[By Rhonda Lim]
Everyone knows that getting an adequate daily dose of vitamins and minerals is important in maintaining one’s overall health, but the million dollar question is whether or not the vitamins touted in skin care products work in improving our skin.
Beyond the wondrous claims of cosmetic companies worldwide, we go undercover to get the lowdown on vitamins in our skincare and find out if they really make a difference to our skin in the long run. We review currently published scientific literature to determine what evidence exists to support the use of vitamins in skin care products to slow or reverse skin aging.
VERDICT: Effective in treating a variety of skin conditions
The two most common forms of vitamin A studied for their role in protecting the skin from UV-induced damage are retinols. Retinol is found in foods such as liver, milk, and eggs, and is the most biologically active form of the vitamin.
ORAL vs TOPICAL:
There is minimal evidence supporting the use of oral retinoids in the treatment of photoaging. However, there is vast evidence supporting the role of topical retinoids (the class of substances formed by retinol and its natural and synthetic derivatives) in treating photoaged skin. For example, prescription retinoid formulations have the most scientific data to support their use in this area. Both tretinoin cream (0.025% and 0.05%) and tazarotene cream (0.1%) are already FDA-approved for the treatment of fine wrinkles, skin roughness, and mottled hyperpigmentation caused by aging and sun exposure. Studies of other retinoids have shown that a once-daily application of 0.1% isotretinoin cream for 36 weeks was effective in reducing fine wrinkles.
Retinoids also are found in over-the-counter cosmeceuticals, but there is less clinical evidence supporting their effectiveness in improving photoaged skin. We cannot assume that all retinoids are equal in their ability to fight photoaging, patients should consult their dermatologist before using any topical retinoid, as side effects can occur when used with other topical products. When properly instructed by a dermatologist, most patients can tolerate topical retinoids and benefit from their effect.
TRY: Age Defy by Sloane Inc. Exclusively available at The Sloane Clinic.
VERDICT: Possible skin care product value
ORAL vs TOPICAL:
Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin also known as ascorbic acid that is found in citrus fruits and dark green leafy vegetables, plays an essential role in the production of collagen and elastin. Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin C may reverse the negative effects of UV radiation in the skin, but there are few clinically controlled studies to confirm this theory.
An animal study examining the role of vitamin C in reversing sun damage found that when 5% ascorbate was applied two hours before UVB and UVA exposure, UVB-induced skin wrinkling was reduced. Some of the human clinical trials have shown similar favorable results when applying a daily dose of L-ascorbic acid treatment.
One concern of adding vitamin C to cosmeceuticals is that vitamin C is unstable when used in formulations and it is not known how much, if any, intact molecule remains when applied to the skin.
VERDICT: A primary antioxidant
Vitamin E, or tocopherol, is a fat-soluble vitamin and its synthetic form is found in many over-the-counter products. Working as an antioxidant, vitamin E protects cell membranes and is thought to play an important role in skin aging because of its antioxidant properties. While topical vitamin E is available in a variety of products, there is no data which support claims that it improves skin wrinkling, discoloration and texture.
ORAL vs TOPICAL:
Topical vitamin E has been studied in humans, as in mice, more as a protectant to be used before sun exposure than as an agent to be included in cosmeceuticals to reduce the signs of skin aging. Through research we have learned that UV exposure significantly decreases levels of cutaneous vitamin E, and vitamin C should be included in any formulation containing vitamin E because of the important role it plays in maintaining active vitamin E levels.
Research also has explored combining vitamins E and C as an oral supplement to provide sun protection. Multiple studies suggest that this combination therapy is beneficial for photoprotection.
Overzealous oral vitamin E supplements may be harmful and two new studies also suggest that a high intake of vitamin E may be associated with an increased risk of basal cell carcinoma.
TRY: Vitamin E night cream by Body Shop
VERDICT: A possible treatment for photoaging
The B vitamins consist of eight different water-soluble vitamins that are found in a variety of foods. Vitamin B3 has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol and atherosclerosis (a condition in which fatty materials collect along artery walls), but now new insights are examining its role as an effective treatment for several skin conditions – from acne to photoaging.
Specifically, B3 has been found to increase collagen production in in vitro studies and to reduce skin hyperpigmentation (dark spots) in clinical studies.
ORAL vs TOPICAL:
There has been one clinical trial conducted in Caucasian women in which 50 women applied 5% niacinamide (topical vitamin B3) to one side of their faces twice per day for 12 weeks, and these women experienced significant reductions in the appearance of hyperpigmented spots, redness, wrinkles, and yellowing, as well as improved skin elasticity. While initial studies show promise that topical vitamin B3 may prevent UV-induced skin aging, larger clinical trials are needed to confirm its role as a definitive treatment of photoaging.
* Selected as Article of the Month Aug 2013*