Vitamins are increasingly recognised for their role in skin health, according to experts speaking at an American Academy of Dermatology meeting this week. Both vitamin K and niacin have shown considerable benefits to damaged skin in recent studies, according to one speaker.
Figures suggest that the desire to stop the ageing process and reverse the signs of sun damage led consumers to spend $5 billion on cosmetics in 2001, 56 per cent of that on skin care products alone.
While vitamins C, E, and A, are most readily linked to health benefit by consumers, dermatologist Dr Leslie Baumann said vitamin K and niacin, also known as vitamin B-3, had recently been linked to significant effects on skin health.
"New studies have shown that vitamin K and niacin are beneficial to the skin, specifically for problems involving pigmentation and dry skin," she said.
Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting and studies have shown it to maintain strong bones in the elderly. However, dermatologists have recently found vitamin K to be successful for the treatment for dark circles under the eyes and bruising on the face.This could be because the vitamin stimulates blood flow to these areas.
Baumann cited a recent study published in Cosmetic and Toiletries, involving one group that applied an under eye cream containing sunscreen and another that applied an under eye cream containing a combination of vitamin K and retinol. An examination of the under eye colour at the beginning of the study and at the end found a significant lightening in the group using the vitamin K and retinol combination.
"Whether dark circles under the eyes are a result of ageing, genetics orsun damage, vitamin K has been shown to reduce the puffiness and discoloration associated with this oftentimes troubling problem," said Dr Baumann. "If patients feel that concealers for the under eye area are no longer covering their circles, they should look for under eye skin treatments that contain vitamin K or a combination of vitamin K plus retinol which has been shown to boost collagen production in the skin."
Vitamin K has also recently been studied for its effects on reducingbruising following certain dermatologic procedures. In a recent study,published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, patients underwent laser treatments to lessen the appearance of spider veins on the face. Since the laser treatment may cause bruising, half the patients applied topical vitamin K to half their faces for two weeks before laser treatment and a placebo cream to the other half of their face. The remaining patients applied the vitamin K to one half of the face and the placebo to the other half, after treatment. While the application of topical vitamin K before the procedure did not seem to affect the severity of bruising, those patients who applied the vitamin K after the procedure noticed a significant reduction in the severity of bruising.
"Topical vitamin K can profoundly reduce the amount of time some patients heal," said Dr Baumann.
Topical niacin - one of the B complex - has also shown promise as an over-the-counter ingredient in anti-ageing products. A niacin derivative, nicotinamide, has been shown to improve the ability of the epidermis to retain moisture. In a recent study, topical nicotinamide was applied to the skin for six days. Following the study, all patients reported softer, smoother skin, less dryness and flakiness, and a reduction of fine lines.
"The benefits to the skin after application of nicotinamide can be usefulfor patients with atopic dermatitis, who often experience dry, irritated skin when the disease flares," suggested Dr Baumann. "This could also become another promising treatment for ageing skin which often becomes dry and flaky as we age."
Niacinamide, another derivative, has also been shown to be an effective skin lightening agent, especially for skin conditions where hyperpigmention may occur on the face or other visible parts of the body, and to have anti-inflammatoryproperties, which makes it a potential treatment for acne, rosacea and any blistering-type disease. Recent studies also noted that niacin and its derivatives have chemopreventative effects. When applied to mouse skin, topical nicotinamide produced a 70 per cent decrease in ultraviolet-induced skin cancer.
Dr Bauman was speaking at the American Academy of Dermatology's 2003 annual meeting in San Francisco.