Topical Vitamins A, C, E and B3

Written by on August 27, 2008 in Natural Treatments, Rosacea Topicals with 3 Comments

Vitamins A,C, E & B3 are found naturally in the skin and have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. They can be depleted by sunlight, smoking, pollution and other free radical stress. The number of products containing these vitamins has ballooned in recent years. Read on to see how the theory and background of these Vitamins might be good for you.

Vitamin E

Also known as alpha-tocopherol, Vitamin E is found in fresh vegetables, vegetable oils, cereals and nuts. The term Vitamin E is used to describe 8 naturally occurring molecules. The activity of these compounds is measured in terms of alpha-tocopherol equivalents. Vitamin E has been shown to be useful in photoprotection, atopic dermatitis and skin protection.

There is evidence to suggest that vitamin E is the most important physiologic barrier anti-oxidant in the stratum corneum – i.e. in the part of the skin that protects you from the elements, Vitamin E is thought to be the critical anti-oxidant agent. Topical Vitamin E can restore the levels in the skin that can become depleted due to the oxidative stress of the sun and other environmental insults.

This page from Paula Begoun seems to be pretty comprehensive about Vitamin E.

“A sampling of its substantiated capabilities when applied topically includes:

  • Protects the epidermis from early stages of ultraviolet light damage
  • Increases the efficacy of active sunscreen ingredients
  • Reduces the formation of free radicals upon skin exposure to UVA rays and other sources of skin stress
  • Prevents the peroxidation of fats, a leading source of cell membrane damage in the body
  • Reduces transepidermal water loss from skin and strengthens the skin’s barrier function
  • Protects the skin barrier’s oil (lipid) balance during the cleansing process
  • Reduces the severity of sunburn
  • Skin absorbs and maintains levels of topical vitamin E, prolonging its benefits between applications”

Vitamin C

Because humans lack the enzyme to produce Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), we need dietary sources to obtain it. Citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables are good sources. Topically, Vitamin C has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and indeed acts synergistically to restore the regenerative effects of Vitamin E. Thus Vitamin E and Vitamin C are often combined in topical preparations.

Vitamin C is used to as a treatment and to prevent photodamage, photoagine, hyperpigmentation and redness.

Studies have shown that Vitamin C and Vitamin E together have greater benefits compare to when used alone. Adding ferulic acid was also found to further double the photoprotective effect of the two Vitamins.

Retinol (Vitamin A)

Retinol is the naturally occuring form of Vitamin A and can easily penetrate the epidermis.

The biologic properties of retinoids include “antioxidant activity (via free radical scavenging), increased fibroblast proliferation, modulation of cellular differentiation and proliferation, increased collagen and hyaluronate, and decreased matrix metalloproteinase-mediated extracellular matrix degradation”.

Topical retinol has been found to be effect for treating photoaging – showing improvements in facial wrinkles and fine lines.

Unfortunately some rosacea sufferers have found topical Vitamin A derivatives to be too harsh for their sensitive skin.

Cherie Detrie, M.D., director of cosmetic dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania in Radnor, has said “retinaldehyde offers rosacea patients who may have sensitive skin the benefits of retinoids with fewer side effects.”. A 1999 study found that that “retinaldehyde has beneficial effects on the vascular component of rosacea.”

“Niacinamide / Niacin / Vitamin B3

The term Vitamin B3 is used to describe both niacinamide and nicotinic acid (niacin). Niacinamide is found in meat, fish and wheat. Niacinamide has anti-inflammatory and skin-lightening properties and can decrease the production of sebum. Topical niacinamide can be used to treat dry skin, acne, photoaging, blistering, pigment disorders and would healing.

One study looked at the topical usage of 1-methylnicotinamide (MNA) 0.25% in treating rosacea. The response was good in 26% of patients and moderate in 50% of patients. Varying results have been discovered when assessing the effect of topical 2% niacinamide on sebum excretion and sebum levels in Japanese and white subjects.

A 2005 study found that Niacinamide – Containing Facial Moisturizer Improves Skin Barrier and Benefits Subjects With Rosacea. Also note that the formulation of 1% metrogel also contains niacinamide. A 2007 study also found that niacinamide and kinetin in combination worked well to provide anti-aging effects for asian skin.

If you are considering taking a B complex vitamin supplement, Dr. Sy warns us to avoid one that contains Niacin as that can cause flushing. Niacinamide is fine.

The Abstract

Following is the abstract and summary that motivated this article.

Topical vitamins, J Drugs Dermatol. 2008 Jul;7(7 Suppl):s2-6., Burgess C. ,The Center for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Washington, DC, USA.

Vitamins are a natural constituent of human skin and are part of a system of antioxidants that protect the skin from oxidative stress. There has been an increased interest in the use of natural antioxidants such as vitamins to help restore dermal antioxidant activity. Vitamins A, C, E, and B3 have been shown to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but to achieve optimal effectiveness, products must be delivered in appropriate formulations. Products containing alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), retinol (vitamin A), and niacinamide (vitamin B3), are effective for the treatment of photoaging. These compounds have also shown effectiveness in the treatment of inflammatory dermatoses, acne, and pigmentation disorders and wound healing. There is emerging evidence that combinations of vitamins have additive effects that provide enhanced efficacy compared with individual compounds.

Summary: Substantial data suggest that topical vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin C, retinol, and niacinamide have beneficial effects on the skin including photoprotection, and protection from photoaging and inflammatory dermatoses. For effective dermal penetration and maximal therapeutic efficacy, stable product formulations are required. Although these products have substantial activity when used individually, it also appears that combinations of these compounds have promising additive effects.

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About the Author

About the Author: David Pascoe started the Rosacea Support Group in October 1998. .

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3 Reader Comments

  1. Lynne Fitzgerald says:

    I would love for any information on a product that covers vitamin A and C with retinal in it for my face.I’ve been getting a few skin cancers and I need more protection for my skin although I’ve always used sun screen.
    Thanks lynne

  2. Nancy says:

    I have been applying vitamin-E oil from 1,000 mg gel capsules to my face for the past week and have noticed my dry patches have disappeared and it seems to have calmed some of the irritation and redness from my rosacea. It feels like the vitamin e is creating a moisture barrier on my skin against the elements. My skin looks and feels better so far. I have not tried any of the other vitamins topically.

  3. Kata says:

    Az oké,hogy a niacin nagyobb dózisban kipirulást eredményezhet,viszont az amid formula félő,hogy nem annyira hatásos…

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