Beauty Vitamin – Eat it, or Wear it?


Popping pretty pills is the latest trend to hit the beauty-conscious generation, and that’s hardly surprising. After all, for years busy city-dwellers have been taking pills to scrub our arteries, to lubricate our joints, to revitalize our libidos, to sharpen our memory, or to fall into a stuporous, amnesiac sleep.

While beauty supplements are fashionable, but have you ever wondered if their special – and often pricey – formulations actually do the job? After all, we can’t be sure how much of what’s swallowed even get to the skin (versus down the sewage). Or are you better off sticking to vitamin-laden serums and lotions that tout to deliver the vitamin goodness directly to feed your dermis?

SKIN speaks to Dr Low Chai Ling, founder of SW1 Clinic, to find out which vitamins to swallow to boost your beauty from within, and which to slather on.



Swallow: Most of us get enough Vitamin A from their diets to make supplements unnecessary. As this fat-soluble vitamin is stored in our bodies, do not take excess of 5000IU if you are taking supplements containing Vitamin A. Overdosing can cause nausea, hair loss and headaches.

Slather: Vitamin A is one of the best clinically-proven anti-aging skincare ingredients to restore healthy cellular turnover, stimulate collagen replenishment, improve pigmentation and soften lines. It is also highly effective in unplugging skin clogs, clear acne and refining open pores.

Verdict: Wear it. Topical Vitamin A is most effective in its prescription form (tretinoin creams like Retin-A and Renova). Less potent but less irritating cousins, like retinol, are available in over-the-counter beauty products (such as RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum or SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 cream).

Although Vitamin A protects against further sun damage, it increases the skin’s sensitivity to sun. So always wear sunscreen (whether you are in or out of doors) to prevent redness and skin irritation and halt photoaging.

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Swallow: The B vitamins are essential for cells throughout the body, including skin cells. Although insufficient intake of Vitamin B can lead to dry itchy skin, deficiency in this nutrient is uncommon as it is abundant in many foods such as chicken, eggs, and fortified grain products. Excessive amounts of this water-soluble vitamin would just be flushed out of the body through the urine.

Slather: Panthenol (Vitamin B5) and niacinamide (Vitamin B3) added to skincare products have been proven to help even out skin tone, soothe redness and pimples, and keep skin hydrated.

Verdict: Wear it. Over-the-counter formulations like the highly affordable Olay Total Effects line feature Vitamin B to freshen up dull complexions and smooth aging skin without drying out sensitive skin. Higher concentrations of naicinamide can be effective against acne-prone skins too, as found in Blue Orchid.

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Swallow: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant capable of counteracting free radical cellular damage caused by harmful UV rays, the leading cause of wrinkles, pigmentation and skin cancer.

Slather: Topical Vitamin C has been found to increase skin’s resistance against sun and environmental damage, support collagen production, and improve pigmentation. Look out for L-ascorbic acid, ascorbic palmitate, or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate on the labels as these are more active and effective forms. Always cap your Vitamin C serums and creams properly after use and keep them out of direct light and heat, as they tend to lose their effectiveness faster with exposure to air and light.

Verdict: Leave nothing to chance – eat and wear this one. Both oral and topical Vitamin C have important skin benefits. Always look for a vitamin C formulation that is stable. Otherwise you may not be delivering what is promised on the bottle, keeping in mind that Vitamin C, like all vitamins have a shelf life.

Read More: Skin in the City: Dermal Guardians for City Dwellers




Swallow: Like vitamins A and C, vitamin E is an antioxidant. Taking 400IU of Vitamin E (in the D-alpha-tocopherol form) daily is shown to reduce wrinkles and improve skin texture. Found in oily foods and supplements (such as nuts, avocado, wheat germ or sunflower oils, and evening primrose oil), the good oils tend to improve dry skins at the same time. Be careful not to overdose on oral Vitamin E since excess will accumulate in the body fat and cause toxicity.

Slather: When added to sunscreen and skin products, it seems to provide further protection from UV damage. You’ll find vitamin E in lots of commercial hand creams and lip balms as well, because of its moisturizing qualities. A major downside to topical vitamin E – some skin may develop an allergic reaction to it. And while many people think that rubbing vitamin E on a scar can help make it vanish, one study suggests quite the opposite.

Verdict: Eat it. More conclusive evidence is needed to convince us that smoothing on Vitamin E creams will do more good than harm.

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Swallow: There’s insufficient evidence that collagen, the protein which gives skin its springy firmness, can be handed down on the platter. Collagen (mostly from animal sources such as chicken or cow) supplement taken in a capsule or liquid form is digested by the stomach into basic amino acids before being absorbed into the body. There’s no guarantee the body will re-build it into human collagen to make skin more elastic or joints more flexible.

Hence, while these supplements are generally do your body no harm, it might be kinder on your wallet to take a balanced diet with lean quality proteins, and Vitamin C antioxidant supplements for an extra boost.

Slather: Collagen in creams may moisturize and plump up skin temporarily. However, the collagen molecule is simply too large to actually penetrate skin surface and replenish the dwindling store deep within the skin.

Verdict: Invest your money elsewhere – in a good sunscreen, Vitamin A and C skincare products, and other advanced treatments proven to stimulate your skin’s own collagen production instead. Light Lift laser is a good bet for most skin types to energize cellular production of collagen to restore the elasticity and lustre, and iron out the wrinkles in tired, rough complexions.

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