The Four Essential Vitamins for Radiant Skin

by Carla Hernandez, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner May 31, 2013

Healthy, radiant skinThe beauty business, a $43 billion industry, is filled with topical solutions to make skin healthier and clearer. Improvements in complexion and tone and even promises of miracle anti-aging effects lure consumers to buy, buy, buy.

As large as the beauty industry is, however, only a very small part is focused on the very important internal factor that contributes to skin health.

As a Nutritional Therapist, skin care is a subject near and dear to my heart. For years I suffered with skin issues, specifically acne and red, dry bumps, also known as keratosis pilaris, on the back of my arms and upper thighs. It has taken me years to understand the cause of my skin issues, even with a healthy diet in place.

It is my most passionate subject to address and work with in regards to health. The one thing I have learned from clients with skin issues is that there is no one way to address them, yet I have always seen improvement when targeting internal health rather than the pure focus being externally.

Addressing deficiencies of particular nutrients beneficial to skin health is a great starting point, but may not be the sole answer.  Any internal inflammation can also affect the appearance of the skin. This could include consuming inflammatory foods, food sensitivities, parasites or digestive distress that can lead to leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth, malabsorption, and make one more susceptible to infections.

Dr. Georgiana Donadio, founder of the National Institute of Whole Health states:

“Your skin is the fingerprint of what is going on inside your body, and all skin conditions, from psoriasis to acne to aging, are the manifestations of your body’s internal needs, including its nutritional needs.”

The first step to start working on improving your skin is most definitely through diet. This will begin to address the root problem, as using special creams and soaps is only treating symptoms, and even then does a minimal job at best. Poor nutrition in many cases can be the answer for many people. Even if it may not be the only solution one may need, it is crucial for allowing the skin to heal and reduce inflammation.

Your skin needs many nutrients: vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and antioxidants to keep it looking it’s best.  Lets take a look at four specific vitamins to make sure you are getting in your diet as they are critical to skin health.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A, also known as retinol is frequently used in conventional skin treatments, both topically and internally, especially in regards to acne.  Deficiencies of vitamin A can exacerbate skin conditions and can cause symptoms such as dry, flaky, rough and scaly skin. A common sign of vitamin A deficiency is keratosis pilaris, which results in red bumps on the back of arms. I personally had this for years, and recently have been able to successfully address it by supplementing with true vitamin A, but also by treating the deeper cause of why there was a vitamin A deficiency in the first place.

Beta carotene is commonly mistaken as true Vitamin A. The main difference is that true vitamin A is the active form that can be used by the body, where beta carotene needs to be converted into the active form.  The conversion of beta carotene to retinol in the body is inefficient at best and in those with gut problems, may not occur at all.

In marketing there is no distinction between these forms and therefore many people think they are getting vitamin A through plant foods, such as carrots, leafy greens and sweet potatoes, when they are really only receiving beta carotene.

Food Sources: True sources of vitamin A come form animal sources such as organ meats like liver and kidney, pastured cream, butter and egg yolks, as well as cod liver oil. It is also important to note that vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin which means you need to consume fat with it to absorb it, especially with plant sources. It is much easier for the body to use the straight form of vitamin A, rather than relying on needed co-factors to make the conversion from plant sources. It is these nutrient dense sources of Vitamin A from animal foods that can really help to improve overall skin health with increased dietary intake.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has many benefits and truly is a super nutrient. Being an antioxidant, it helps to repair damage caused by overexposure to sun or toxins, especially when consumed with vitamin E. It also helps to support collagen and overall skin tone- a natural anti-ager and rejuvenator. You can safely take a whole food vitamin C as a supplement from 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Just be aware that high dosages of vitamin C can cause loose bowels, so adjust accordingly.

Food sources: Citrus, acerola cherries, camu camu berries, bell peppers, guava, leafy greens, broccoli, parsley, strawberries.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another common nutrient and antioxidant in mainstream skin treatments. It is helpful in reducing the appearance of wrinkles, and like whole food based vitamin C, helps to repair damage. Like vitamin A, it is a fat soluble vitamin, but the most abundant found in the skin. Be sure to eat whole food sources with healthy fats to absorb and utilize.

Food sources: Wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, chard, prunes, tomatoes, cabbage, asparagus, avocados and olive oil.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is a lesser known vitamin in mainstream health, and therefore has been a missing link in the modern diet. It is known to help with calcium utilization and absorption, the key factor in maintaining both bone and cardiovascular health.

More recently research has shown Vitamin K2’s importance in activating proteins responsible for healthy tissues, making it imperative to prevent and reduce wrinkles. It is also critical for the proper absorption of Vitamins A and D. Vitamin A is recommended frequently by dermatologists, but when was the last time you were told to supplement with vitamin K2 in conjunction? Food sources are best as they will have a natural synergy with vitamin A and D.

Food sources: Fermented foods like sauerkraut and natto along with full fat pastured dairy products such as butter and cream, egg yolks, and liver. Note that conventional dairy products from grain fed animals will NOT contain vitamin K2 unless they are fermented which adds K2 via the fermentation process. Fermented cod liver oil mixed with butter oil is a great way to supplement.

Make sure that you take into consideration food sensitivities, as many people may not be able to tolerate some food sources of these vitamins, such as pastured dairy. Always listen to your body and watch for reactions, immediate and delayed.  Stay tuned for more nutrients and underlying causes of skin conditions to come!

Additional Information

http://skincareindustrynews.com/breaking-news/skin-care-industry-trends

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836433/

http://www.wholehealtheducation.com/news/pdfs/nutrients-for-healthy-skin.pdf

 

About the Author

carla hernandezCarla is a  Board Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) who uses nutrition, diet and lifestyle interventions to support physiological mechanisms within the body. She is the founder of Wise Roots Nutrition, which is an integrative approach that focuses on customized plans to support the root cause of a person’s health challenge.

Carla educates and empowers you to make responsible and healthful food choices that restore balance and proper function to your body, as well as offers lab testing to provide accurate recommendations and effective solutions. She believes in finding the root cause of a condition, rather than just treating the symptoms. Carla works with people locally in San Francisco, as well as long distance via phone and Skype. She specializes in Digestive Issues, Weight Loss and Skin Conditions.

Sign up to get Carla’s weekly nutrition tips, ideas, and the latest health information on her site, wiserootsnutrition.com or connect with her on Facebook.

Picture Credit

 

Comments (75)

  1. Pingback: BEAUTY ON A BUDGET – 5 Great Tips to Save Money on Skin Care

  2. Pingback: Why Your Natural Skin Care Routine is Empty Without the Right Vitamins | Education Needs

  3. Crystal Topham Coston via Facebook December 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    I started taking fermented cod liver oil a few weeks ago, and my skin cleared up suddenly and was a very nice surprise. In the middle of pregnancy even. I normally break out terribly the entire 9 months.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Four Essential Vitamins for Radiant Skin | Wise Roots Nutrition

  5. Thank you Carla, for delving into this much overlooked topic.

    The media and the skin care industry as a whole attempt to seduce women into thinking that there everlasting beauty hinges upon the use of the ‘latest and greatest’ skin care technology or ingredients. I am in 100% agreement with you that the acquisition beautiful skin is an ‘inside-out’ process. It seems only logical to me that when one is giving the body what it needs on the inside – that will undoubtedly be reflected in the way you look. And no $300 jar of anti-aging cream will do that for you:)

    Unfortunately, most people don’t really even know how to properly nourish their bodies, as conventional health care practitioners are limited in this knowledge. You have provided a wonderful outline for us to follow to ensure we are getting the skin enhancing nutrients we need. When following these guidelines, topical treatments are merely an adjunct to beautiful skin – at best.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
  6. Thanks for a well written article. I agree 100% that vitamins are essential for
    a healthy skin. I would add that one should avoid drinking to much coffee or tea
    since they dehydrate the body, and might flush out all the nutrients from the
    vitamins in food.

    In terms of allergies, we are seeing an explosion of people with different sensitivites to food, and my self have cut out food that contains MSG and aspartame. I was suffering from various health issues, but they have more or less dissaperared after I stopped consuming food with these ingredients in them.

    Reply
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  8. Do you think if I start my diet from juicing and blending, it will help me with my skin problems?
    You wrote about various vitamins we need for our body. I think the diet with juicing may help. I may combine many vegetables and fruits in my juices and sometimes to make smoothies. This may help to balance my daily routine and boost me with a lot of vitamins.

    Reply
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  10. I am pregnant and I’ve noticed patches of eczema on my skin (back and a spot on my face). Is this most likely hormonal or is there something I can do about it? I have celiac and in the past I’ve only had problems with eczema when I’ve consumed gluten.

    Reply
    • It depends on your current diet. You may not be eating gluten anymore, but some other food that could be aggravating this, especially if you eat the same foods everyday you may have sensitivity to something. Stress I have found can also greatly contribute to eczema, which can cause your hormones to fluctuate.

      Reply
  11. What would you recommend for adult acne and oily skin? I have PCOS/hormone issues and have struggled with acne for years. I’ve cut out gluten. I’ve heard I should cut out dairy as well.

    Reply
    • Hi Jennifer,

      Every case of acne is unique and recommendations are different depending on the cause, but generally taking out gluten and dairy is a great start. I would look at your adrenal and thyroid as well, those are typically good starting points to address PCOS symptoms. I will be talking about this more in depth in coming up posts.
      Carla\’s last post: Can Calcium Supplements Be Dangerous?

      Reply
    • I was able to resolve my cyclical adult acne by taking high quality non-synthetic E, K2 and C. I already was taking FCLO (for A) and D. I have been eating WAPF for awhile but for some reason I needed this “boost.” My skin was dry, though, not oily. (The E resolved that in a few days.) I also make sure to eat foods with magnesium, zinc and selenium.
      I had tried cutting out gluten and dairy but nothing changed. I suspected the root cause was low metabolism. The supplements also got my temps up – no overeating needed and no extra weight to deal with (extra weight = more estrogen which contributes to low thyroid.) The next step will be to wean off and replace with food sources. After years of trying different things, I was surprised how well something this simple worked, and how quickly.

      Reply
  12. My comment also disappeared. Any help for someone whose skin has worsened dramatically after adopting a WAPF diet, including cod liver oil and butter oil? Dry skin, keratosis pilaris, and perioral dermatitis are the main symptoms.

    Reply
    • Perhaps an overdose of Vitamin A (and/or other vitamins)? A traditional diet including cod liver oil and butter oil contains a lot of Vitamin A; that should not be underestimated. It is toxic in higher dose even when it comes from natural sources.

      Reply
    • Hi Esther,
      I answered this above with your first post:
      I had a similar reaction when I increased my fat intake. It could be that your not properly digesting fats and that can cause skin problems, especially dry and flaky skin. If your having digestion problems that is the first place to start. I will be writing a post on this soon!
      You can take a look at some skin resources and products I like here in the meantime:
      http://wiserootsnutrition.com/resources/
      Carla\’s last post: Can Calcium Supplements Be Dangerous?

      Reply
  13. I posted something hours ago but I don’t know what happened to it. Any specific recommendations for psoriasis? Im also on the GAPS diet.

    Reply
    • Hi Alexis, I think I answered it above, but Ill repost here:
      Psoriasis can be tricky because it is an autoimmune condition. I usually take an in depth look at a clients diet first and foremost, and then digestion, adrenals and even food sensitivities. Every individual is different but I try to support the immune system as much as possible with this condition. I usually always have people’s vitamin D levels checked as this can be extremely beneficial.
      Carla\’s last post: Can Calcium Supplements Be Dangerous?

      Reply
  14. I also have a passion for skincare. Recently I have been making tallow and putting that onto my face. It’s been about a week and my skin is looking radiant, clear and just happy. What do you like to use for your face?

    Reply
  15. I had the keratosis for years. Recently I realized it had gone away. I have been supplementing with vitamin D for two years and it’s finally raised my level of D. Also, I quit using shampoo and other harmful chemicals on my body! My arms are silky smooth and I’m over 50!
    Karen in Texas\’s last post: Kidding and Selling

    Reply
  16. What about the minerals necessary for good skin? Minerals and vitamins work together. Why do so many professionals write incomplete articles?

    Reply
  17. Cindy Landskron via Facebook May 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Absolutely necessary to eat them. No guarantee of what you’re getting in the buy and swallow kind…

    Reply
    • Carla Hernandez, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner May 31, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      I think it’s great for symptom relief but I don’t have enough experience with it to have an opinion using them long term. I don’t think it would address the bigger concerns for why someone is having skin problems in the first place though.

      Reply
  18. Ive had darn near perfect skin (with the exception of an occasional pimple) my whole life. Ive also had a SAD diet my whole life…Im 30. My dad did teach us to eat no white bread, no hydrogenated oils and no Kool-Aid lol So I thought I ate pretty good. I have two boys, the oldest almost four and the youngest just turned two. They’re exactly a year in a half apart. I breastfed my oldest for 8 months (so upset I didn’t do it longer but I wasn’t as informed then) and I breastfed my youngest a little over a year. About four months into breastfeeding my youngest, my skin started REALLY acting up…extremely dry hands, dry spots everywhere…which in turn is now psoriasis. I started the GAPS diet almost a year ago (falling off for a few months in the middle) and four of the psoriasis spots have gone away. When I was pregnant with my second I literally had about a half gallon of PASTUERIZED milk a day…yuck, terrible. Either way, combined with my bad eating my whole life and having both kids back to back plus breastfeeding, I think I depleted my nutrients and psoriasis laid somewhere dormant in me and I made it come to the surface. So my question would be…what do you recommend, specifically to help boost my healing? We’d like to have another baby or two (we come from big families) but I want to have some more healing before that happens so my kids are as healthy as they can be. I already plan to add more magnesium and gelatin to my diet…its in my cart on Amazon right now lol Anything else?

    Reply
    • Hi Alexis, Psoriasis can be tricky because it is an autoimmune condition. I usually take an in depth look at a clients diet first and foremost, and then digestion, adrenals and even food sensitivities. Every individual is different but I try to support the immune system as much as possible with this condition. I usually always have people’s vitamin D levels checked as this can be extremely beneficial.
      Carla\’s last post: Can Calcium Supplements Be Dangerous?

      Reply
      • Hi! I understand you “usually take an in depth look at a clients diet first and foremost, and then digestion, adrenals and even food sensitivities.” Who can I contact to have this done for me (scalp psoriasis) and my son (keratosis). We’re in rural MN. Is it particular type of doctor?

        Reply
  19. Cindy Ellis Bauman via Facebook May 31, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I really wanna jump on this, but I’m a wimp. I’m not sure I could do the foods required to get these vitamins. Is it absolutely necessary to eat them, or are there vitamins I could buy and just swallow? (Just call me the “picky” one.) LOL!

    Reply
    • Carla Hernandez, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner May 31, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Hi Cindy! Yes, foods have the best absorption but I understand being picky. Try to prepare them in different ways or sneak egg yolks in smoothies. Don’t give up on them just yet ;) Yes, some of the links to different vitamins are on the post, such as vitamins A, C, D and the cod liver oil are all great alternatives.

      Reply
  20. Please note that Vit A can be toxic and should not be taken in doses over 25000 IU per day…counting the fish oils and butter oils. Also if you are dairy sensitive, you can take natto for Vit K2. It is a safe soy product. You can check it out on the Weston Price site.

    Reply
    • The toxicity concern is related to synthetic Vitamin A. Numerous discussions in response to repeated warnings about vitamin A toxicity appear in several interesting articles from the Wise Traditions journals, also available online. According to the vitamin A section of the Vitamin Primer on the Weston Price website, “High levels of natural vitamin A have no toxic effects, in spite of the medical establishment’s dire warnings to the contrary.”

      Researchers at the Weston A. Price Foundation have determined that vitamin A works synergistically with vitamin D, and with an adequate base level of vitamin D of about 1,000 IU per day, vitamin A is not toxic even at very high doses, even in the millions of units. The best ratio of A:D is 10:1 (10 units of A to 1 unit of D).

      Here’s an especially helpful quote from an article on the westonaprice.org website that
      states, “…concerns about vitamin A toxicity are exaggerated. While some forms of synthetic vitamin A found in supplements can be toxic at only moderately high doses, fat-soluble vitamin A naturally found in foods like cod liver oil, liver, and butterfat is safe at up to ten times the doses of water-soluble, solidified and emulsified vitamin A found in some supplements that produce toxicity. Additionally, the vitamin D found in cod liver oil and butterfat from pasture raised animals protects against vitamin A toxicity, and allows one to consume a much higher amount of vitamin A before it becomes toxic. Liver from land mammals is high in vitamin A but low in vitamin D, and should therefore be consumed with other vitamin D-rich foods such as lard or bacon from pasture-raised pigs, egg yolks, and oily fish, or during months in which UV-B light is sufficient to provide one with adequate vitamin D.”

      Helpful sources:
      http://www.westonaprice.org/cod-liver-oil/cod-liver-oilbasics#clarify

      http://www.westonaprice.org/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-primer

      http://www.westonaprice.org/fat-soluble-activators/vitamin-a-saga

      Reply
  21. Interesting article!

    Do all fermented foods contain vitamin K2, both fermented animal foods AND vegetables? Is it because the microorganisms involved in the fermenting process produce this vitamin?

    Reply
  22. During the past year, after switching over to a WAPF diet (as well as being pregnant and then breastfeeding), my skin has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. My keratosis pilaris flared up, my skin got extremely dry, and I developed perioral dermatitis. I took cod liver oil and ate all the right things. After reading about the dangers of PUFAs, I even began to use less olive oil for cooking. I am seeing a slight improvement after dramatically increasing olive oil consumption and decreasing lard and other saturated fats. However, it doesn’t make sense to me. The only thing I was using on my skin was coconut oil, and it did not seem to help any of my skin problems at all.

    Reply
    • I had a similar reaction when I increased my fat intake. It could be that your not properly digesting fats and that can cause skin problems, especially dry and flaky skin. If your having digestion problems that is the first place to start. I will be writing a post on this soon!
      Carla\’s last post: Can Calcium Supplements Be Dangerous?

      Reply
    • About using coconut oil as a moisturizer… I tried it and expected it to work wonders because lots of people were raving about it. I couldn’t bring myself to use the regular ‘toxic’ petrochemical lotions anymore and so, over a few weeks (not having luck finding an alternative I liked), my skin started drying out… and THEN I started using coconut oil on this already dried-out skin – and it made it worse, apparently. I mean, my skin had never been so parched before (and I live in a humid, tropical city) – I thought it might have been something autoimmune or systemic.

      I went to the dermatologist out of desperation, who said that oil on dry skin makes it even more dry because oil doesn’t lock in hydration (and if there’s no hydration in the first place, it’s even worse). This was a ‘conventionally-trained’ derm, so I left some room for any bias she might have against ‘natural remedies’ – in any case, I stopped moisturizing with the oil and found a non-toxic lotion at a store (Danish brand called Urtekram) and things seem to be back to normal, hydration-wise. I’m bummed about this… but maybe coconut oil works if your skin is well hydrated to begin with…? I will continue to Eat coconut oil and all those good fats, of course, and let it work from the inside out.

      Reply
  23. I typically do not do dairy as I feel a have a sensitivy with congestion and generally feel nose stuffiness. However, I do take the FCLO and High Butter Oil. When I recently stopped the High butter oil my cogestion a stuffiness cleared. What do you reccomend in place of the butter oil? Also what do you reccommend as the best source of Vitamin C- I was taking the Radiance C capsules, but not sure how many to take to get the recommended 500 to 1000 mg. Thanks for the great post.

    Reply
    • I would stick with the other food sources of K2 like liver and egg yolks. Natto is also high in K2 though it is soy, so careful here. Vitamin C is easily obtained through the diet, especially in the summer time with the array of fresh produce and fruits. If you want to supplement, just look at the serving size to see how much to take to get to the 500-1000mg.
      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  24. April Harris via Facebook May 31, 2013 at 10:23 am

    this is an excellent article. I have that ketosis pilaris and have tried everything. Now I know wht the deal is and Im on it. And it Sseems that cod liver oil is good for so many things.

    Reply
    • Carla Hernandez, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner May 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      Absolutely! This is wonderful to improve skin texture and tone.

      Reply

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