Our resident beauty columnist, Ava Welsing-Kitcher, is ready to answer all your questions.
With certain vitamins getting all the attention (cough, vitamin C), it’s easy to overlook the whole roster. Some aren’t directly known by their alphabetical name, such as retinoids (vitamin A). Others are somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades, like niacinamide (vitamin B3), effectively tackling a range of issues from oiliness to uneven texture. Just as we gulp down a cocktail of supplements, most skincare vitamins can be cocktailed together for boosted efficacy – but not all play well together. “Don’t directly combine vitamins A and C, as this can cause irritation,” warns skin-health specialist and founder of the Black Skin Directory and West Room Aesthetics, Dija Ayodele. “If you want the benefits of both ingredients, stick to C in your morning routine and A at night – and when it comes to everything else, what your skin can tolerate is very individual, so definitely seek professional help on the right routine for you.” Read on for our guide to all the vitamins worth knowing about.
I dived deep into the retinoid world in a previous column, but here’s the concise version. All retinoids are derived from vitamin A, usually from animal sources, and each has a different name; you’ve probably seen them listed as retinol, retinaldehyde, tretinoin, all with varying strengths and availability either on prescription, over the counter or on shop shelves. Hollywood facialist Shani Darden’s offering contains an encapsulated retinol that slowly releases over time, while loosening dead skin cells with lactic acid.
Known as the gentler alternative to vitamin C, for sensitive and dry skin types, vitamin E is found in rich plant oils and often comes in this form in skincare. “Another antioxidant, it protects the skin from environmental and lifestyle damage as well as repairing it,” says Dija. “It’s naturally anti-inflammatory and also very moisturising for drier skin, and it’s at its best when combined with other antioxidant ingredients, such as vitamin C and ferulic acid, to make a comprehensive and well-rounded antioxidant product team.” Aurelia’s nourishing serum comes with a shot of E, plus omega-rich baobab and kigela africana to soothe and revitalise.
The hero of this lightweight, non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic gel is vitamin B5, otherwise known as pantothenic acid or panthenol. “The acid is essential for normal functioning of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin),” says Dija. “It’s anti-inflammatory, moisturising, helps to reduce water loss and improve hydration, plus assists the skin in maintaining suppleness and elasticity. Studies have shown that vitamin B5 can speed up the wound-healing process when the skin is damaged or injured, plus panthenol is great for dry and sensitive types.”
Commonly known as niacinamide, vitamin B3 is a total powerhouse. “Part of the vitamin B complex (which includes folic acid and B12), it reduces moisture loss that can happen in the upper layers of the skin, while supporting and regulating the division of cells so that the skin functions more efficiently,” explains Dija. “Additionally, niacinamide plays a hand in controlling oil and breakouts, making it perfect for oily skin types.” I’d be at such a loss without niacinamide in my routine; ever since discovering it via Medik8’s milky serum, it has calmed redness and blemishes and evened out irregular texture.
“The vitamin K family is still under review,” says Dija. “Its many skincare benefits are purported, but some are still unclear – so it’s not one I’m backing just yet, as more research is needed. Because its health function is to help with blood clotting (hence why babies are given a vitamin K injection soon after delivery to help with wound healing), some research says it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, and its blood-clotting function makes it great for brightening the under-eye area.” Omorovicza makes the most of vitamin K’s alleged capillary-mending powers by combining it with arnica, to reduce puffiness, plus cooling cucumber extract.
It’s the only vitamin our body can create itself by being in the sun, which is why its levels plummet in the dark depths of winter. “Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin – is essential for healthy bones, but also a must for the skin, especially for acne, psoriasis and rosacea, due to its antimicrobial activity” describes Dija. It’s best taken orally rather than topically, to metabolise in the skin, and I couldn’t survive the grey season without Superfood LX’s Mood Architect supplement. “Take 10mcg daily – insufficient amounts of it make skin seem thinner and more fragile, especially in darker skin tones, as melanin can be a barrier to the skin absorbing enough sun rays,” Dija explains. While I don’t use Drunk Elephant’s golden-bronze drops for the vitamin D component as such, it’s also a year-round essential for restoring olive, brown and dark skin tones back to vitality.
Vitamin C, or l-ascorbic acid, is a daytime-routine must-have, amping up our SPF’s protection abilities by up to 40% and guarding against free radicals, like pollution, that speed up the ageing process. I was using vitamin C all wrong until a year ago, when Dija set me straight. “Those with black skin especially see a brighter complexion after using it, but it’s a common misconception that it clears hyperpigmentation – look to retinoids, niacinamide, kojic acid and arbutin for that.” While my sensitive skin can only handle low percentages of it, other members of the Wardrobe ICONS team love Révive’s potent and renewing serum, which is housed in a dual chamber for a longer lasting, more effective product (vitamin C expires quickly and becomes unstable the longer it is exposed to water).
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