Skin Care Series - Vitamins for your skin!
Remember when our parents used to remind us to take our vitamins every day if we wanted to grow up to be healthy and strong? Well, it turns out they were right. Not only are vitamins good for our bones and other structures in our bodies, but certain vitamins are also extremely valuable to our skin. Vitamins A, C, and E are scientifically proven to be beneficial to the skin, and I recommend them on a daily basis for my patients.
If there was one skin care product I could have all of my patients use, it would be a product containing Vitamin A. Vitamin A is the basis for retinols and retinoids (Tretinoin, Retin-A), two products which I love using with my patients. How do they work? Well, vitamin A derivatives penetrate deeply into the skin layers and work at many different levels. In the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis, the retinols and retinoids work to increase the production of new, healthy skin cells, while simultaneously promoting the exfoliation and removal of old, dead and dull skin cells. The result is fresh, healthy skin.
The retinols and retinoids also penetrate deeper into the dermis, and this is where the magic happens. The dermis is where the majority of the collagen lives in our skin, and as we age, we lose collagen. This loss of collagen results in loose, saggy skin. The Vitamin A derivatives work to actually increase the production of collagen in the dermis. Another cool feature is that the retinoids and retinols protect the collagen that you still have, so they’re doing double duty to keep your dermis healthy and strong.
Now what’s the difference between retinol and retinoids? Essentially it boils down to the strength of the product. Retinols are fantastic products for patients with no prior history of taking vitamin-A containing products. They are not as strong as tretinoin and Retin-A products, therefore are a great starting point for patients. If you think of the skin like you think about your muscles, when you go to the gym you don’t start out with 100-lb barbells. You start with a lower weight and with time you advance to higher and higher weights. For my patients, I like to have them begin with retinol products and after 6 months or so they are usually ready to advance to retinoid products like tretinoin.
It’s very important to use Vitamin A as directed. I recommend that my patients begin using a small amount (pea-size droplet) once every three nights for the first few weeks. This allows the skin to grow accustomed to the product. After slowly increasing the frequency of applications, the goal is to be able to use the product nightly, without any resultant redness or irritation. Having some increased flaking of the skin is normal, and will eventually subside.
The next wünder vitamins I’ll discuss are the free-radical fighting, antioxidant containing vitamins C and E. First off, what are free radicals you might ask? Free radicals are formed as a result of numerous chemical reactions in our bodies. These small little devils circulate through our bodies and cause oxidative stress, which results in damage to our cells and even our DNA. As a result of the oxidative stress, important tissues like collagen, elastin, and even our skin are damaged irreparably. While our bodies do produce some chemicals that help fight free radicals, it doesn’t produce enough, so that’s where taking in antioxidants to fight the oxidative stress comes in.
Vitamin C is without a doubt the best antioxidant you could use for your skin to fight free-radical damage. Science has proven that it improves skin quality and texture, and can even help with collagen production. Vitamin E is another antioxidant that is extremely helpful when paired with Vitamin C. Vitamin E is easily absorbed by the skin, and carries the Vitamin C through the skin to the deeper layers where it can absorb and remove the free radicals that arise. That’s why you’ll see these two vitamins paired together all the time, like peanut butter and jelly!
Now that you know which vitamins are best for your skin, for the next installment I will talk about the importance of your daily maintenance skin care regimen.