Vitamins are essential for the proper functioning of our body. But what relationship do vitamins have with the skin? What functions do they perform?
What role do vitamins have in the skin?
There are 13 types of vitamins, most of which are essential, that is, they are necessary for the correct physiological and metabolic functioning of the body, but they cannot be synthesized by it.
Vitamins participate in metabolic processes by being precursors of coenzymes. These facilitate the action of the different enzymes by binding to them. Thus, vitamins such as B12 participate in cellular processes as important as DNA synthesis or the production of myelin that covers the axons of neurons .
Regarding the action of vitamins in the good functioning of the skin, the main ones are the following:
Probably the best known in the world of cosmetics and dermatology. Vitamin A (retinol) is a group of organic compounds that includes retinoic acid and its derivatives, such as retinal.
Retinoic acid regulates the stem cells present in the hair follicle, what involves it in the correct hair cycle. In addition, retinoic acid participates in the differentiation and proliferation of melanocytes. This action, together with that of retinal, which is necessary in melanogenesis, makes vitamin A influence the skin pigmentation process .
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Regarding the anti-wrinkle function of vitamin A, the retinoids that compose it act promoting the proliferation of keratinocytes, restricting the loss of transepidermal water and reducing the degradation of collagen, by inhibiting the activity of the metalloproteases that digest it . Not surprisingly, Tazarotene, a synthetic retinoid for topical use, is the first vitamin approved as an anti-wrinkle agent.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) is part of the group of B vitamins. It is especially important in the energetic metabolism of cells and in DNA repair.
Regarding its function in the dermis, niacin reduces oxidative stress and the inflammatory response. Several clinical studies have shown that topical treatment with nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, stops skin aging and hyperpigmentation .
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Nicotinamide is also used in topical treatments for acne and atopic dermatitis. In the case of acne, it works by inhibiting activated activator protein 1 (AP-1) and transcription factor NF-kB in skin lesions. While in atopic dermatitis it prevents transepidermal water loss .
We know that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a powerful antioxidant agent, which makes it a protective agent against epidermal damage from ultraviolet radiation. Thus, it has been shown that pre-treatment of keratinocytes with ascorbic acid maintains stable oxidative stress levels after exposure to UVA radiation . This type of radiation is involved in photoaging of the skin through increased oxidative stress.
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On the other hand, ascorbic acid acts by stimulating the synthesis of collagen and stabilizes it, which helps in wound healing .
Considering its protective action against oxidative stress and collagen production, vitamin C is an interesting ingredient for cosmetic formulations that combat skin aging.
Vitamin E (tocopherol) shares potent antioxidant activity with vitamin C. In fact, tocotrienol, belonging to a subfamily of vitamin E, also protects the skin from the oxidizing action of ultraviolet radiation. But, in addition, when tocotrienol is applied topically increases skin hydration and the content of tocotrienol and tocopherol in the stratum corneum, after 4 weeks of daily application 
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Thus, the addition of tocotrienol in topical cosmetic formulations can play an important role in protecting the skin, maintaining its hydration, and reducing the effects of photoaging.
How to get the necessary vitamins?
Vitamin deficiency or hypovitaminosis is closely related to various pathologies such as anaemia, dental and gingival problems, blindness and even bleeding due to lack of blood coagulation, as well as skin and mucous membrane disorders.
Despite the infrequent deficiency of any of the essential vitamins, maintaining a correct diet, that provides us with the correct levels of the different vitamins, is essential to maintain proper functioning of our health and quality skin.
- VanBuren, C. A., & Everts, H. B. (2022). Vitamin A in Skin and Hair: An Update. Nutrients, 14(14), 2952. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14142952
- Zasada, M., & Budzisz, E. (2019). Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Postepy dermatologii i alergologii, 36(4), 392–397. https://doi.org/10.5114/ada.2019.87443
- Boo Y. C. (2021). Mechanistic Basis and Clinical Evidence for the Applications of Nicotinamide (Niacinamide) to Control Skin Aging and Pigmentation. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 10(8), 1315. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox10081315
- Bains, P., Kaur, M., Kaur, J., & Sharma, S. (2018). Nicotinamide: Mechanism of action and indications in dermatology. Indian journal of dermatology, venereology and leprology, 84(2), 234–237. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijdvl.IJDVL_286_17
- Petruk, G., Del Giudice, R., Rigano, M. M., & Monti, D. M. (2018). Antioxidants from Plants Protect against Skin Photoaging. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2018, 1454936. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/1454936
- Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2017). The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients, 9(8), 866. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9080866
- Ghazali, N. I., Mohd Rais, R. Z., Makpol, S., Chin, K. Y., Yap, W. N., & Goon, J. A. (2022). Effects of tocotrienol on aging skin: A systematic review. Frontiers in pharmacology, 13, 1006198. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2022.1006198
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