Do you know your vitamin B3 from your B5? Your vitamin C from your E? Read on for our complete guide to skincare vitamins. Photo / Getty Images

Vitamin Infusion: How To Know Which Skincare Vitamin Is Right For You

Ashleigh Cometti presents a go-to guide on vitamins and the beauty benefits they provide

Popping a couple of vitamins every day feels natural to many, loading the body with the micronutrients it needs to function optimally, and supporting the health of hair, skin and nails.

But if these super supps enter the bloodstream to feed skin from the inside out, do we need to slather on vitamin-enriched lotions topically? According to Lucy Macdougald, a dermal specialist at Biologi, there’s room for both in any beauty routine.

READ: The Best Eye Creams To Suit Every Skin Concern & Skin Type 

“When ingested, vitamins have to travel through our bloodstream and to different parts of the body, so by the time they get to our skin, the efficacy is diminished. That’s why applying vitamins topically in skincare is so popular — it works well to target specific areas in a more potent way.”

With so many options available, we’ve enlisted the help of three skin experts to help spell out the skincare ABCs, and advise why you should be squeezing them into your existing regimen.


The Beauty Benefits Of Vitamin A 

Vitamin A (and its retinoid-based derivatives) has been revolutionising complexions the world over since its suitability for topical application was first discovered in 1958.

Its skin-smoothing, cell-regenerating, youth-bringing properties have cemented its position as one of the most popular skincare vitamins.

This game-changing ingredient has earned favour with Environ New Zealand technical educator Carol Geal, who says vitamin A promotes a healthy-looking visage.

Vitamin A comes in many forms under the retinoid umbrella, including retinyl palmitate, acetate and propionate, which Carol says are tolerated by most skin types along with being more protective of skin.

“The more vitamin A we have in the skin, the more our skin is protected from sun damage — the epidermis is hydrated with a healthy, protective barrier function,” she says.

Not only this, but it helps skin to become firmer due to an increase of collagen and elastin production, and works wonders on stubborn skin conditions like pigmentation, wrinkles, uneven skin texture and blemishes, Carol explains.

Environ Focus Care Youth+ Retinol 1, 2 and 3, from $83. Photo / Supplied

Where To Find It

Products that claim to address congestion and textural irregularities will often factor in vitamin A for its ability to supercharge skin turnover to leave skin baby soft.

Carol loves the Environ Focus Care Youth+ Retinol 1, 2 and 3, from $83, which couples vitamin A and C to fast-track results. Combat breakouts, hyperpigmentation and the signs of ageing with Dermalogica’s Retinol Clearing Oil, $153, with slow-release vitamin A and salicylic acid to clear the complexion.

Incorporating vitamin A into your beauty routine the right way can be a slow process — start with a lower concentration and apply it on alternate nights before building up to daily use after your skin has built up its tolerance.

Dermalogica Retinol Clearing Oil, $153. Photo / Supplied

Suitable For: Vitamin A is best reserved for nighttime use due to its propensity to make skin more sun sensitive. It’s advised to steer clear of vitamin A if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding — consider a safer alternative like bakuchiol instead.

The Beauty Benefits Of Vitamin B

Vitamin B encompasses eight different vitamins — vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin or niacinamide), B5 (pantothenic acid or panthenol), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12.

According to Prudvi Mohan Kaka, chief scientific officer at Deciem, each vitamin B complex promises a multitude of benefits.

“Vitamin B is essential for barrier support and skin hydration; vitamin B3 targets sebum production, supports the synthesis of key skin components, and aids in skin barrier function; vitamin B7 is rich in amino and fatty acids; while vitamin B9 is necessary for cell division,” he says.

“The different vitamin B’s have various functions, including targeting signs of congestion, hydration, skin barrier support and hair health.”

Sans Ceuticals Cellular Repair Body + Face Lotion, $55. Photo / Supplied

Where To Find It

With so many vitamin B complexes to choose from, product picks are many — look out for its different forms in serums, oils, creams and cleansers.

Discover a 5 per cent concentration of vitamin B3 (niacinamide) in Sans Ceuticals Cellular Repair Body + Face Lotion, $55, which promises a multitudeof skin benefits for healthy skin ageing, including inhibiting hyperpigmentation, strengthening skin’s barrier function and stimulating collagen production at a cellular level.

For intense hydration, consider Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Intense, $129, a lightweight serum that defends against dehydration caused by extreme temperature changes
and humidity.

Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Intense, $129. Photo / Supplied

Suitable For: It depends on the complexion in question. Prudvi says vitamin B3 (niacinamide) is best suited to oilier skin types, while vitamin B5 is best for drier skin types.

The Beauty Benefits Of Vitamin C 

Vitamin C and ascorbic acid often get lumped together as the same thing but naturally derived vitamin C and synthetic ascorbic (or L-ascorbic) acid are quite different.

The pH levels between the two differ, with natural vitamin C having a pH of 6 to pH neutral (7), while some forms of ascorbic acid have a pH of 1 to 2.5, which can irritate skin when used incorrectly.

The beauty benefits of this multi-tasking antioxidant is well-documented, says Lucy, including neutralising free radicals to protect against skin cell damage caused by UV rays or pollution (which can speed up skin ageing or cause pigmentation).

Hyperpigmentation is one of the common skin woes ailing New Zealanders, Carol says. “[Vitamin C] helps to improve the appearance of an uneven skin tone and visible sun damage.

“It is also very useful to target hormonal pigmentation as it is a tyrosinase inhibitor,” she says.

Tyrosinase is the main enzyme responsible for the conversion of tyrosine into melanin (hello, sun spots). Some forms of vitamin C even promise to treat melasma, one of the most stubborn pigment issues to treat.

Kora Organics Noni Bright Vitamin C Serum, $86. Photo / Supplied

Where To Find It

Most products that claim to brighten skin (serums, moisturisers, masks) contain a dose of the good stuff. But despite its many benefits, vitamin C is notoriously unstable — it breaks down when exposed to oxygen or sunlight, rendering it ineffective.

The best formulas are packaged in airtight containers (think droppers or pumps over pots and tubes) in order to prevent the vitamin C from oxidising.

First-time users will love Kora Organics Noni Bright Vitamin C Serum, $86, which is made up of a 12 per cent concentration of ascorbyl glucoside, a stable, skin-friendly vitamin C format, and botanical extracts to brighten and protect skin from free radicals.

For something a little stronger, Niod Ethylated L-Ascorbic Acid 30% Network, $81, contains a 30 per cent concentration of stabilised ethylated L-ascorbic acid to improve skin’s barrier function and combat pigmentation.

Niod Ethylated L-Ascorbic Acid 30% Network, $81. Photo / Supplied

Suitable For: All skin types, however those with younger skin may find vitamin C works preventatively against the damaging effects of oxidative stress, Prudvi says, while mature skin will find it helps promote smoother, more radiant skin.

The Beauty Benefits Of Vitamin D

We’re not here to advocate sun worshipping, but a few minutes spent (safely, with plenty of SPF) in the sunshine promotes the body’s natural production of vitamin D.

“Vitamin D is the only vitamin that the body synthesises. It is generated in the skin and converted to a hormone,” Prudvi says.

Studies have shown the link between vitamin D deficiency and diseases like cancer and diabetes, along with a tendency towards bone porosity.

Where To Find It

Over-the-counter vitamin D beauty products can be hard to come by, as they’re most commonly prescription-only
to treat inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis.

It tends to crop up in skincare flanked by the other vitamins on this list, in either cream or oil formats, said to help fight free-radical damage, reduce oxidative stress and ward off signs of ageing. Find it in the Murad Multi Vitamin Infusion Oil, $149, which is powered by six key skincare vitamins (A through F) to offer skin an instant dose of radiance.

Murad Multi Vitamin Infusion Oil, $149. Photo / Supplied

Suitable For: All skin types, including skin prone to inflammatory conditions or extreme dryness.

The Beauty Benefits Of Vitamin E 

A long-time staple in the skincare industry, vitamin E (or alpha-tocopherol) is a powerful antioxidant best known for its moisturising and healing benefits, says Lucy.

“It’s said to help strengthen the skin barrier function, while offering protective benefits from things like pollution,” she explains.

It plays well with vitamin C, as the two work synergistically to help maximise healthy cell membranes, says Prudvi.

“Studies have demonstrated that when combined, they have the potential to reduce sunburn reactions and lead to a reduction in the sequelae [the after-effect] of UV-induced skin damage,” he says.

Biologi Br Organic Rosehip Oil, $32. Photo / Supplied

Where To Find It

Expect to see vitamin E in everything from oils to moisturisers. Biologi Br Organic Rosehip Oil, $32, combines vitamin E with rosehip oil to offer skin extra hydration and support ceramide formation (a substance that keeps the walls of skin cells strong so they can retain moisture).

For body, Linden Leaves In Love Again Body Oil, $64, couples fatty acids and vitamin E to minimise the appearance of scars and stretch marks and leave skin supple.

Linden Leaves In Love Again Body Oil, $64. Photo / Supplied

Suitable For: All skin types, especially those that suffer with dryness or skin tightness.

The Beauty Benefits Of Vitamin F

This lesser-known vitamin is just starting to crop up in skincare and, despite appearances, vitamin F isn’t actually a vitamin at all.

The “F” in vitamin F points to fatty acids, a form of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from linolenic (omega-3), linoleic omega-6) and oleic (omega-9) acids, says Prudvi.

Together, these fatty acids offer anti-inflammatory and moisturising properties that can help to soothe and strengthen skin.

Santa Maria Novella Vitamin F Cream, $169. Photo / Supplied

Where To Find It

Unlike other vitamins, essential fatty acids are not produced naturally within the body, which is why supplementation or topical application is key.

Vitamin F is most commonly found in oils, serums and moisturising creams, including the Santa Maria Novella Vitamin F Cream, $169, a non-greasy moisturiser that rebalances dehydrated or weather-ravaged skin.

Or try The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F, $39, an oil-solution that combines fatty acids with a high concentration of vitamin C to reduce the appearance of sun damage on dry or mature skin.

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F, $39. Photo / Supplied

Suitable For: All skin types, but it works especially well at rehydrating drier skin types.

This story was originally published in Viva Magazine – Volume Six.

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