When we look in the mirror as part of our daily skincare routine and spot a new blemish, wrinkle, or dull patch of skin, most of us reach for an appropriately marketed beauty product without much thought. We may know this product treats acne and that one smooths wrinkles, but we aren’t necessarily sure why, or how, they do it. And we would hardly ever think to eat or drink something to treat our skin problems.
Perhaps it’s time to rethink that approach. Our skin is the body’s largest organ, and it’s affected by everything we put on it, as well as everything we ingest. Remedying poor skin requires us to treat not only our symptoms but the root causes as well, and that begins with good nutrition.
B vitamins in particular support skin health in a multitude of ways, making their inclusion in your daily regimen — whether through diet, supplements, personal care products, or a combination of the three — an effective and safe way to treat skin issues.
Vitamin B: What Is It Good For?
The eight B vitamins are necessary for nearly every process within the body. They help turn food into energy and affect the health of our nervous system, metabolism, organs, muscles, skin, and hair. They’re also essential for cell growth, development, and overall functioning. As such, they offer serious benefits to skin health, since our skin is constantly regenerating. The healthier your skin, the faster it renews.
However, we’ve got a relatively small storage tank for B vitamins, which means we need to keep refilling it each day. Since each B vitamin impacts skin health differently, it’s helpful to know which foods provide what vitamins, and the role each vitamin plays in the body.
What Happens If We’re Deficient?
A Vitamin B deficiency can wreak havoc on your skin, causing acne, rashes, dry and flaky skin, cracked lips, and wrinkles. It can also make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, personal care products, and other potential aggressors, and can accordingly lead to redness and irritation.
Eight Vitamins, One B-Complex: Your Recipe for Glowing Skin
B Vitamins offer a myriad of skin health benefits, but two of the most significant are cell renewal and stress relief (and who doesn’t need help managing stress?). As you’ll see below, the benefits play out a little differently with each of the eight parts within the complex.
Because they’re water-soluble rather than fat-soluble, B vitamins are most effective when taken orally as a supplement — an easy way to get your daily allowance of all eight in one dose — or ingested through food sources.
What it does: Thiamine was the first B Vitamin ever discovered. It helps to convert glucose into energy, aids in wound healing, and is essential for proper nerve functions. Sometimes called the “anti-stress vitamin,” it bolsters the immune system and soothes the nervous system, helping prevent stress-related breakouts.
Where to find it: Whole grains and fortified cereals/grains, wheat germ, legumes, sunflower seeds, mussels, pork
What it does: B2 aids cell turnover and collagen maintenance, which protects the structural integrity of your skin, reduces inflammation, and speeds wound healing. It also helps with mucus secretion in the skin, thus preventing the dryness that leads to oil production (and therefore acne) and improves zinc absorption, another important mineral for skin health.
Where to find it: Dairy products, mushrooms, beef liver, spinach, almonds, seaweed
What it does: A skin-conditioning powerhouse, B3 treats a variety of skin conditions and irritations, including dermatitis, acne, rosacea, eczema, dry and sun-damaged skin, and hyperpigmentation. It’s also a strong anti-aging ingredient and as such, features prominently in skin care products targeted at fine lines and wrinkles.
Where to find it: Turkey, chicken, dairy products, liver, mushrooms, fish, peas, fortified breads and cereals
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
What it does: A humectant, B5 preserves moisture in the skin, which improves skin elasticity and contributes to a fuller, more hydrated looking face. Since hydrated skin is also more resilient, B5 can help prevent acne and reduce signs of aging, too.
Where to find it: Mushrooms, avocado, sweet potato, legumes, chicken, turkey, broccoli
What it does: Another major stress-buster, B6 helps to regulate mood and sleep by aiding the body in producing serotonin (the “happy hormone”), melatonin (the sleep hormone), and norepinephrine (a stress hormone), among others. Both stress and inadequate sleep raise inflammation in the body, reduce cell regeneration, and contribute to dryness — all factors that lead to breakouts and premature aging.
Where to find it: Tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach, bananas
What it does: B7 is needed for the metabolism of fatty acids and protects cells from damage and water loss, helping to keep your skin moist and plump. Some signs of a deficiency are brittle, dry hair, brittle nails, and dry, flaky skin. Severe cases result in red and scaly skin.
B7 also fights inflammation and protects against acne, fungal infections, and rashes.
Where to find it: Almonds, sweet potato, eggs, onions, whole grains, tomatoes, sardines, broccoli. While it’s often included in many hair and skincare products, it’s most beneficial when ingested.
B9 (Folic Acid)
What it does: B9 works like an antioxidant to promote cell turnover and fight free radical damage. It is usually recommended as a prenatal vitamin as it helps prevent birth defects. Studies have also shown that when applied topically along with creatine, it fights signs of sun damage and aging, leading to firmer looking skin.
Where to find it: Dark, leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, citrus, beans and legumes, okra, nuts and seeds, beets
What it does: B12 is necessary for cell reproduction and can be applied topically for skin benefits because it reduces inflammation, dryness, and acne. It is sometimes used to treat conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
Where to find it: Only found in animal products, though vegetarians can opt for fortified foods. Sources include eggs, dairy, fish, and meat.
Eat Your Way to Better Skin
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones. Following a diet rich in leafy green vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains — a strategy long-touted as the best way to achieve good health — is also an effective way to look as healthy as you feel and glow from the inside out. Evaluate your diet to see where you might need improvement, and speak with a nutritionist if you want help creating a personalized plan.
Want help improving your nutrition or evaluating your diet? Contact one of Tri-City Medical Center’s registered dietitians today!