What Are the Best Vitamins for Dark Spots? The Science Made Simple

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    Adding vitamins to your routine can support your skin health and may even reduce dark spots. Read on to learn about which vitamins are the most effective.

    What vitamins help manage age spots?

    We all know the value of healthy skin. You feel better. You look better. After all - it’s your body’s largest organ.

    But changes to your skin are a natural part of any life. As we get older, we can end up seeing dark spots on our skin when we look in the mirror. This is very normal; if you’re noticing some dark spots, there’s no need to fret. Such spots are often the result of overactive pigment cells, which can be activated by aging and UV rays. Oxidative stress, too, tends to increase as we age. Be sure to get an annual skin exam with your dermatologist to ensure healthy skin.

    While dark spots are nothing to worry about, you may be looking for ways to lessen or alleviate them. Fortunately, there are some vitamins that can help! Let’s break down some of our favorites.

    1. Vitamin K

    Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, found abundantly in leafy greens and synthesized in your large intestine. While there haven’t been many studies into the effects of vitamin K on dark spots specifically, there is research to suggest its benefits for the skin. Vitamin K plays a key role in the body’s process of blood clotting, which helps mend wounds, bruises, and areas affected by surgery. One study found that patients experiencing skin scarring who were treated with oral vitamin K saw greatly reduced healing times compared to the control group. Topical vitamin K, too, has been shown to support wound healing and may also play a role in developing collagen.

    Furthermore, one study demonstrated that vitamin K has potent antioxidant properties, which can play a role in relieving oxidative stress and supporting skin health. While some maintain that vitamin K can address dark spots, more research is needed. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for oral vitamin K is 90 mcg for women and 120 mcg for men.

    2. Vitamin C

    Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that’s naturally present in many foods, most notably fruits and vegetables. It’s added to other foods and is available as a popular supplement. It has also been shown to be helpful in promoting skin health, which is why it’s found in a number of skincare products. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means that it helps manage harmful free radicals – including those activated by skin-damaging sun exposure. As an antioxidant, vitamin C also helps regulate collagen synthesis, and, in concert with vitamin E, it helps provide photoprotection – meaning it helps your body heal molecular damage caused by sunlight. It does this by helping restore the skin’s ascorbate levels.

    When it comes to dark spots on the skin, specifically, vitamin C plays a role in inhibiting melanin synthesis by managing the activity of an enzyme called tyrosinase. Since dark spots are often the result of your body creating more melanin than it should, vitamin C can play a role in reducing melanin and managing the appearance of dark spots. A study also found that higher intakes of vitamin C – in conjunction with other positive steps, including more linoleic acid intake and reduced fat intake – were associated with better skin health. Care/of’s Vitamin C supplement is available as a 30-day supply and designed for maximum absorption. The RDA for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men.

    3. Vitamin E

    Vitamin E” refers to a group of fat-soluble compounds with antioxidant properties. Vitamin E is richly available through dietary sources, including nuts, spinach, and whole grains. Because of its function in combating free radicals and protecting the skin from UV rays, it has been used for more than five decades in dermatology. With an RDA of 15 mg, it’s also one of the most abundant lipid-soluble antioxidants in human beings. It works synergistically with vitamin C to promote skin health, and studies have shown it to have photoprotective properties. That’s why vitamin E oil is such a popular skin supplement. However, it’s important to note that oral vitamin E intake can thin your blood. You should talk to a medical professional about vitamin E supplementation if you are taking other medications.

    4. CoQ10

    Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an endogenously synthesized lipid-soluble antioxidant that’s essential for energy production in your cells. It’s available in organ meats and in supplement form.

    CoQ10 diminishes with age and under the influence of external skin stressors, such as UV rays. Fortunately, studies have shown that topical CoQ10 is beneficial for skin health, in that it reduces free radicals and enhances the skin’s antioxidant capacity. Studies have also shown that topical CoQ10 has anti-aging effects because of the way it enhances mitochondrial function in the skin.

    5. Vitamin A

    According to dermatologists, vitamin A is one of the best vitamins for dark spots. This fat-soluble vitamin is often prescribed by dermatologists in the form of retinol, which comes in various strengths. In addition to vitamin A, you may have also heard of beta-carotene. Well, this is because beta-carotene is the precursor to vitamin A. When consumed, the body converts beta-carotene into active vitamin A, which offers numerous benefits for the skin.

    Furthermore, beta-carotene has been found to possess protective properties against harmful UV rays, making it a great way to maintain healthy and radiant skin. If pregnant use retinol with caution, as retinol is not considered safe for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

    6. Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)

    Vitamin B3, otherwise known as niacinamide, is another nutrient that has been shown to be effective in minimizing dark spots. Vitamin B3 has been recognized as an effective skin-lightening compound. It does this by inhibiting the transfer of melanosomes from melanocytes to keratinocytes. By disrupting this process, niacinamide helps to reduce the production of melanin, the pigment that gives dark spots their color. This is why niacinamide is often found in a number of skincare products and dermatological treatments. If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients in your anti-aging creams and serums, you will most likely see niacinamide listed on the label.

    7. Vitamin D

    Vitamin D is widely known for its role in bone health and immune functioning, but what many people don’t know is that it also plays a role in pigment formation. While it doesn't directly address dark spots, preliminary studies have suggested that vitamin D may possess photoprotective properties for the skin. In fact, low levels of vitamin D have been identified in those with skin pigment issues. Of course, more research is still needed to fully understand the relationship between vitamin D and these conditions.

    8. Retinoids

    We’ve already discussed earlier the beneficial properties of vitamin A, but there are also further derivatives of vitamin A that offer a range of benefits for the skin. These are referred to as retinoids. There are three types of retinoids that are found naturally, but the one that stands out the most is retinoic acid. Retinoic acid is the most potent in promoting the proliferation and differentiation of epithelial cells. It also stimulates the biosynthesis of collagen I and III, which are proteins that are essential for skin structure and elasticity. Retinoids are available in both topical and oral use, but it is always recommended to speak with your dermatologist before considering their usage. Pregnant individuals should avoid using retinoids due to potential risks.

    Topical vitamin A, in the form of retinoids, has been found to be effective in combating signs of aging. However, it’s important to be aware that retinoids can increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV damage if proper skin care practices are not followed.

    9. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

    Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are organic acids characterized by the presence of a hydroxyl group attached to the alpha position of the acid. Common AHAs used in cosmetic formulations include glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, and citric acid. These AHAs are frequently employed topically in skincare products to facilitate exfoliation of the skin's top layer. Incorporating regular exfoliation helps to promote the formation of new, fresher skin cells. Since AHAs are water-soluble, they are well-suited for topical use.

    10. Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

    Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) are a group of organic acids that are oil-soluble. The most common BHA that you have likely seen listed in your skincare products is salicylic acid. BHAs have been utilized in formulations to help promote an even skin tone by addressing concerns such as breakouts, clogged pores, and exfoliation. BHAs are able to penetrate the skin’s oil glands and exfoliate within the pore.

    Since some BHAs can be quite strong, it is recommended to test any product that contains a BHA on a small area of skin before applying it to a large area. If you use cosmetics with BHAs and experience skin irritation or prolonged stinging, stop using the product and consult your physician. Additionally, always follow the usage instructions provided on the label and do not exceed the recommended applications. BHAs should not be used on infants and children.

    Other ways to manage age spots

    Besides using the supplements listed above, there are other ways to treat and prevent dark spots on your skin. Prevention is ideal. Use sunblock, limit sun exposure, and use clothing that prevents UV rays from harming your skin. Exercise extra caution in the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., which is when UV rays are at their strongest.

    Vitamin A derivatives and topical vitamin C can help improve photodamaged skin. You can also consider Care/of’s ceramide supplements, which have been shown to improve skin hydration, smoothness, and elasticity, especially when used in combination with collagen.

    Getting enough water is always important, for a variety of reasons. If you’re a smoker, try cutting back or quitting altogether, since smoking can contribute to dark spots.

    Talk to your dermatologist about your skin routine, especially if you’re noticing more dark spots or if they’re worsening.

    Foods rich in skin-healthy vitamins

    Some tweaks in your diet can go a long way. Eat foods that are high in antioxidants, such as an array of fruits and vegetables. This will help fight free radicals and keep your skin healthy. Some of the best fruits include strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, avocados, plums, cranberries, and blackberries. As for vegetables, incorporating potatoes, artichokes, and dark leafy greens will provide a generous boost of vitamins and minerals.

    Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, chia, flax, and sunflower seeds, offer vitamin E and healthy fats that help nourish the skin. Additionally, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids that promote a youthful appearance.

    Are there any proven ways to prevent age spots altogether?

    There are several proven strategies that can help minimize the development of age spots. First and foremost, the most important measure is to protect your skin from UV rays by wearing sunscreen with a high SPF and seeking shade when the sun is strongest. Also, using protective clothing like hats and long sleeves can further reduce UV exposure.

    Another approach is to maintain a diet rich in antioxidants, such as the fruits and vegetables we listed earlier.

    Lastly, adopting a good skincare routine that includes gentle cleansing, regular exfoliation, and the use of products containing ingredients like niacinamide, retinoids, and vitamin C can help further promote healthy skin and reduce the appearance of age spots.

    The Bottom Line

    Dark spots after age 50 aren’t unusual at all. Your skin health changes as you age. Still, incorporating the vitamins listed above can help support your skin health and possibly address those dark spots. Furthermore, there are some lifestyle tweaks that can go a long way, such as protecting yourself from UV exposure, maintaining a balanced diet, and maintaining a good skincare routine. By incorporating all of these practices, you can significantly contribute to maintaining a youthful and even-toned complexion.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.