You are what you eat. And with skin being your body’s largest---and certainly most visible organ---it will reflect that on the outside.

When you’re lacking certain vitamins, your skin can suffer, with parched patches popping up or an overall feeling of dryness. It’s more than just a nuisance --- the value of well-moisturized skin is critical in your overall health. After all, your skin is your body’s first barrier of defense to everything in the outside world (your dermis is dubbed an immune organ for a reason). When well-moisturized, it has an easier time maintaining a strong barrier. A dry, damaged barrier leaves skin more susceptible to free radicals (linked to premature aging), irritation, redness --- and, not to mention, it makes fine lines and wrinkles more visible.

5 vitamins and supplements to help dry skin

STRUGGLING WITH DRY SKIN?

Take our quiz to build a bespoke testing plan that will help you identify the cause of your dry skin so you can beat it!


What vitamin deficiencies can cause or worsen dry skin?

Good nutrition is important for healthy, youthful-looking skin. Research suggests that nutrients play a role in repairing skin damage, help shore up defenses against free radicals that speed up skin aging, and nourish supportive structures in skin, such as collagen. So what kind of diet is optimal for your skin (along with your overall health)? A diet that contains adequate protein, hydration (in the form of water), and is rich in antioxidants from fruits and vegetables. Ensuring you get your fill of vitamins C, A, E, D, and iron is particularly important, as being short on these may contribute to dry skin.

Best vitamins and supplements for dry skin

If you’re trying to prevent or reserve a rough and flakey complexion, these vitamins may be able to improve skin hydration:

1. Vitamin C

Popping vitamin C alone or within a supplement containing a mix of vitamins and antioxidants has been found to improve skin hydration. Plus C also buoys collagen and elastin production (supportive structures in skin that plays a role in skin’s ability to hold onto water) and neutralizes skin-damaging free radicals that lead to dryness, finds a 2017 review by New Zealand researchers.

2. Vitamin A

Slathering on a vitamin A-based serum---which you likely know as retinol or retinoids---is the gold standard for keeping skin smooth and wrinkle-free. But that’s topical. Having an adequate vitamin A intake is also important for springy, well-moisturized skin, notes a study in the journal Antioxidants in 2021. As an antioxidant, A helps maintain skin cell turnover, improves skin barrier function, and reduces water loss, researchers explain.

That said, it’s unlikely, except in certain circumstances (such as having a pancreatic condition), that you’ll need to take an A supplement alone, notes Mayo Clinic. (Multivitamins may contain A; generally that’s okay. Just make sure that they do not contain excessive amounts. The RDA is 900 mcg for men and 700 mcg for women.) Taking more than 10,000 mcg of A long-term can lead to bone and liver damage, and skin irritation, too. Bottom line on A: This one is best to get through food (cooked spinach, baked sweet potato, and ricotta cheese are all considered excellent sources, per theNational Institutes of Health (NIH)).

3. Vitamin E

Vitamin E, another powerhouse antioxidant, may be a go-to moisturizer when smoothed on skin, but it’s important internally, too. As the researchers from the Antioxidants study explain, E makes its way into the lipid barrier of skin cells, sealing water inside, which may be why those who have dry skin may also be lacking E. Eating more nuts like almonds and hazelnuts, as well as peanut butter and spinach, can pump up your E stores.

4. Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is often in low supply, especially during the winter months if you live in a cold climate where you’re buttoned up from head-to-toe (and not going outside unless you must). Past research shows that people who tend to have lower vitamin D levels also have dryer skin. The study authors suggest that it’s not just the cold, dry air that may be to blame for a parched, flakey complexion, but that a lack of vitamin D may contribute. Enough D pumps up the production of components in skin that naturally help it hold onto moisture.

Plus, researchers note that we’re also eating less D-rich food. Fatty fish, egg yolks, UV-exposed mushrooms, and fortified products (some cow and plant-based milk and yogurt, orange juice, and breakfast cereal) are all good to get into your diet for adequate D, notes the NIH.

5. Iron

Running low in iron doesn’t just cause you to feel sluggish---iron-deficiency anemia can also cause dry skin, notes Cleveland Clinic. People who menstruate, as well as those who are pregnant, or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet are at risk for falling short on the mineral, says the NIH. Excellent food sources include fortified breakfast cereal, white beans, and dark chocolate. Before taking an iron supplement, talk to your doctor.

Is a vitamin deficiency the cause of your dry skin?

There are numerous causes of dry skin. Aging, skin type, cold outdoor temps all play a role. So can habits like taking long, hot showers or the type of products you’re putting on your skin. However, since dry skin can be one symptom of chronic conditions, including diabetes or thyroid dysfunction, getting to the root cause is a good idea.

Vitamin deficiencies are screened through a blood test, which you can obtain through your doctor or via at-home testing with Base. A board-certified dermatologist can help you determine next steps, whether that’s supplements or a change in skincare habits or products.

What to do if a vitamin deficiency is to blame

Experts often recommend a diet-first approach when addressing various vitamin and mineral deficiencies. This is often the safest method---it’s difficult to over consume spinach but it’s easy to pop too much vitamin A in a supplement, for instance---and food provides a range of additional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that work together to maintain the health and hydration of your skin. For instance, toss bell peppers and strawberries atop a spinach salad for a C, A, and E-packed lunch.

Individual or multivitamin supplements may also be an option, depending on your levels, diet habits, or underlying health conditions. Talk to your doctor about the dose that’s best for you. After implementing these changes, you’ll then want to retest (again, consult your doc or Base’s recommendations) to make sure that what you’re doing is working and making a true difference in your skin and overall wellness.


STRUGGLING WITH DRY SKIN?

Take our quiz to build a bespoke testing plan that will help you identify the cause of your dry skin so you can beat it!


Did this answer your question?