Last updated: August 30, 2021

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Has your skin become duller and dryer? Do you struggle with acne? Have you started to notice wrinkles? You're not alone. Skin problems affect much of the population. However, some skin issues can be improved or completely prevented just by leading healthier lifestyles. Those healthy habits include a diet full of vitamins.

We know that nutrition and beauty are closely linked, so of course our eating habits and vitamin levels will influence our skin's appearance. This fact has led both the cosmetic and the nutrition industry to create their own cocktails of skincare vitamins. But which products are actually effective?




Key Facts

  • Your skin is your body's largest organ. It requires adequate nutrition and vitamin intake to function properly.
  • Vitamins applied directly to the skin (topically) can have antioxidant, anti-blemish, and collagen-stimulating effects. Vitamins taken as oral supplements will help prevent nutrient deficiencies which may be affecting your skin.
  • When choosing a skincare vitamin, you should first decide between nutritional supplements and topical cosmetic products. You'll also have to decide whether you prefer a single specific vitamin or a multivitamin.

The Best Skincare Vitamins: Our Picks

Searching for skincare vitamins brings you to hundreds, if not thousands, of results. To make your search simpler, we've created a list of the five best skincare vitamin products. Why don't you give them a try?

Buyer's Guide: What You Need to Know About Skincare and Vitamins

Vitamin C helps fight off the free radicals which create premature signs of aging in the skin. 
(Source: Drobot: 58295075/ 123rf.com)

Why Are Vitamins Important for My Skin?

Did you know that skin is an organ, just like your heart and lungs? It's a protective layer which lets us defend ourselves from outside aggressors like sunlight, pollution, and germs (1).

However, most people think of skin in more "aesthetic" terms. And that's not surprising! Since it covers your body, this organ is your chance to make a first impression on others. Blemish-free, acne-free, and wrinkle-free skin is a beauty ideal we all long for.

You need to take care of your skin to keep it healthy and beautiful throughout your life. Avoiding excessive sun exposure, smoking, and drinking will protect you from free radicals. In excess, free radicals are oxidative agents which damage and age your skin prematurely. But what about nutrition? Can you "feed" your skin?

You absolutely can "feed" your skin. It requires a balanced intake of nutrients. This complex organ needs healthy fats, proteins, and minerals to preserve its integrity. Of course, it also needs vitamins! These molecules are essential for skincare, and different vitamins play different roles in skin maintenance (2, 3, 4).

Ricardo RuizDermatologist (International Dermatological Clinic)
"We love vitamin C as an antioxidant you can apply in the morning. If you're going to spend time outdoors, you'll have to apply suncreen on top of the vitamin C. At night, opt for products like retinol which promote collagen formation, then follow up with a hydrating comfort cream".

Vitamin A: Can It Fight Aging?

Vitamin A plays an incredibly important role in your skin, allowing your cells to replicate and form a strong structure. This structure is the cutaneous barrier which protects your body from its most common threats: microorganisms, toxins, and sunlight (5).

Plus, vitamin A can also benefit your skin when applied directly and topically. Products with vitamin A derivatives (retinol and retinol palmitate, among others) appear to promote the growth of new skin cells. Thanks to this property, they're able to reduce wrinkles and blemishes (5). They make for some of the most effective serums!

Combining vitamin C with vitamin E can be more beneficial for your skin than using either molecule on its own. (Source: Maridav: 115599108/ 123rf.com)

B Vitamins: Why Does My Skin Need Them?

In the group of B vitamins, we'll find a series of nutrients which are essential for producing new cells - including skin cells (8, 9)!

Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6 may promote wound and skin lesion healing. They also exercise protective effects against skin inflammation. Serums with niacinamide (a B3 derivative) may help you clear marks and blemishes and improve your skin texture (8).

Biotin (vitamin B7) is an extremely important nutrient for skin, hair, and nails alike. Biotin deficiency leads to skin irritation, baldness, and nails that break more easily (10).

Vitamin C: The Best Antioxidant for Skincare?

Vitamin C is one of the most crucial molecules for your skin. This nutrient is required to synthesize collagen, a protein which lends your skin firmness and elasticity. Plus, it can have antioxidant effects. In other words, it gives your cells the ability to protect themselves from the effects of free radicals created by sunlight and pollution (13).

Applied topically, vitamin C can complement the effects of your sunscreen, minimizing the damage caused by UV rays. It can also have anti-blemish and collagen-stimulating effects. Unfortunately, its most effective form (ascorbic acid) is unstable, which can complicate your search for the perfect vitamin C serum (5).

It's extremely important to follow product instructions when using vitamins for skincare.
(Source: Drobot: 113605457/ 123rf.com)

Vitamin E: An Anti-Blemish Molecule?

Vitamin E is another antioxidant molecule. When it comes to skin, it's used in creams and serums to cure ulcers and improve psoriasis symptoms. It can even clear up marks and blotches from melasma, also known as the "mask of pregnancy" (5).

Plus, vitamin E's effectiveness can increase when combined with vitamin C. When you apply a serum containing both these molecules, the ascorbic acid (vitamin C) helps "regenerate" vitamin E, strengthening its antioxidant and photoprotective effects. Unfortunately, vitamin E is an unstable molecule. It tends to be difficult to create truly effective vitamin E-based serums (2, 13).

Dietary Supplements for Skincare: What Do We Know?

You may be considering taking supplements to improve your skin's appearance. You'll find a wide range of products on the market which promise to revitalize your skin and improve your complexion. But what conclusions can we draw about these skincare products (5)?

If you have a nutritional deficiency, a supplement may help.

Tell your doctor that you feel your skin isn't what it once was. If this appointment reveals that you have problems with low nutrient levels, discuss the possibility of taking supplements to correct your deficiency. Restoring "balance" to your body will undoubtedly improve your skin's appearance.

Supplements with beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E seem to be the most effective for skincare. Taking supplements with these vitamins has been shown to increase skin's resistance to solar radiation, making sunburn and inflammation less likely. These effects keep premature signs of aging at bay.

There's no pill which can cure bad lifestyle habits. Taking vitamin supplements for your skin will not undo damage caused by tobacco, drugs, or sun. 

Watch out! Foods and supplements high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E are in no way a replacement for sunscreen.

Vitamin Skincare Supplements: What Should I Watch Out For?

Vitamin skincare supplements should only be taken by healthy adults. People who suffer from chronic illness or who are on medications should ask a doctor before taking supplements.

  • Smokers and ex-smokers should not use vitamin skincare supplements. For these people, research has observed increased risk of lung cancer from supplements with vitamin A, vitamin E, beta-carotene, or B vitamins (19).
  • It's extremely important to follow product instructions when taking vitamin skincare supplements. Don't exceed the recommended dose. If you're pregnant or may soon become pregnant, remember that these products may be harmful for the fetus. (The same is true of serums with retinol (20).) Do not use these products on your own without first asking a specialist.
  • Vitamin skincare supplements may contain allergens like gluten, lactose, fish, or soy. Check with the manufacturer to make sure your product contains no ingredients you're intolerant to.

Mujer con crema facial

Avoiding tobacco, protecting yourself from the sun, and eating healthy are the ideal habits to improve your skin's appearance. (Source: Veronastudio: 120030534/ 123rf.com)

Shopping Criteria

The vast amount of vitamin skincare products out there on the market can make your final purchase decision much trickier. Keep these consumer criteria in mind to choose a product and use it safely and effectively.

Specific Vitamins or Multivitamins?

You'll find products on the market which provide one specific vitamin and others which combine several. Which should you pick? If we're talking about creams and serums, keep in mind that mixing these molecules often alters serums' effects. Some combinations weaken their benefits, while others strengthen them.

  • Vitamin A (retinol) + Vitamin C: These two acids can irritate sensitive skin when combined. Some experts have also wondered if ascorbic acid (vitamin C) might partially "deactivate" retinol. Despite the controversy, this combination could possibly be effective (21).
  • Vitamin C + Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide): Combining these two vitamins can cause a reaction in people with sensitive skin. Their skin becomes red and hot to the touch - called the "flush effect" (22).
  • Vitamin C + Vitamin E: Unlike the other two combinations, this mix can have positive effects. Vitamin C prevents vitamin E from oxidizing, prolonging vitamin E's beneficial effects on the skin (23).

Water-Soluble Vitamins or Fat-Soluble Vitamins?

In healthy people, water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the B vitamins) are easily eliminated in urine. This even applies when they're consumed in excess. As such, overdosing and toxicity is less likely with these nutrients. However, going above the recommended amounts of these vitamins can still lead to side effects in the long term (25).

Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) naturally dissolve in fat instead of water, meaning they instead become incorporated into your tissue. There, it becomes very difficult for the body to shed them when you consume too much. If taken incorrectly, dangerous toxicity could result. Remember to be especially cautious if your supplement contains fat-soluble vitamins (25)!

Jennifer ChwalekDermatologist (New York)
"Vitamin A can help your skin look more radiant."

Cruelty-Free Options

If you're vegan or vegetarian, you're in luck. More and more vitamin skincare products are being developed without animal ingredients.

Remember that gelatin capsules tend to be derived from pigs, making them incompatible with a plant-based diet. If you're going to take capsules, make sure the manufacturer uses cellulose or similar ingredients to make their pills.

Summary

Your skin is an organ which requires special care and attention. Avoiding tobacco, protecting yourself from the sun, and eating healthy are the ideal habits to improve your skin's appearance. Plus, you can rely on serums or creams which maximize vitamins' antioxidant power to treat localized skin problems.

If your diet fails to provide all the vitamins you need to keep your skin healthy, you can use vitamin supplements as a nutritional complement. Remember that these products should ideally be taken under medical supervision. Have you already started thinking about which skincare vitamins you'll use?

If this guide helped you delve into the fascinating world of vitamins and skincare, feel free to leave us a comment and share this article.

(Featured image source: Samborskyi: 130344031/ 123rf.com)

References (25)

1. Pérez-Sánchez A, Barrajón-Catalán E, Herranz-López M, Micol V. Nutraceuticals for Skin Care: A Comprehensive Review of Human Clinical Studies. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Mar 24 ;10(4):403.
Source

2. Shapiro SS, Saliou C. Role of vitamins in skin care. Nutrition [Internet]. 2001 Oct ;17(10):839–44.
Source

3. Schagen SK, Zampeli VA, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging [Internet]. Vol. 4, Dermato-Endocrinology. 2012 . p. 298–307.
Source

4. Manela-Azulay M, Bagatin E. Cosmeceuticals vitamins. Clin Dermatol [Internet]. 2009 Sep ;27(5):469–74.
Source

5. Ganceviciene R, Liakou AI, Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Skin anti-aging strategies [Internet]. Vol. 4, Dermato-Endocrinology. Taylor & Francis; 2012 . p. 308–19.
Source

6. FESNAD. Ingestas Dietéticas de Referencia (IDR) para la Población Española, 2010. Act Dietética [Internet]. 2010 Oct;14(4):196–7.
Source

7. Eicker J, Kürten V, Wild S, Riss G, Goralczyk R, Krutmann J, et al. Betacarotene supplementation protects from photoaging-associated mitochondrial DNA mutation. Photochem Photobiol Sci [Internet]. 2003 ;2(6):655–9
Source

8. Mochizuki S, Takano M, Sugano N, Ohtsu M, Tsunoda K, Koshi R, et al. The effect of B vitamin supplementation on wound healing in type 2 diabetic mice. J Clin Biochem Nutr [Internet]. 2016 Jan 1 ;58(1):64–8
Source

9. Szyszkowska B, Łepecka-Klusek C, Kozłowicz K, Jazienicka I, Krasowska D. The influence of selected ingredients of dietary supplements on skin condition. Adv Dermatology Allergol [Internet]. 2014 ;3(3):174–81.
Source

10. Said HM. Intestinal absorption of water-soluble vitamins in health and disease [Internet]. Vol. 437, Biochemical Journal. NIH Public Access; 2011 . p. 357–72.
Source

11. Mori K, Ando I, Kukita A. Generalized hyperpigmentation of the skin due to vitamin B12 deficiency. J Dermatol [Internet]. 2001 May ;28(5):282–5.
Source

12. Chawla J, Kvarnberg D. Hydrosoluble vitamins. In: Handbook of Clinical Neurology [Internet]. Elsevier B.V.; 2014 . p. 891–914.
Source

13. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients [Internet]. 2017 Aug 12 [cited 2020 May 25];9(8):866.
Source

14. Vitamin C – Health Professional Fact Sheet [Internet].
Source

15. Pazyar N, Houshmand G, Yaghoobi R, Hemmati A, Zeineli Z, Ghorbanzadeh B. Wound healing effects of topical Vitamin K: A randomized controlled trial [Internet]. Vol. 51, Indian Journal of Pharmacology. Wolters Kluwer Medknow Publications; 2019 [cited 2020 Jun 11]. p. 88–92.
Source

16. DiNicolantonio JJ, Bhutani J, O’Keefe JH. The health benefits of Vitamin K [Internet]. Vol. 2, Open Heart. BMJ Publishing Group; 2015 [cited 2020 Jun 11]. p. e000300.
Source

17. Katta R, Desai SP. Diet and dermatology: The role of dietary intervention in skin disease [Internet]. Vol. 7, Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Matrix Medical Communications; 2014 [cited 2020 May 24]. p. 46–51.
Source

18. Manríquez JJ, Majerson Gringberg D, Nicklas Diaz C. Wrinkles. BMJ Clin Evid [Internet]. 2008 Dec 16 [cited 2020 May 27];2008.
Source

19. Cancer Council NSW. Vitamin supplements and cancer [Internet]. 2015
Source

20. Medicines Agency E. Updated measures for pregnancy prevention during retinoid use. 2018;44(March).
Source

21. Seité S, Bredoux C, Compan D, Zucchi H, Lombard D, Medaisko C, et al. Histological Evaluation of a Topically Applied Retinol-Vitamin C Combination. Skin Pharmacol Physiol [Internet]. 2005 Mar ;18(2):81–7.
Source

22. Rolfe HM. A review of nicotinamide: treatment of skin diseases and potential side effects. J Cosmet Dermatol [Internet]. 2014 Dec 1 ;13(4):324–8.
Source

23. UV photoprotection by combination topical antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E – Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology [Internet].
Source

24. Ward E. Addressing nutritional gaps with multivitamin and mineral supplements. Nutr J [Internet]. 2014 Dec 15 ;13(1):72.
Source

25. Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) [Internet].
Source

Scientific article
Pérez-Sánchez A, Barrajón-Catalán E, Herranz-López M, Micol V. Nutraceuticals for Skin Care: A Comprehensive Review of Human Clinical Studies. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Mar 24 ;10(4):403.
Go to source
Scientific article
Shapiro SS, Saliou C. Role of vitamins in skin care. Nutrition [Internet]. 2001 Oct ;17(10):839–44.
Go to source
Scientific article
Schagen SK, Zampeli VA, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging [Internet]. Vol. 4, Dermato-Endocrinology. 2012 . p. 298–307.
Go to source
Scientific article
Manela-Azulay M, Bagatin E. Cosmeceuticals vitamins. Clin Dermatol [Internet]. 2009 Sep ;27(5):469–74.
Go to source
Scientific article
Ganceviciene R, Liakou AI, Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Skin anti-aging strategies [Internet]. Vol. 4, Dermato-Endocrinology. Taylor & Francis; 2012 . p. 308–19.
Go to source
Official Statement FESNAD
FESNAD. Ingestas Dietéticas de Referencia (IDR) para la Población Española, 2010. Act Dietética [Internet]. 2010 Oct;14(4):196–7.
Go to source
Scientific article
Eicker J, Kürten V, Wild S, Riss G, Goralczyk R, Krutmann J, et al. Betacarotene supplementation protects from photoaging-associated mitochondrial DNA mutation. Photochem Photobiol Sci [Internet]. 2003 ;2(6):655–9
Go to source
Clinical trial in animals
Mochizuki S, Takano M, Sugano N, Ohtsu M, Tsunoda K, Koshi R, et al. The effect of B vitamin supplementation on wound healing in type 2 diabetic mice. J Clin Biochem Nutr [Internet]. 2016 Jan 1 ;58(1):64–8
Go to source
Scientific article
Szyszkowska B, Łepecka-Klusek C, Kozłowicz K, Jazienicka I, Krasowska D. The influence of selected ingredients of dietary supplements on skin condition. Adv Dermatology Allergol [Internet]. 2014 ;3(3):174–81.
Go to source
Scientific article
Said HM. Intestinal absorption of water-soluble vitamins in health and disease [Internet]. Vol. 437, Biochemical Journal. NIH Public Access; 2011 . p. 357–72.
Go to source
Scientific article
Mori K, Ando I, Kukita A. Generalized hyperpigmentation of the skin due to vitamin B12 deficiency. J Dermatol [Internet]. 2001 May ;28(5):282–5.
Go to source
Book online
Chawla J, Kvarnberg D. Hydrosoluble vitamins. In: Handbook of Clinical Neurology [Internet]. Elsevier B.V.; 2014 . p. 891–914.
Go to source
Scientific article
Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients [Internet]. 2017 Aug 12 [cited 2020 May 25];9(8):866.
Go to source
Official website
Vitamin C – Health Professional Fact Sheet [Internet].
Go to source
Human Clinical Trial
Pazyar N, Houshmand G, Yaghoobi R, Hemmati A, Zeineli Z, Ghorbanzadeh B. Wound healing effects of topical Vitamin K: A randomized controlled trial [Internet]. Vol. 51, Indian Journal of Pharmacology. Wolters Kluwer Medknow Publications; 2019 [cited 2020 Jun 11]. p. 88–92.
Go to source
Scientific article
DiNicolantonio JJ, Bhutani J, O’Keefe JH. The health benefits of Vitamin K [Internet]. Vol. 2, Open Heart. BMJ Publishing Group; 2015 [cited 2020 Jun 11]. p. e000300.
Go to source
Scientific article
Katta R, Desai SP. Diet and dermatology: The role of dietary intervention in skin disease [Internet]. Vol. 7, Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Matrix Medical Communications; 2014 [cited 2020 May 24]. p. 46–51.
Go to source
Scientific article
Manríquez JJ, Majerson Gringberg D, Nicklas Diaz C. Wrinkles. BMJ Clin Evid [Internet]. 2008 Dec 16 [cited 2020 May 27];2008.
Go to source
Official Statement
Cancer Council NSW. Vitamin supplements and cancer [Internet]. 2015
Go to source
Official document
Medicines Agency E. Updated measures for pregnancy prevention during retinoid use. 2018;44(March).
Go to source
Scientific article
Seité S, Bredoux C, Compan D, Zucchi H, Lombard D, Medaisko C, et al. Histological Evaluation of a Topically Applied Retinol-Vitamin C Combination. Skin Pharmacol Physiol [Internet]. 2005 Mar ;18(2):81–7.
Go to source
Scientific article
Rolfe HM. A review of nicotinamide: treatment of skin diseases and potential side effects. J Cosmet Dermatol [Internet]. 2014 Dec 1 ;13(4):324–8.
Go to source
Scientific article
UV photoprotection by combination topical antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E – Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology [Internet].
Go to source
Scientific article
Ward E. Addressing nutritional gaps with multivitamin and mineral supplements. Nutr J [Internet]. 2014 Dec 15 ;13(1):72.
Go to source
Official website
Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) [Internet].
Go to source
Reviews