A lack of nutrients can affect every aspect of your well-being, including your skin’s health. As the largest organ of your body, your skin keeps water inside your body and protects your internal organs against infection and pathogens. Unfortunately, a lack of important nutrients can make it more susceptible to excessive dryness, wrinkles, dark spots, and rough patches.
Below, we’ll cover six commonly available vitamins and supplements that have been scientifically shown to be good for your skin’s health.
6 Vitamins & Supplements That Support Healthy Skin
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, and it is found in your skin, hair, bones, teeth, joints, and connective tissue. In fact, collagen comprises about three-quarters of the dry weight of your skin. In addition to its role in skin repair activities, collagen also contains antioxidant, antihypertensive, and lipid-lowering properties.
Collagen tends to decline with age, and exposure to the sun breaks collagen down. Therefore, supplementation with collagen may help preserve the skin’s health, elasticity, and hydration, among other benefits. Collagen supplements are typically available in tablets, capsules, liquids and powders, and they can come from a variety of sources. Most come from bovine, porcine, or marine sources, and some studies show that marine collagen might be better absorbed and contain fewer toxins.
Studies on the use of collagen recommend doses between 2.5 and 10 grams per day, with some recommendations going up to 30 grams per day. Like most supplements, collagen supplements are not regulated by the US FDA, so it’s a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before taking it.
2. Vitamin D
The skin-related vitamin that most people think of first is vitamin D. That’s because, when your skin absorbs the sun’s UV rays, it converts cholesterol in your bloodstream to vitamin D. This vitamin is then routed to your liver and kidneys, and from there to other parts of the body, where it is used to create healthy cells.
This includes skin cells, because vitamin D has been found to be one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy skin tone. Vitamin D is also used medically to treat sunburn and psoriasis, because it enhances the skin's immune system and helps to destroy free radicals.
Because it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from the sun without risking sunburn, many doctors and nutritionists recommend that we take daily supplements of vitamin D—for our general health, but also for our skin health.
The Linus Pauling Institute recommends a daily vitamin D intake of 600 IU (international units) per day, more if you are pregnant or over 70. The safe upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IU per day, and it is possible to take too much, so please keep this recommended upper limit in mind.
3. Vitamin C
When it comes to keeping your skin healthy and youthful-looking, one of the most important nutrients is vitamin C. High levels of this vitamin are naturally found in the skin, where its antioxidant (and thus cancer-fighting) qualities and its role in the production of collagen pretty much make its job description “keeping your skin healthy.”
Deficiencies in this vitamin are rare because it is added to so many food and cosmetic products. But it has been shown that taking additional supplements of vitamin C increases its natural effect on the skin, reducing cell damage and speeding the healing process. It even enhances the effectiveness of sunscreens and has been shown in some cases to prevent dry skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
These are all reasons why vitamin C is an ingredient in so many anti-aging skincare products—and why you might consider adding more of it to your diet if your goal is to keep your skin healthy. Most nutritionists recommend taking 1,000 mg per day as a supplement.
Vitamin C is water soluble and gets removed from your body in your urine, so you don’t have to worry about taking too much. In fact, you can safely take the recommended amount and also add more vitamin C to your diet in the form of citrus fruits, strawberries, spinach, and broccoli. Plus, if you use skin creams or moisturizers to treat redness, wrinkles, dryness, and age spots, check to make sure they contain vitamin C, because that can make them more effective.
4. Vitamin E
Another antioxidant that can help to protect your skin from sun damage is vitamin E. In the skin, it works with vitamin C to strengthen cell walls. When applied in skin care products, it absorbs the energy from UV light, potentially reducing UV light’s effects of wrinkles, sagging skin, and skin cancer.
Taken as a supplement, vitamin E helps to prevent processes linked to skin aging, like lipid peroxidation and collagen cross-linking.
In the body, vitamin E is naturally produced by sebum, an oily substance emitted by your skin’s pores. A sufficient amount of sebum is considered key to keeping your skin conditioned and preventing it from becoming dry. If you have consistently dry skin, taking vitamin E supplements may help to counteract a lack of sebum.
You can add more vitamin E to your diet by eating more nuts and seeds and using more safflower oil and sunflower oil in your cooking. You can also take a multivitamin or separate vitamin E supplement. Most doctors recommend about 15 mg (22.4 IU) per day, with a strongly-worded recommended maximum of 180 mg (400 IU) per day. If you’re out in the sun a lot, you can also use topical creams and sunscreens that contain vitamin E to minimize the damage done by the sun’s UV rays.
5. Vitamin K
Vitamin K performs a critical function in the body, because it aids in blood clotting, which is an important part of your body’s ability to heal wounds, bruises, and other injuries. Although it doesn’t do as much to work from the inside to protect your skin as the other vitamins we’ve mentioned, vitamin K has been used topically and as an oral supplement to reduce skin conditions such as scars, dark spots, stretch marks, and spider veins. It is also used post-surgery to help reduce swelling and bruising.
Some studies have even shown that vitamin K—especially when combined with vitamin A—works well to reduce bruises and those stubborn dark circles that appear under our eyes as we get older.
Most health experts feel that we don’t necessarily need to take vitamin K supplements unless we’ve been directed to by a doctor. If you do choose to take supplements, adults need 90-120 mcg (micrograms) per day, which is often supplied by a daily dose of most popular multivitamin products. You can also increase your intake of vitamin K by eating more spinach, kale, green beans, lettuce, and cabbage.
6. B-complex vitamins
Another group of nutrients that show excellent promise for improving skin health are the B-complex vitamins. These vitamins, like vitamin C, are water-soluble, and thus easily lost through sweat or urine during the day, even if you get enough of them in your diet.
Fortunately, supplements that include all 12 B-complex vitamins are readily available. Research into their effectiveness for skin health varies, but at least one 2018 study found that B-complex vitamins benefitted the wound-healing process and caused wounds to heal faster. Other studies have indicated that B-complex vitamins in creams and lotions promote healing when applied directly to the skin. Vitamin B-3 (also known as niacinamide) has been shown in another study to reduce some signs of aging skin, such as dark spots.
Many doctors recommend taking 100 mg (milligrams) of B-complex vitamins per day. Again, if you check the label of your daily multivitamin, you may find that it supplies that much already. But if you choose to take additional supplements, there is little danger of taking too much, because they do not persist in the body the way that vitamin D and vitamin E do. Dietary sources of B-complex vitamins include nuts, meat, seafood, eggs, and seeds.
Numerous studies have shown that vitamins and minerals play an important role in protecting your skin and keeping it healthy. Vitamins C and E in particular play important roles in protecting your skin from the sun, as a deficiency in either one increases your risk of skin problems and even skin cancer.
If you eat a sensible, well-balanced diet, you may already be getting enough of the vitamins and supplements we’ve discussed in this article. If you’re not sure, consult your doctor. A simple blood test can tell whether you have any vitamin deficiencies, and the doctor can tell you whether taking supplements or using products that contain them can help to keep your skin looking healthy.