The Best Vitamins for Skin and Hair – A 2021 Update

Vitamins are invaluable for our health; they play a role in numerous essential processes that go on inside our bodies. Without vitamins, the health and functionality of all types of tissues start to decline. Skin and hair are no exception.

Overview

The body benefits the most from constantly-maintained optimal levels of vitamins. Taking more than you need will rarely have a positive effect. On the other hand, vitamin deficiency will always result in a systemic decline of your health.

Luckily, vitamin deficiency is rare nowadays. The severe effects of the lack of vitamins are not as visible in the general population as they were only one hundred years ago. That’s a good thing. However, it makes us less aware of the importance that vitamins have for our well-being.

Your hair and skin can benefit from different vitamins in different ways. Vitamins can strengthen your hair and speed up its growth. They will also boost the protective function of your skin and improve its appearance.

In this article, you’ll find everything about the specific vitamins that can enhance the health of your skin and hair.

What are the best vitamins for skin and hair?

All vitamins are valuable for your health. But, your hair and skin make better use of some. Here you can find a selection of the best hair and skin-boosting vitamins:

  • Vitamin ARetinol
  • Vitamin B3Niacin
  • Vitamin B5Pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin B9Folic acid
  • Vitamin CAscorbic acid
  • Vitamin DCalciferol
  • Vitamin ETocopherol
  • Vitamin K2Menaquinone

Vitamin A

Vitamin A supports the normal functioning of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and immune system. More importantly, vitamin A plays a part in the development and growth of all cells, including the skin and hair cells.

Retinol, a form of vitamin A, has many anti-aging properties. It is commonly included in cosmetic products and used for improving the skin’s tone, elasticity, and firmness. It also prevents acne-related damage and helps the skin repair itself.

Vitamin A’s part in cell growth is particularly significant for hair since it is the fastest-growing tissue type in the human body.

Vitamin A also aids the creation of sebum, an oily product of skin glands that moisturizes the scalp and boosts skin health. 

Studies show that both the lack and the excess of vitamin A in the body can lead to hair loss.

This vitamin is a common ingredient of various skincare products such as:

  • Shampoos
  • Conditioners
  • Moisturizers
  • Serums
  • Creams
  • Oils

Topical application is the best way to use vitamin A for skin and hair because you can maximize the effects and minimize the risk of overdose.

Best natural sources of vitamin A

The following foods are rich in this vitamin:

  • Herring
  • Animal liver
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet red pepper
  • Cantaloupe

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. That’s because it helps increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and lowers the “bad” LDL cholesterol. Also, niacin injections are a part of arthritis treatment because of their anti-inflammatory effect. 

Optimal levels of vitamin B3 levels can improve blood circulation throughout the body. That helps nutrients and oxygen to reach the hair follicle effectively. More food and oxygen equals thicker and faster-growing hair.

Vitamin B3 improves the skin’s barrier function and protects it from damage. The result is smoother and well-hydrated skin. Niacin can also help to:

  • Minimize the appearance of pores
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Balance skin tone
  • Brighten complexion

Vitamin B3 serums are more effective in delivering the anti-oxidating properties of niacin to the skin. However, other products such as face masks, creams, and cleansers often contain this vitamin too. 

Best natural sources of vitamin B3

The best sources of vitamin B3 are meats such as chicken, pork, and tuna. However, there are some tasty vegan options. The best ones are:

  • Avocados
  • Peanuts
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green peas

Vitamin B5

Pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 has a valuable role in the process of converting food into energy. It also helps the creation of red blood cells and the transportation of oxygen throughout the body.

When it comes to skin and hair health, vitamin B5 is essential. It soothes the skin and increases hydration. Also, pantothenic acid helps both skin and hair to heal and regenerate.

With improved hydration and a well-functioning lipid barrier, the skin becomes smoother, and hair becomes sturdier and more flexible. Because of that, pantothenic acid is often on ingredients lists of various hair care and skin care products such as:

  • Hair balms
  • Conditioners
  • Shampoos
  • Oils
  • Creams
  • Lotions 

Best natural sources of vitamin B5

The best diet resources of vitamin B5 are:

  • Salmon
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken breast
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Avocados
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Lentils
  • Whole milk

Vitamin B9

Folate and folic acid are other names for vitamin B9, a nutrient essential for growth and development. This vitamin plays a part in the creation of white and red blood cells. For that reason, it is invaluable during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy.

Vitamin B9 is also an antioxidant. It protects the skin from the damaging effect of free radicals. With optimal levels of folic acid, the skin can maintain a proper function and retain moisture better. All of that makes vitamin B9 a potent anti-aging component of many creams, lotions, and moisturizers.  

Best natural sources of vitamin B9

Folic acid is abundant in animal liver. Other good sources include:

  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Citrus fruits
  • Bananas

Vitamin C

A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is essential for the immune system. Optimal levels of this vitamin can reduce the frequency of infections and minimize the risk of complications related to them.

Vitamin C may also lower the risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Iron deficiency
  • Gout
  • Dementia

In skincare, the antioxidative properties of vitamin C effectively slow-down the production of melanin and protect the skin from sun damage. That also lightens the skin and reduces hyperpigmentation (dark spots), making the skin appear smoother and radiant.

Vitamin C improves the production of collagen in the skin. Collagen improves hair structure and makes the skin firmer and more elastic.

The absorption of iron, a mineral essential for hair growth, improves with healthy vitamin C levels. 

Many topical skincare and hair care products contain vitamin C. However, only serums usually have enough of the active ingredient to ensure maximum effect. Vitamin C injections have found application in professional skin treatments.

Best natural sources of vitamin C

Higher concentrations of this vitamin exist in various fruits and vegetables. Most of us associate vitamin C with citrus fruits, such as lemons and oranges. However, there are other good natural sources too. The best ones are:

  • Rosehips
  • Acerola cherries
  • Guavas
  • Blackcurrants
  • Chili peppers
  • Sweet yellow peppers
  • Kale
  • Parsley
  • Thyme 

Vitamin D

The most valuable task of this vitamin in the human body is to act as a regulator of calcium and phosphate levels. These minerals are essential for the growth and development of various tissues, including bones, muscles, skin, and hair.

The synthesis of Vitamin D happens inside the skin with the help of sunlight. The vitamin accumulates in the body, so regular intake is not necessary. However, during winter, when sunlight is scarce, vitamin D levels can drop significantly.

Low levels of vitamin D are associated with hair loss (alopecia). The researchers do not fully understand the connection between vitamin D and hair growth yet. But, the effects of vitamin D on hair follicles seem to be beneficial for hair health.

Vitamin D supports cellular growth. It helps the skin repair itself. Also, it improves UV protection.

When it comes to delivering benefits to the skin, vitamin D face masks are the preferred method of application.    

Best natural sources of vitamin D

Sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D. But, too much sun exposure can harm the skin. There are some good dietary sources of this vitamin. However, they are mostly limited to fatty fish and fish oils, such as:

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Cod liver oil

Mushrooms and egg yolks also contain vitamin D. For vegans and people who dislike fish, vitamin D supplements are also a good option. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another antioxidant that works well in combination with vitamin C. It can improve the appearance of scars and rough patches on the skin.

This vitamin also promotes the production of sebum in dry skin. That improves hydration and provides UV protection.

Many anti-aging and skin care products contain vitamin E. Especially ones that address dark spots and wrinkles.

Vitamin E protects skin and hair from oxidative stress. A study about vitamin E supplements and hair loss shows a 34% hair growth increase in people who took vitamin E supplements for eight months.

Best natural sources of vitamin E

Nut and seed oils are the best dietary sources of vitamin E. If you want to increase your intake of this vitamin naturally, try introducing the following foods in your diet:

  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Wheat germ oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Avocados
  • Goose meat  

Vitamin K2

Menaquinone or vitamin K2 is a recent addition to the list of skin and hair health beneficial nutrients. Optimal levels of this vitamin improve bone density in women, according to one study.

Vitamin K2 also increases the production of collagen. More collagen means better elasticity and firmness of the skin. The result is a younger and fresher appearance.

Face masks, serums, cleansers, and under-eye creams are the most common skin care products that include vitamin K2.

Best natural sources of vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is abundant in fermented foods and some types of meat. The highest concentrations of this vitamin are in:

  • Natto (fermented soybeans)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Pickles
  • Cheese
  • Beef liver
  • Pork liver
  • Egg yolk

Recommended Daily Doses

Optimal daily intake of vitamins and minerals is all your hair and skin need to be healthy. Exceeding the recommended daily doses is not beneficial and can even have a negative effect.

The following is a list of the recommended safe daily doses for different age groups:

Nutrient Adults and children over four years old Children 1 to 3 years old Infants 0 – 12 months old Pregnant women or breastfeeding The safe daily dose for adults
Vitamin A (µg)* 900 300 500 1300 ˂ 7500 µg
Vitamin B3 (mg)** 16 6 4 18 ˂ 100 mg
Vitamin B5 (mg) 5 2 1.8 7 ˂ 7 mg
Vitamin B9  (µg) 400 150 80 600 ˂ 500 µg
Vitamin C (mg) 90 15 50 120 ˂ 2000 mg
Vitamin D (µg) 20 15 10 15 ˂ 150 µg
Vitamin E (mg) 15 6 5 19 ˂ 268 mg
Vitamin K2 (µg) 120 30 2.5 90 N / A

*Micrograms   **Milligrams

How to know that your skin and hair need vitamins?

Your body needs vitamins all the time. The diet is the best source of these vitamins. Unfortunately, the modern western diet sometimes does not provide enough. So, skin and hair often require additional vitamin care.

These are some obvious signs that hair and skin may need more vitamins:

  • Dry and damaged hair
  • Dry scalp
  • Hair loss
  • Redness
  • Dark spots
  • Wrinkles
  • Dry skin
  • Acne
  • Overproduction of sebum

All these issues can improve with the regular use of vitamin-enriched skincare products. However, there are also other causes for skin and hair problems. Therefore, you should always seek out a professional opinion before choosing a treatment. 

The Bottom Line

Vitamins are essential for the health and functionality of all cells and tissues, including skin and hair. Some vitamins are easily obtained through diet, while others require extra effort. Skin and hair can experience vitamin benefits from both inside and outside. That’s why a well-balanced diet supported by supplementation and the use of topical products is the best path towards skin and hair health.

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