Recently, when Mary wrote a piece about Dua Lipa’s skincare regimen and reported that she uses a Vitamin B serum, I had to do a double take. In the beauty world, there are already a few megastars like Vitamin C and retinol (Vitamin A), and then Vitamin E. Each seems to boast its own specific benefits: C is mainly touted for its brightening and radiance effects (“waking up the face”), while A resurfaces and elicits cell turnover to reduce hyperpigmentation and fine lines. Meanwhile, E is reparative and super nourishing for dry or aging skin.
I had been using Vitamin C regularly and retinol (A) sporadically for a long time and not necessarily seeing the wow results other people have reported. I was even layering the C and the A since they activate each other, but the improvements weren’t dramatic. Then around the time of reading the Dua Lipa piece, I got a sample of a Vitamin B gel from a local beauty boutique and found that it really gave plumping and hydrating that I needed to get rid of fine lines, not merely resurfacing and polishing like retinol. Ground. Breaking.
This made me reflect on earlier this year, when I was living in France for three months. Around month 2, I started suffering from extremely chapped lips that no amount of silky lip balm could cure. I tried layering aloe vera, oils, and balms all together, but within an hour my lips would be so dry as to be shedding large flakes of skin. (Sorry it’s so gross!) Upon returning home, I immediately bought my usual American nutritional yeast (I love the Red Star brand, but when it’s not available Bragg’s is a fine alternative). Merely hours had passed before my lips were healed! It turned out that the French nutritional yeast I’d been eating (levure maltée) had almost zero Vitamin Bs. Mon dieu! 😱
As vegans we already know the importance of Vitamin B12 for energy and vitality. But although Vitamin Bs have interrelated metabolic and neurological functions, they are also each distinct. Keeping your skin hydrated is largely handled by Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin), while B5 (pantothenic acid) “helps to control acne by breaking down sebum,” according to French chemist-turned-skincare goddess, Marie Veronique. She also notes that according to research, B3 “offers significant anti-aging benefits for its role in boosting mitochondrial function. For both anti-aging and sun protection benefits, vitamin B3 should be applied topically in a serum containing at least 5% niacinamide.”
Riboflavin deficiency can manifest as inflammation of the corners of the mouth (angular stomatitis) and chapped lips (cheilosis), and even anemia due to interfering with iron absorption. I have experienced each of these 3 symptoms in the past 1 year at various points! Meanwhile, Vitamin B3 deficiency also causes dermatitis: the two deficiencies have similar outward symptoms of flaking, dry, cracked skin and increased photosensitivity—meaning hyperpigmentation (mild) to burns and inflammation (severe).
So why is it that plant eaters can suffer from B2 and B3 deficiencies even when we’re eating tons of fruits and vegetables that should be making us glow? Some of the best sources of B Vitamins are of animal origin, but there *are* vegan sources such as soy, tofu, portobello mushrooms, peanuts, almonds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds. However, many B Vitamins are cofactors for iron and heme (iron from an animal source), which means if you are low on one, you will have difficulty synthesizing others. Also note that because vegans only consume non-heme iron, they should consume 1.8 times the iron of non-vegans to absorb the same amount.
How to ensure you get enough Vitamin B2 and B3
Building a good dietary foundation for the Bs is super important. In addition to upping your whole plant-based sources of Bs and iron, try taking a supplement and adding fortified nutritional yeast to your meals. (Tip: Always check the nutrient info of your noosh!)
According to acupuncturist and facialist Annee de Mamiel, “Your skin is the last to get nutrients and first to show illness.” This means you have to ingest and absorb plenty of vitamins before your skin reaps the benefits, and she recommends applying nutrients directly on your skin to deliver the effects immediately. Note: because Vitamin Bs are water-soluble, look for an ingredient list that is at least partially water-based and not entirely oil-based. Also prioritize those that contain B2 and B3 over those that only contain B5 (panthenonic acid).
This pro Vitamin B complex mask has a base of arnica, gotu kola, chamomile and aloe, along with an infusion of hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, niacinamide (B3), B5, B6, Biotin for deep hydration. It’s even designed to decrese hyperpigmentation and cellular turnover. Cruelty-free, clean beauty.
Made of 93% bioactives, this intense cream contains B1, B2, B3, B5, B7 and B9. It’s designed to replace toner, essence, serum, moisturizer, cream, and oil in one powerful, do-it-all formula—which could justify the price point. The benefits include reducing fine lines, improving elasticity, and brightening discoloration. Also, your purchase provides 5 days of schooling to underserved children in rural America. Win-win!
This frills-free serum lists niacinamide as its 3rd ingredient, along with panthenol, ferulic acid, and hyaluronic acid further down. You can expect intense hydration, improved texture, invigorated look (thanks to copper peptide), and defense against premature aging. Cruelty-free and toxin-free.
This light gel protects, soothes, and reduces inflammation and acne with impressive 10% B3 concentration.
Do you use a Vitamin B serum? Have you experienced any dryness from a B deficiency?
Photo: Jernej Graj on Unsplash