, there's no shortage of skincare ingredients promising glowing skin. But how do you know which options are best for your needs?
The truth is: not all skin care ingredients are created equal. In fact, understanding which vitamins are beneficial for your skin type can make the world of difference when tackling common skin concerns like dark spots, elasticity, signs of aging, dullness, and uneven tone.*
What is skin elasticity?
One common concern that might have you running to the skincare aisle is skin elasticity. Another word for the skin's firmness or ability to snap back in place when it's stretched, skin elasticity plays a starring role in just how glowing the complexion is. But as we age, it's one of the first things to go.
Luckily, there are number of vitamins that can be taken both orally and topically, that is, in foods or supplements and applied as skincare products, to help support skin elasticity and healthy aging.
We tapped experts to get the scoop on vitamin-infused skin care and what role supplements play in a skincare routine. Keep scrolling for the vitamins that can transform your skin, whether in a serum or supplement.*
It's no surprise this brightening vitamin tops the list. It's one of those everyone-could-use-it ingredients that is a must-try in practically every skin care routine.
"Vitamin C defends the skin from free radicals, which contributes to signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots," board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D., says. Not to mention, vitamin C helps our bodies produce more collagen, which is key to skin elasticity, coming in handy as we mature in age.
While we love using it topically, it's vital for internal skin health too: Your body can't make its own vitamin C or store it. "Vitamin C in humans must be ingested for survival. Most of the animal kingdom can produce its own vitamin C; however, humans cannot produce it and, therefore, need to consume it," says cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson. That means every day. "Vitamin C is required for support of tissues in all parts of the body including the skin1,"* he notes, according to research.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, higher vitamin C intake is associated with less wrinkled skin2.* It's also been shown to combat oxidative stress in cells thanks to its intrinsic antioxidant properties—this not only supports skin cell health but can help support skin from UV exposure3.*
"Vitamin E is great for protecting the skin against UV rays," Engelman says. Since it's an antioxidant, it helps neutralize free radicals and slow signs of aging. Engelman also notes that vitamin E is a go-to for nursing irritated skin thanks to its soothing and healing properties. Board-certified dermatologist Tiffany Jow Libby, M.D. says vitamin E is best used alongside vitamins A and C since it can help potentiate their effects.
When consumed, vitamin E also plays a role in collagen production and structure.* For starters, it aids and stabilizes vitamin C. Additionally, vitamin E intake protects against collagen cross-linking4, a process that plays a role in skin aging.* When collagen cross-links5, it becomes hard and stiff, and that leads to signs of aging. Thanks to vitamin E's antioxidant abilities, the essential fat-soluble vitamin also helps support the skin barrier6, which keeps skin supple and reduces water loss.*
According to Engelman, this antioxidant is even more powerful than vitamin C in its ability to neutralize free radicals. "It fights free radicals and even helps restore DNA from UV rays and other environmental aggressors," she says. By incorporating astaxanthin into your skin care routine, you can expect an improvement in skin's elasticity and appearance, plus better hydration levels.
When taken orally in adequate amounts, research shows this unique carotenoid phytonutrient is wonderful for the skin.* In one clinical, participants who took astaxanthin supplements saw improvements in skin elasticity7, while those who did not supplement saw worsening wrinkles.* In another study, astaxanthin supplementation combined with collagen significantly improved skin elasticity, smoothness, and hydration in just 12 weeks.*
Another study found astaxanthin improved skin wrinkles, age spot size, and skin texture8.* And in a recent double-blind clinical, subjects reported significant improvement in moisture levels (especially around the eyes), overall improved elasticity, and appearance of tone.* Another double-blind clinical trial found that it can even help skin's water-retention capacity and barrier function.*
Retinoids are not only one of the most common forms of vitamin A for the skin, but, according to Libby, one of the most important topical ingredients for the skin.
"Retinoids are active forms of vitamin A, and they work to stimulate cell turnover, which promotes the production of newer and smoother skin, stimulate the production of collagen to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, target and reduce dark spots, and unclog pores and blemishes," Libby says. You read that right—this ingredient is really that good.
Engelman says that regular use of retinol over time will result in better skin elasticity, tone, and texture since vitamin A strengthens and thickens the skin barrier. If you're new to vitamin A, start slowly. It can have irritating effects like redness, peeling, and flaking. It's best to apply in small amounts every two to three days until your skin builds a tolerance to the active ingredient. Check out our favorite retinol serums here.
A lesser-known skin supplement is oral vitamin A. The fat-soluble vitamin is an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of various systems throughout the body (think vision, immunity, and more).* It is an essential nutrient for skin as it acts as an antioxidant and supports the process through which the skin naturally regenerates.*
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a fat-soluble compound that's found in all your cells. Your body needs it to make energy. Unfortunately, natural levels decline with time. Research shows that applying it as part of a formulation significantly improves levels found in skin cells9—while also boosting the skin's free-radical-fighting abilities. And it's become a very popular skin care ingredient, thanks to its ability to reduce fine lines: Research has found that topical CoQ10 can significantly decrease facial wrinkles10.
This supplement has many full-body benefits. For the skin, it helps reduce oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation11, processes by which free radicals tip the oxidant balance and negatively affect cell membranes.* This antioxidant powerhouse coenzyme promotes smoother, healthier skin.* One study found that CoQ10 supplements reduce wrinkles12 and lines while enhancing skin smoothness.* To top it off, CoQ10 protects the membranes of mitochondria and regenerates other antioxidants, like vitamins C and E—both of which are just as important for healthy skin.*
Also known as pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 is a go-to for naturally dry skin. "It's an emollient, which heals dry, worn skin and a humectant, which attracts and binds water to the skin in order to improve hydration," Engelman says. It's also been used to help reduce blemishes and irritation. You'll often find this hydrating vitamin in serums, gels, and creams, and it can be a lifesaver in the cold winter months when dry, bitter temps leave skin feeling out of whack.
While more research is needed to conclude its efficacy as an antioxidant, this essential water-soluble B vitamin is known to play a role in promoting skin barrier function. Additionally, this B complex player demonstrates anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown in a clinical study to help skin concerns like blemishes.*
This skin-healthy ingredient is only growing in popularity in the skin care world. It's gentle, effective, and can get to work on every skin type—sensitive included. "It has anti-inflammatory properties, helps tackle pigmentation, regulates oil production, evens skin tone and boosts ceramide production and helps restore a healthy skin barrier," Libby says. Check out our favorite niacinamide serums here.
Vitamin B3 sometimes goes by niacin, niacinamide, or nicotinamide. It plays a role in cellular energy production (including for skin cells) and mitochondrial health.* Niacin has many full-body benefits, skin included, particularly related to keeping our cutaneous immunity strong amid UV exposure and stress.*
RELATED: What Does Niacinamide Do? 7 Benefits + Tips From Derms
Whether applied via skincare or taken as a supplement, vitamins and antioxidants go a long way in supporting healthy skin. Try these seven and see what kind of skin elasticity and overall glow you're left with.
Andrea Jordan is a beauty and lifestyle freelance writer covering topics from hair and skincare to family and home. She received her bachelor's in Magazine Journalism from Temple University and you can find her work at top publications like InStyle, PopSugar, StyleCaster, Business Insider, PureWow and OprahMag. When she's not writing, you can find Andrea tackling new recipes in the kitchen or babysitting one of her many nieces and nephews. She currently resides in New Jersey with her husband and cat, Silas.