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While many consumers have come to rely on the numerous vitamins known to offer specific benefits to the skin, including vitamins C, E, and A, some additional vitamins have recently shown promising results for the treatment of problem areas, as well as the overall care and maintenance of the skin.

In the quest to stop the aging process and reverse the signs of sun damage, consumers spent 5 billion dollars on cosmetics in 2001 according to market research, 56 percent of that on skin care products alone. While many consumers have come to rely on the numerous vitamins known to offer specific benefits to the skin, including vitamins C, E, and A, some additional vitamins have recently shown promising results for the treatment of problem areas, as well as the overall care and maintenance of the skin.

Speaking today at the American Academy of Dermatology's 2003 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, dermatologist Leslie Baumann, MD, spoke about the skin care benefits provided by two recently studied vitamins: vitamin K and niacin, also known as vitamin B-3.

"Vitamins continue to be recognized as playing an important role in the health of the body, including the skin," said Dr. Baumann, Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Fla. "New studies have shown that vitamin K and niacin are beneficial to the skin, specifically for problems involving pigmentation and dry skin."

Vitamin K

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.

Dark circles may be hereditary for some people or simply a part of the aging process, but most people would agree that they are a struggle to conceal. When the fat pad beneath the eye begins to thin with age, it can create a sunken look to the under eye area. Studies have shown that sluggishness of blood flow underneath the eyes may also contribute to dark circles. Vitamin K has been found to diminish the appearance of these dark circles.

A recent study published in Cosmetic and Toiletries, included two groups, one 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 color 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 aging, genetics or sun 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 reducing bruising 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. "This is especially important for those who are uncomfortable with the often short-term bruising that can be visible following laser treatments."


A topical vitamin that shows promise as an over-the-counter ingredient in anti-aging products is niacin -- one component of the B vitamin complex which has many derivatives.

One derivative of niacin, nicotinamide, has been shown to improve the ability of the epidermis, the upper-most layer of the skin, 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 useful for 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 aging skin which oftentimes 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. Patients with hyperpigmentation applied a moisturizer containing five percent niacinamide. After four weeks, the hyperpigmentation and skin color were analyzed by computer and most patients experienced decreased hyperpigmentation and increased skin lightness. Topical niacinamide has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, 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 percent decrease in ultraviolet-induced skin cancer.

"Vitamins can provide many benefits to the skin, yet with so many different vitamins and different derivatives, consumers may be confused about what ingredients to look for and what products to select," said Dr. Baumann. "The best way to find answers about selecting the best products for a specific skin type or correcting a problem area is to see your dermatologist who can provide the proper guidance."

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