Vitamins: To Apply, or to Ingest?

Susan Trumpbour

Both ways prove vital for healthy skin.

Who doesn’t want to glow?  I know that is my skin goal with every product I use and every vitamins I swallow. But can you get there with topicals alone? Or might it be all about this new wave of ingestibles that hold the magical answer to glowing skin.

Skin is the largest organ of human body; it is the least vital in terms of nutrient uptake. Studies have shown that nutrients absorbed internally are provided first to the most vital organs (heart, liver, brain, etc.) making skin the last to receive these vitamins and minerals which are necessary for healthy skin. So, the question arises whether it is best to ingest vitamins or topically apply them to the skin for the best results? The answer can get very deep and scientific, but let’s keep it simple.

“Two very important Vitamins for the skin, A and C”, according to Dr. David Bank, a dermatologist from New York, USA, “can be very beneficial both by mouth and topically.” But, because these store in the body one should only take daily recommend amounts. There is such a thing as too much with vitamins. Ingesting high doses of certain vitamins will cause toxicity, therefore you should confirm amounts with your doctor or a pharmacist.

How to do it effectively

Vitamins and nutrients from our diets eventually enter our bloodstream, which flows to the blood vessels that feed our skin.  But sometimes it’s not quick enough. Topical applications for skincare can work in tandem with nutrients consumed internally. But in some cases, going straight to the source, is the best course of action. The most effective method for replenishing vitamin C in the skin is to apply it directly. In fact, applying Vitamin C to the skin is 20 times more effective than oral ingestion.  However, it is only effective when the internal system is up and running smoothly. Applying a bottle of high-potency Vitamin C serum and Retinols may not do much if our diet contradicts this, with inadequate vitamins and minerals and an overdose of sugary or not-good-for-you-foods. When dietary components are in place, topical applications can certainly enhance skin condition.

Another aspect is absorption. For instance, topical collagen may help with holding in moisture and making skin appear smoother, but it gets washed away with water.  Applying collagen topically has never been shown to stimulate collagen synthesis or growth. This is because collagens have molecular weights making them too large to penetrate the top layer of skin.  But when ingesting, liquid collagen is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly and efficiently.


An exception is in cases of severe acne; there is an ingestible form of vitamin A called Accutane that is more effective than topical choices. Topical vitamins target a particular skin issue and are limited to the specific application area. When ingested, their potency decreases, which is why it is good to both ingest and apply vitamins to the skin to achieve the optimal benefits.

Despite their impressive packaging, many vitamins or should we say “beauty-supplements” are essentially just…gussied-up vitamins. And you can find them virtually everywhere, with labels boasting benefits like “clear skin,” a “healthy glow,” and the ability to “restore” collagen levels. But if you look closely at the ingredients list, they aren’t filled with sprinkles of fairy dust—they’re high in all of the usual suspects, like magnesium, zinc, calcium, and vitamins C, A, and E. These trendy supplements are just your everyday vitamins rebranded with ‘catchy beauty phrases and gummy flavors’.

For best benefits, you need to pick your Vitamins wisely, do your own research and decide which is most effective- to ingest or apply. And remember, the ideal route to skin care and maintenance, works optimally when skin is cared for inside out.

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