Of course, you can eat certain things to boost skin health, but your routine should also involve a range of topically applied vitamins, to help your complexion be as clear and glowing as possible.
It seems like there’s a whole alphabet of vitamins doing different things for your skin, which is why we’re breaking down each one you need. Disclaimer: we’re using ‘alphabet’ fairly loosely here, as in reality, the main vitamins you should be looking out for run from A to F.
Don’t worry, it’s not like you need to add millions of new things into your regime, you’ll likely find lots of these vitamins combined into one product. This is the low-down on the alphabet of vitamins in skincare, and why you should consider using them…
There are many types of vitamin A, but the most common one in skincare is retinol. This is a hero ingredient, with medical director at Cosmetics Doctor Dr Amber Woodcock saying: “When applied to the skin, it stimulates the production of collagen and elastin (leading to plumper, stronger skin). It stimulates the cells to turnover, refreshing dull skin and helping to clear acne. Retinol also corrects pigmentation and UV damage, thus helping to even out your skin tone.”
With these kinds of benefits, you should definitely be thinking about adding retinol into your skincare routine – but do so with caution. Woodcock’s main piece of advice is to “go slowly” with it. “There is no rush, apply a small amount one to two times a week, and slowly increase as tolerated,” she says. “Always use sunscreen every day to protect your skin.”
As with most ingredients, everyone’s skin will respond differently. “I always recommend my clients to trial retinol products with low dose and low frequency, to test their skin’s acceptability,” says Ada Ooi, founder of 001 Skincare. “You can always build it up, but once your skin gets ‘burnt’, it can take weeks for the ingredients to get out of the body’s system and the skin to heal.”
The most popular type of vitamin B is B3, also known as niacinamide. “B3 can be used to treat acne or fine lines, due to its function to combat inflammation and improve the skin’s barrier,” explains Ooi.
Woodcock is a big fan of B3, calling it ‘an amazing skincare ingredient’. “Niacinamide has strong antioxidant effects, helping to regenerate and repair our skin cells. It also reduces redness/blotchiness (great for rosacea) and pigmentation,” she says.
If this wasn’t enough, the doctor also states it “reduces wrinkles, regulates sebum (goodbye blocked pores) and is a potent anti-inflammatory helping to fight acne” – plus it’s safe to use in pregnancy.
This is one of the most common vitamins you’ll see in skincare products – and for good reason. Vitamin C contains antioxidants, which combats skin cell damage. “It helps fight pollutants in our skin, reduces UV damage, stimulates collagen production, reduces pigmentation and helps acne scarring,” explains Woodcock.
However, you should be careful with your vitamin C products, keeping them out of the light and sealed tightly, because “it can become unstable (not active) easily”, notes Woodcock.
The best time to apply vitamin C is in the morning after cleansing and before sunscreen.
Vitamin D isn’t something you apply to your skin, but Woodcock still calls it “a very important vitamin”.
You get vitamin D from spending time in the sunshine – it’s necessary for our overall health, but remember to wear sunscreen to protect yourself from skin cancer.
“Vitamin E is another great antioxidant to help skin combat free radicals when they ‘attack’, while also helping to heal the damage done,” explains Ooi. She recommends combining it with vitamin C “to prevent and treat tissue damage that leads to premature ageing”.
So, why are antioxidants good for your skin? They protect cells from the damage pollutants and toxins from the environment do to our complexion, and as Woodcock says: “The more toxins you fight with antioxidants, the healthier your skin will be!”
Last in our tour of the key vitamins in skincare is F. These are “basically fats, also known as lipids”, explains Ooi. She gives the example of linoleic acid, a fatty acid which “provides moisture and plumpness without weighing down the skin; it fortifies and protects the skin’s barrier by maintaining a strong healthy stratum corneum (protective outer layer of skin). It also helps to balance the sebum level of oily and acne-prone skin, to reduce further breakouts.”