Vitamin Deficiency and Dry Skin

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
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Dry skin can be caused by vitamin deficiencies.

Consuming plenty of essential nutrients daily is a key to maintaining healthy-looking, hydrated skin. While other health conditions (in addition to vitamin and mineral deficiencies) can cause dry or flaky skin, getting proper nutrition from foods and supplements boosts your odds of maintaining a youthful-looking glow.

How Deficiencies Affect Skin

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can affect your skin (and dry it out) for several reasons. B vitamins play a role in your body's metabolism, allowing energy from foods to be broken down and utilized by your organs (including skin). Vitamin C is necessary for skin's collagen production, vitamin A helps maintain the different layers of skin, and zinc protects the skin from free radical damage, according to a 2010 review in the Indian Journal of Dermatology.

B Vitamins

B vitamins help your body metabolize (break down) proteins, carbs, and fat, which is a must for healthy hair, nails, and skin. Being deficient in B vitamins can really take a toll on your skin.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

A 2015 issue of Podiatry Today says getting too little niacin (vitamin B3) in your diet can lead to skin conditions, such as dermatitis, which is characterized by flaking, crusty, or itchy skin patches. Another 2015 study published in the Japanese Journal of Clinical Immunology says B3 deficiency is associated with photosensitivity dermatitis (photodermatitis), which causes a rash, scaly skin patches, or blisters in response to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Aim to get plenty of B3-rich foods in your diet daily and take a B3 supplement if you're deficient in this essential nutrient. The B3 recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 16 milligrams for men and 14 milligrams daily for women.

Vitamin B12

Getting too little (or too much) vitamin B12 in your diet can also cause changes in your skin, according to a 2015 review published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. Authors of the review say B12 deficiency can cause skin conditions like atopic dermatitis (dry, scaly skin patches) and acne. Eat plenty of B12-rich foods to help prevent a deficiency. Because some people don't properly absorb vitamin B12, check with your doctor to see if high doses of B12 supplements or injections are necessary. The B12 RDA is 2.4 micrograms daily for adults.

Vitamin B6

Because B vitamins are so important for healthy-looking skin, it's no surprise vitamin B6 deficiency can also lead to itchy, dry, flaky, or scaly skin according to the Office of Dietary Supplements and the 2015 issue of Podiatry Today. So be sure to load up on vitamin B6-rich foods and take a supplement to correct B6 deficiency if your doctor recommends it. The vitamin B6 RDA is 1.3 to 1.7 milligrams in adults, so be sure you're meeting this daily recommendation.

Biotin

Getting plenty of biotin in your diet is a crucial part of keeping your skin hydrated. While biotin deficiency is rare in the U.S., it can cause dry scaly skin, cracking in the corners of your mouth, and seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap) in infants, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports. Eat biotin-rich foods and take a biotin supplement if your doctor recommends it (due to poor biotin absorption or certain medications) to prevent or correct biotin deficiency. The biotin adequate intake level is 30 micrograms daily for men and women. Foods rich in biotin include cooked eggs (especially egg yolks), brewer's yeast, nuts, nut butters, sardines, soybeans, legumes, mushrooms, bananas, cauliflower, and whole grains.

Vitamin C

You may think of vitamin C as the immunity nutrient and not necessarily associate it with youthful-looking skin. But vitamin C is crucial for healthy, hydrated skin and collagen production. The University of Maryland Medical Center says rough, dry, scaly skin is a sign you might be deficient in vitamin C. So load up on vitamin C-rich foods or supplements (if your doctor okays it) to prevent or correct vitamin C deficiency and dry skin associated with it. The vitamin C RDA is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams daily for women.

Vitamin A

If you have abnormally dry skin, vitamin A deficiency might be the culprit, according to the 2010 review published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology. The 2015 issue in Podiatry Today confirms vitamin A deficiency can lead to skin dryness. So be sure to include plenty of vitamin A-rich foods in your diet daily and take a multivitamin supplement containing vitamin A. The vitamin A RDA is 900 micrograms for men and 700 micrograms daily for women.

Zinc

Getting too little zinc in your diet can cause skin problems like psoriasis (dry, scaly skin patches), acne, and atopic dermatitis (eczema), according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This means loading up on zinc helps hydrate your skin and get rid of dry scales and flakiness. Choose zinc-rich foods and take a multivitamin supplement containing zinc to meet the zinc RDA (11 milligrams for men and 8 milligrams daily for women).

Treatment for Vitamin Deficiencies

Hand Lotion

Talk with your doctor about appropriate treatments when you have skin problems related to vitamin or mineral deficiencies. In addition to boosting your intake of nutrient-rich foods, your doctor will likely recommend a higher-dose vitamin supplement (or injection) to correct the deficiency as quick as possible. Once you begin treatment for a vitamin deficiency, you might notice improvements in your skin in just a few weeks (or sooner).

Other Causes of Dry Skin

Just because you have dry skin doesn't mean you're deficient in vitamins or minerals. Mayo Clinic and the American Skin Association say other causes of dry skin (and skin conditions that cause dry skin) include:

  • Cool, dry weather
  • Wood burning stoves, fireplaces, and space heaters
  • Hot baths or showers
  • Frequent swimming
  • Harsh soaps
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Aging
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Psoriasis

Maximizing Skin Health

To maximize skin health and maintain a healthy-looking glow, be sure to get a good variety of all essential vitamins and minerals in your diet daily (from foods and a multivitamin supplement). If you have a nutrient deficiency, talk with your doctor about appropriate supplement (or injection) dosages. Use a daily moisturizer to lower your risk of (or treat) dry skin. If you have eczema or psoriasis, ask your doctor about lotions, ointments, or oral medications as treatment options.

Vitamin Deficiency and Dry Skin