Now that I am a pushing-30-grown-up-woman-child, it's high time I get my nutrition right. I've been trying to binge on vitamin-rich veggies at least once a week, but the rest of my days belong to leftover spaghetti, or something equally glutinous.
Every now and again I remember to pop a multivitamin. But forget to put vitamins in my skincare? NEVER. I’m like a Catholic school nun with that stuff, the discipline evident in the results. Sure, the best way to intake vitamins is by eating them in food, but they can do wonders on top of your skin, too. I’ve dabbled in many, but the ones that work the best for me are Vitamins C, E, and D (and sometimes A!). Let us discuss.
Vitamin C (aka L-ascorbic acid)
This one is my main jam. You’ll find it in most brightening, free radical-fighting, tone evening, and even sunburn-alleviating skin care products. I have some dark spots leftover from picking at zits and some latent freckles forming on my cheeks, except they don’t look like freckles so much as they do halfway-erased marker spots (either be there or don’t, freckles, but pick one!) so I generally tend to look for products that will brighten or even my skin tone.
Vitamin C, aka L-Ascorbic acid, works in three ways, mostly.
1. It’s an effective antioxidant. Antioxidants put free radicals in a choke hold until they pass out. We like antioxidants.
2. It inhibits melanin production. Melanin is basically your skin’s natural sun protection; it’s what makes you tan in the sun. You might be thinking, Wait, doesn’t darkening your skin give you more sun protection? True, but melanin can also breed dark spots, aka age spots. Too much UV radiation damages your melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, causing them to overproduce. Hence, my half-assed freckles.
3. L-ascorbic acid boosts collagen synthesis. This means your face can remain cherubically sproing-y for longer. It’s not anti-aging, per se, but collagen is like a sports bra for your skin.
L-ascorbic acid is a strong substance when topically applied (it is an acid, after all) and not easily stabilized, which is why serums are usually expensive. You can, however, very easily make your own Vitamin C serum, which I’ve done after reading Wendy’s story. It does break down and oxidize pretty quickly, though, so you have to keep sharp about storage (in the fridge/no sunlight!) and remake the thing every few days. Applying oxidized vitamin C topically can do more harm than good, so this DIY isn’t for lazies.
That said, my DIY serum (vitamin C powder + rose water + glycerin) had lackluster results so I turned to pro measures, trying out Environ Evenescence C-Boost Cream. After using it for a month under my day and nighttime moisturizers, I noticed a difference in the texture of my skin--it was smoother and not as patchy in the usual dry places. The brightening effects weren’t like someone turned on a light, but I liked the way my skin was looking.
I’ve been a longtime user of rose hip oil. It’s not that expensive, depending on where you get it (that's Whole Foods for me), it absorbs into the skin without making you feel greasy, and it does wonders for skin texture, tone, and pigmentation. And what do you know, it’s full of Vitamin C!
I got my hands on some of Mario Badescu’s Rose Hip Mask, as well as their Vitamin C Serum. The serum had the same scent as the one I made at home--a slight metallic odor. I guess that’s how you know it’s chock-full of L-ascorbic acid, huh?
AMG loves Retin-A, and so do I. The A in Retin-A is for Vitamin A, which is a good defense in the fight against acne and aging. Skin is actually very receptive to retinoids, which are a class of chemical compounds chemically related to Vitamin A.
Retinoids bond to your skin receptors and peel off the top layer of skin, which is good for tone balancing, and they thicken the layers of skin below to smooth out (and actually remove) wrinkles. Retinoids also boost the production of collagen, which is probably what Charlize Theron sucked out of that fair peasant Lily Cole in Snow White And The Huntsman.
Vitamin A can have some very undesirable side effects, though, the most dangerous one being sunlight sensitivity. When it peels off the top layers of your skin (chemical exfoliator, anyone?), it takes your natural SPF with it. Most treatments with vitamin A are for nighttime use only.
Vitamin A’s benefits aren’t solely exclusive to the acne/wrinkle besieged. It helps normalize blood flow to the skin and helps improve hydration around skin cells, so rosacea-sufferers can benefit from some topical (and edible) vitamin A. It’s one of the strongest vitamins for repairing cellular structure in your skin, so it really wouldn’t hurt to up your Vitamin A intake in general.
I’m not throwing down in the game of anti-aging JUST yet (still in denial) so I keep my vitamin A application pretty light. Seaweed has tons of great vitamins and minerals that are skin-friendly, a biggie being Vitamin A. After much prodding from other xoVain writers who rave about MB products, I’ve started using Mario Badescu’s Seaweed Night Cream. It’s a light, non-oily formula for a night cream, and it's full of seaweed-y vitamin A. Go skin cells, REPAIR!
I feel like everyone I know is talking about how deeply Vitamin D deficient they are--mostly due to over-SPFing and spending hours indoors binge-watching Orange is the New Black. FYI to all you Boo Radleys: Vitamin D is only produced in the skin via sun exposure. So either get off the couch or load up on vitamin D-rich foods or supplements.
Aside from being crucial for bone health and immune system functions, vitamin D repairs skin cells, boosts collagen and elasticity, and lessens lines and dark spots. People with serious vitamin D deficiencies will generally complain of a dull, sallow complexion.
There are two kinds of Vitamin D: The plant-sourced kind, ergocalciferol (D2), and the “natural” sunlight-conjured kind, cholecalciferol (D3). D2 is the stuff you’ll find in topically applied treatments. But while popping a Vitamin D supplement benefits your organs and such, it doesn't work as hard on bettering your skin. Meanwhile, the topical stuff won't raise vitamin D levels in your body. So a combination of both is a good move.
Vitamin E is a common skin care supplement. My mother always keeps a bottle of gel capsules in her cabinet; she pricks the pill and rubs the goo around her eyes.
The reason Vitamin E is so popular in skin care is because it’s a pretty kick-ass antioxidant. Remember how much we hate free radicals? So free! So radical! Well, not anymore. Vitamin C is a kick-ass antioxidant, and it's great for anti-inflammatory skin woes, especially UV damage. Topical application has been found to be effective for photo-protection of skin (aka protection from UV radiation). It’s not all that great as a form of sun protection, though, because molecules in the Vitamin E family are able to absorb UVA rays, but not UVB rays.
Lots of ointments that promise scar-disappearing properties contain vitamin E. Here's the truth: It doesn't reduce scar tissue, but it's great at rejuvenating skin cells to help heal cuts and wounds. There aren’t many studies that claim that Vitamin E is an all-powerful ointment, but there are tons of studies stating that the alpha-tocopherol in vitamin E decreases the time it takes for a wound to close.
Personally, whenever I have a boo-boo, a bit of Neosporin with vitamin E helps speed the healing time. Straight up vitamin E oil also softens the skin to make hard scar tissue less noticeable.
You can find vitamin E in capsule form at any drugstore, or you can buy the straight oil, which is less expensive at about $10 per two-ounce bottle.
Getting all of your vitamins and minerals is important, but since there are some vitamins that work better when slathered on your face as opposed to ingested in a salad, it’s best to use them accordingly. I’m not saying to ditch your meal plans and food pyramids, but now you can go ahead and share the wealth with your face.
What's your take on putting vitamins on your face? How do you make sure your skin gets its vitamins? Product recommendations, please!