Vitamins for skin health

September 1, 2007

Vitamins are being talked about for their ability to help repair and reverse the signs of aging. Some vitamins are better for this than others, read on to find out which are best.

Key Points

If you're like millions of people all over world, you probably take some sort of vitamin supplement to maintain your health.

Some people swear by supplements. Others prefer deriving their daily quotient from natural sources. How does your skin get its daily dose? How important is this mode of delivery?

Vitamins have always played a role in maintaining skin health, but, lately, they have moved front and center for their ability to help repair and reverse the signs of aging. Some vitamins also provide benefits for your hair and nails, and some vitamins are simply better than others. So, how do you know what to take and how much?

Fortunately, with the more sophisticated anti-aging products on the drugstore shelves and in dermatologists' and cosmetic surgeons' offices, a lot of skin-beneficial vitamins can be applied topically.

Among the most beneficial are derivatives of vitamins A, E and C, which protect against damaging free radicals. Another vitamin, provitamin B5, is also purported to have anti-aging benefits in skincare products.

WHAT'S ALL THIS BUZZ ABOUT FREE RADICALS?

Free radicals are highly reactive, unstable molecules that cause damage to healthy cells, leading to internal aging, as well as visible external signs of aging.

Each day, skin is exposed to trillions of free radicals. Some are created inside the body through normal, necessary chemical and metabolic reactions, others are created externally by environmental factors, such as pollution, UV radiation from sun exposure, stress and smoking.

Overexposure to free radicals damages cells' functional abilities, it also damages cellular structure itself, resulting in a next-generation of cells that is less healthy and less productive than the cells from which they came. In the case of our skin, exposure to free radicals can mean that, over time, the cells responsible for collagen and elastin production work less efficiently to produce the skin protein necessary for skin smoothness, firmness and elasticity. This process happens gradually, but often initially manifests in fine lines and wrinkles.

It is believed that the topical application of antioxidants in some skincare products plays a part in slowing down free-radical damage.

Many skincare products contain ingredients that claim to offer the right amount of anti-aging ingredients to keep your skin looking healthier and more youthful. Brands ranging from department store lines, such as La Prairie and Chanel, to drugstore brands, such as Olay's Regenerist, feature a variety of formulations to help skin look firmer with fewer fine lines and wrinkles and a more even tone.

New research has also produced skincare products containing a unique niacin molecule that penetrates the skin and helps repair and prevent damage from free radicals at a molecular level. The molecule, called Pro-niacin, can be found in many dermatologists' offices in the NIA 24 brand. It is also effective in helping to reduce hyperpigmentation or "age spots."

What about your nails? They can benefit from vitamins as well. An oral supplement called Appearex, made of biotin, a member of the Bcomplex family of vitamins, has been clinically shown to help strengthen nails by affecting their growth from inside the body, producing a stronger nail that is less likely to peel and break.

So, it seems that the ageold adage, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," could have a 21st Century iteration: "A few vitamins a day help keep aging at bay!"