Vitamins And Minerals Required For Healthy Skin Function: A Complete Guide

Vitamins And Minerals: A Summary

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that our bodies require in order to function properly. Vitamins are complex organic molecules often made by plants or animals, whereas minerals are simple inorganic elements which cannot be made by plants or animals; commonly found in soil and water. 

Adequate vitamin and mineral levels can be achieved through the consumption of a balanced, healthy diet and can also be supplemented (dietary supplements or multivitamins) in the case of mineral deficiency from a restricted diet or from having certain health conditions. 

Vitamins: Their Benefits And Where To Find Them

There are 13 essential vitamins, governments around the world have mandated the addition of vitamins to staple foods e.g. milk and flour in order to prevent vitamin deficiencies in the population; this process is known as food fortification. 

Vitamin A 

Vitamin A is the nutrient which maintains: skin and eye health, the immune system, as well as reproductive function. Vitamin A consists of two types:

  1. Retinoids also known as preformed Vitamin A
  2. Carotenoids also known as proformed Vitamin A. Carrots consist of beta-carotene, a carotenoid which is broken down into Vitamin A by the body.

Both retinoids and carotenoids are broken down by the liver into retinol. Retinol is known to promote skin cell production, often used in anti-aging serums. This promotes collagen creation resulting in the prevention and reversal of fine lines and wrinkles 

Vitamin A can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mangos 
  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese and butters)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Cod liver oil
Carrots including Vitamin A
Photo by Oriol Portell on Unsplash

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine, was the first of the B vitamins to be discovered. Thiamine’s main functions include: 

  • Aid in the conversion of glucose to energy 
  • Crucial for the function of nerves
  • Aids in the healing of wounds
  • Ability to reduce stress.

Thiamine’s immune system boosting ability coupled with it’s stress-relieving properties can promote mindfulness and reduce stress-related breakouts; leading to clearer, healthier skin. Reducing stress also minimises hormone fluctuation and improves sleep quality. 

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) can be found in common animal and plant products such as:

  • Wholemeal grains
  • Legumes
  • Brown Rice
  • Vegetables (e.g. potatoes)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pork
  • Liver
  • Eggs
grains with Vitamin B1
Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin

Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, is an important vitamin for maintaining healthy skin. Riboflavin promotes cell turnover (the process where dead skin cells are shed and replaced with new skin cells) and also the maintenance of collagen (the key protein responsible for the skin’s form and elasticity). Riboflavin protects the skin; reducing inflammation, managing the production of sebum which can prevent skin dryness and reduce breakouts. It has also been known to improve the absorption of zinc, an essential mineral which promotes healthy skin. 

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese and butters)
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Green beans
  • Seaweed
  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Beef liver

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, also known as Niacin, is considered to be the most powerful vitamin in terms of skin care. Niacin has the ability to treat a large variety of skin conditions such as:

  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Eczema
  • Dry skin
  • Sun damaged skin
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Irritated skin

Niacin is an excellent anti-aging ingredient due to its ability to target fine lines and deep wrinkles. Niacin (Niacinamide) is a popular ingredient being increasingly used in skincare products.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese and butters)
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Liver
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Tree nuts

Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5, also known as Pantothenic acid, is a natural humectant (a substance which preserves moisture). These qualities mean it can draw water from its surroundings to deliver excellent hydration. Hydrated skin can improve elasticity, minimise or reverse aging, and help to regulate sebum production which, in turn, can minimise acne. 

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid), unlike most vitamins, can actually be found in almost all foods. To name a few:

  • Meats
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Sweet potato 
  • Legumes
broccoli with vitamin B5
Photo by Reinaldo Kevin on Unsplash

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, also known as Pyridoxine, much like vitamin B1 (Thiamine) is a stress alleviator. Pyridoxine aids the body to produce:

  •  Serotonin – often called the happy chemical due to its contribution to wellbeing and happiness
  • Norepinephrine – both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter
  • Melatonin – a hormone made by the pineal gland, which regulates the sleep/wake cycle.

Both stress and poor sleep quality can: increase inflammation in the body, skin dryness and reduce cell turnover. This can lead to breakouts and premature aging.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Beef
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Bananas
  • Tree nuts
yellow bananas with vitamin b6
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Vitamin B7

Vitamin B7, also known as Biotin, plays an important role to maintain healthy skin, hair and nails. Biotin aids in metabolising fatty acids whilst also protecting cells from getting damaged. Deficiencies in biotin can lead to brittle hair/nails as well as dry, flaky skin. Biotin has been known to protect against fungal infections, acne and rashes. 

Vitamin B7 (Biotin) can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Sardines
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Leafy greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potato
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
egg with vitamin b7
Photo by REVOLT on Unsplash

Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9, also known as Folic Acid, possesses antioxidant properties which combats free radical damage and promotes cell turnover. Applying folic acid topically can fight sun damage and aging, tendencies resulting in younger and firmer-looking skin.

Vitamin B9 (Folic acid) can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Leafy greens
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Okra
  • Citrus fruits e.g. oranges
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Pasta 
  • Breads
green leafy vegetables with vitamin b9
Photo by FOODISM360 on Unsplash

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12, also known as Cobalamin, aids with cell reproduction which in turn reduces skin dryness and inflammation. Cobalamin has also been applied topically to treat skin conditions namely eczema and psoriasis. 

Vitamin B12  can only be found in animal products such as:

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese and butters)
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Vegetarians can either supplement or consume fortified foods

Vitamin C

Human skin consists of high concentrations of vitamin C, studies have shown that vitamin C plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin. Vitamin C is known to stimulate collagen production and aid in removing free radical damage, in some cases topical application of vitamin C to the skin has even assisted in healing wounds and minimised scar formation. 

Vitamin C can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Liver
  • Citrus fruits
  • Vegetables
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Vitamin D

Without supplementing, obtaining a sufficient amount of vitamin D through diet is an arduous process. Most of the vitamin D you require can be obtained through direct sunlight exposure however, but this can be difficult during the winter months or if you reside in colder climates. Vitamin D supports the creation of healthy cells, and therefore plays an important role in managing skin tone and maintaining cell turnover.

Vitamin D can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Eggs
  • Liver
  • Sardines
  • Certain mushrooms e.g. shiitake
vitamin d
Photo by James Day on Unsplash

Vitamin E

Vitamin E consists of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties helping to support the body’s cell function, immune system and skin health. Antioxidants aid in the fight against free radical damage. Vitamin E is often found in a variety of cosmetic products including:

  •  Sunscreen – mainly due to its ability to reduce UV damage to the skin.
  •  Makeup
  •  Anti aging creams
  • Eye lotions/serums

Vitamin E can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli 
  • Leafy greens
  • Nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Vegetable oils e.g. sunflower oil and safflower oil
nuts with vitamin E
Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is essential for the body to recover from bruises, wounds, scars and damage to the body through blood clotting. It can be particularly useful in the treatment of certain skin conditions: 

  • Scars 
  • Stretch marks
  • Spider veins
  • Pigmentation

Vitamin K can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Spinach
  • Kale 
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Green beans
  • Egg yolk
  • Liver
cabbage with vitamin K
Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash

Minerals: Their Benefits And Where To Find Them

Unlike vitamins not all minerals are essential for proper health function. The following minerals are deemed necessary for good skin health;

Zinc

Zinc is very important for skin health mainly due to its healing properties; especially useful for acne sufferers. Zinc possesses the ability to: balance sebum production and control hormones that can trigger acne. Whilst useful for treating acne, zinc is also useful for protecting the skin against aging due to its antioxidant properties. 

Zinc is required when the body breaks down alcohol, hence why, after a night of drinking, zinc levels are lower and your face can appear dull and tired.

Zinc can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Meats 
  • Liver
  • Nuts
  • Leafy greens
  • Sunflower and sesame seeds
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables
meat with zinc
Photo by Victoria Shes on Unsplash

Calcium

Calcium consumption has been highly encouraged for numerous years and has been said to maintain healthy teeth and bones, it is also beneficial for the skin. Calcium concentration in the human body is relatively high compared to most other minerals and plays a major role in giving the skin its elasticity and firmness. The properties within calcium allow the skin to appear younger whilst also aiding in the treatment of acne-prone skin. It is known that calcium deficiency can lead to:

  • Fragile skin
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle nails
  • Weak bones

Calcium can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Milk
  • Sardines
  • Leafy greens
  • Sesame seeds
  • Kale
  • Watercress
  • Chickpeas
  • Nuts
chickpeas with calcium
Photo by Deryn Macey on Unsplash

Copper

Copper provides great benefits to skin with its production of elastin and collagen, the two proteins that give skin its elasticity and firmness. Copper also aids in the conversion of amino acids which protect hair and the pigment within skin. Copper has also been known to assist antioxidants in their function of protecting skin from oxidative damage. 

Copper can be found mainly in plant products such as:

  • Mushrooms
  • Soybeans (and other soy produce)
  • Sunflower and sesame seeds
  • Nuts
  • Coconut

Magnesium

Magnesium is often found in skincare products due to its ability to retain and replenish skin elasticity. It is considered an essential mineral for strong bones, teeth, hair and skin. It can be relatively easy to deplete the body of magnesium, deficiencies have been strongly linked with the aging of the skin. 

Magnesium can be found mainly in plant products such as:

  • Leafy greens
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Coconut
  • Wheat produce
  • Beetroot
  • Lentils
  • Dates

Selenium

Selenium consists of similar properties to that of copper, a strong antioxidant that is pivotal in the maintenance of skin elasticity and firmness. It has been suggested that selenium can protect against skin cancers by reducing sun damage to the skin.

Selenium can be found in animal and plant products such as:

  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts

Potassium

Potassium helps to regulate the water that is present in your cells whilst also required for the normal function of cells. By regulating the amount of water in your cells it can ensure skin remains hydrated. Potassium deficiencies have been often linked to skin dryness. 

Potassium can be found mainly in plant products such as:

  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Dairy produce
  • Fruits 
  • Legumes
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
oranges with potassium
Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

Silica

Silica is vital in the maintenance of healthy:

  • Skin
  • Bones
  • Nails
  • Hair
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Muscles

Silica is known for maintaining skin elasticity which slows down the natural aging process and speeds up the healing of scar tissue and wounds, it is a key mineral for sufferers of acne.

Silica can be found mainly in plant products such as:

  • Whole grains
  • Bananas
  • Mangos
  • Green beans
  • Spinach
  • Beer
mangoes with silica
Photo by Lei Ramirez on Unsplash

To Sum It Up

Both vitamins and minerals play a key part in our general health along with maintaining healthy skin function. The intake of these key players can be achieved with a varied healthy diet along with supplementation when required. Note that while these vitamins and minerals will help promote good skin health, a skin care regime is still recommended.

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