The Vitamins Guide to Skin Care

By: Alexandra Tunell

Know your A, B, C and E’s.


Courtesy Harper’s Bazaar

Vitamin A, aka The Anti-Ager

What it is: Vitamin A comes in the form of retinol or retinyl palmitate. They’re both considered antioxidants, but retinol is the more potent form. “Retinol is converted into retinoic acid when it’s in the skin and that functions similarly to a prescription retinoid,” says celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. “These ingredients help to stimulate collagen and fibroblast production, which tricks the skin into acting young again. Generally speaking, retinol is going to be resurfacing the skin and softening lines and wrinkles. It’s the best fountain of youth topical ingredient we have.”

Who should use it: Rouleau recommends using retinyl palmitate in your 20s to prevent free radical damage and switching to retinol in your 30s.

Our pick: Resurface by Shani Darden Retinol Reform, $95,

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Vitamin B3, aka The Hydrator and Redness-Reducer

What it is: Also known as niacinamide, vitamin B3 boosts ceramide production and strengthens the skin’s barrier function, which is key for locking in moisture and keeping irritants and pollutants out. “Also, it has been known to help with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, particularly from acne, by evening out the skin tone,” says Rouleau.

Who should use it: Anyone who has rosacea or dry, sensitive skin will benefit from B3, though Rouleau says the skin’s moisture barrier typically starts to weaken in your 30s and 40s.

Our pick: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Facial Moisturizer, $24,

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Vitamin C, aka The Brightener

What it is: A topical antioxidant that’s been proven to be highly effective at inhibiting free radicals that cause wrinkles, sagging and general aging. “There are many different types, but the general rule is that if you have sensitive skin, you want to look for a stable form, otherwise known as a no-sting formula, because vitamin C can be very acidic,” says Rouleau, who recommends avoiding ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid in favor of an ingredient called magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. “Acid implies that it has a pH lower than our skin’s pH and will be irritating; if the ingredient doesn’t have the word acid at the end, it’s gentler.” Also, non-acid forms of the vitamin tend to be more stable and don’t oxidize as quickly when exposed to light (in other words, every time you open the bottle), so they won’t break down and lose their effectiveness as fast as asorbic acid.

Who should use it: Anyone, every day, under sunscreen.

Our pick: Renée Rouleau Citrus C Lotion, $36.50,

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Vitamin E, aka The Reparative Moisturizer

What it is: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that reduces the formation of free radicals and helps to strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier, which is why you’ll find it in after-sun products and treatments for stretch marks and scars.

Who should use it: "Generally, less than 1% should be fine for any type of skin," says Rouleau.

Our pick: The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-in-Oil, $16,

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