Patients often ask what vitamins and supplements they should take for their hair, skin and nails. The options online and in the local vitamin store are bewildering. Are topical or oral supplements better? Are vitamins even necessary? Perhaps all that is needed is a good diet.
Vitamin A is one of the most common ingredients found in OTC skin creams. Proper levels of vitamin A are critical for skin health and proper immune function however vitamin A is easily found in most diets. 2/3 of a cup of carrots or even a single sweet potato supplies a whole day’s worth of vitamin A.
Vitamin B is a family of water-soluble vitamins. Thiamine, Niacin, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine, Biotin, Folic acid and Pantothenic acid are included in this family. Folic acid (B9) and Biotin (B7) are very commonly added to skin hair and nail vitamins, however folic acid is very easy to get from a good diet. Biotin is probably the most recommended vitamin for nail and hair health. There is actually very little medical evidence that Biotin deficiency is a common cause of skin, hair or nail problems in most people or that supplementation is helpful. It like folate is easy to get from a normal diet. A single egg gives a week’s worth of Biotin for the average person. Biotin is also found at high levels in almonds.
Vitamin C is critical to skin health for two reasons. First it is essential for proper collagen formation and secondly it is a potent antioxidant. The problem with topical vitamin C it that it is sensitive to both light and air so once you have opened that expensive bottle of Vitamin C cream in a matter of days it has degraded and is no longer effective. Also, it is not clear if topical Vitamin C ever makes it deep enough into the skin or at high enough levels to be effective. It probably makes more sense to get Vitamin C from a healthy diet. Vitamin C is found at high levels in citrus fruits and many other fruits as well as broccoli and potatoes.
Vitamin D like A and C is also important for skin health, but unlike A and C it can be difficult to get enough of this essential vitamin from diet alone and of course the other source of Vitamin D, sunlight, can contribute to photo-aging of the skin. For this reason it is important for many people such as post-menopausal women and persons of color to consider vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin E is the main antioxidant in the skin. Proper levels are needed to avoid oxidative damage to collagen and elastin fibers of the skin. Vitamin E needs proper levels of vitamin C to work at maximum antioxidative efficiency. Like vitamin D, it can be hard for some people to get enough Vitamin E from diet alone so oral supplements might be considered. Olive oil, avocados and nuts are all high in vitamin E so it is possible to get enough Vitamin E through a healthy diet.
Trace minerals play an important role in the skin. Important minerals include selenium, copper, and zinc. These trace minerals are important for collagen formation and remodeling, support vitamin functions and can act as antioxidants. We get most of our trace minerals from the grains in our diet. Many nuts are high in trace minerals as are avocados. People may have a hard time getting all their trace mineral from diet alone so they may want to consider a multivitamin.
The Bottom Line
For most people the best way to have healthy skin is to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and nuts. A diet containing these food sources will be more than sufficient for skin heath. In addition to vitamins and minerals you will be consuming polyphenols. Polyphenols consist of over 8000 compounds found in plant-based foods that act as natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Essentially when it comes to the skin, we are what we eat.
For a comprehensive consultation please call Sullivan Dermatology today or book online to schedule a comprehensive consultation