vitamins in cosmetics

There is a significant growth in use of vitamins in cosmetic products, especially in facial care products for mature skin. The customers’ demand is growing. Why – because the vitamins are momentarily fashionable? Because the customers are familiar with the benefits?

What are the benefits of vitamins when applied on the skin? Before we jump to skin benefits, let us start at the beginning, with an overview of vitamins.

Today we know 13 vitamins that our bodies need to function: A, C, D, E K and B group (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate), however only vitamin A and its derivates, B3, B5, C and E have proven effects on the skin when applied on it. As this article is about the effectiveness of vitamins when applied on the skin, we are only going to talk about the latter group.

Depending on their solubility in either water or lipids, vitamins are divided into two main groups: hydrophilic (vitamins B and C) and lipophilic (vitamins A, D, E and K). Since the European Union has prohibited the use of vitamins D and K in cosmetic products, we will not deal with them in this blog.

The popularity of individual vitamins among customers differs from year to year. While in 2017-2019 customers searched for vitamin E in the products, for the past two years vitamins A (especially in the form of retinol), B3 and C are in the first line of demands.

There are many good articles and blogs already available on every Vitamin. Thus, we will just sum up a few already known facts and present them in one article.

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3

(NICOTINAMIDE), INCI name: Niacinamide.

Benefits: Brightens, prevents signs of aging, reduces acne


Vitamin B3 usually refers to both, nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. Nicotinic acid is used as cosmetic active ingredient in masks to improve blood circulation of the skin. Nicotinamide is used in products which are used for treatment of acne-prone skin. It most commonly appears in formulations of facial toners, serums and creams, as well as in toners for hair and scalp. It decreases sebum production, reduces inflammation, increases the synthesis of ceramides, cholesterol and free fatty acids in the epidermis, and reduces trans-epidermal water loss. The usual concentration for daily treatments is 1-2%, while in professional therapies the concentrations of B3 might be increased up to 4% for treatment of the acne-prone skin and up to 5% for intensified treatments of mature skin. The use of nicotinamide should be managed with care, since – when used in high concentrations in a skincare formulation – it may cause skin irritation such as redness or even dermatitis. Overall Nicotinamide reduces the immunosuppressive effect of UV-rays from the sun, helps restore cellular energy and repair the damaged DNA.

Vitamin B5

Provitamin B5

(Panthenol), INCI name: Panthenol.

Benefits: Moisturises, anti-inflammatory, regenerates  damaged skin (wound-healing)

Panthenol has an important advantage as an ingredient in cosmetic formulations, as it acts  as both, a humectant and an emollient. Humectants attract to and bind water to the skin, while emollients seal in the cracks in the skin, keeping that water locked in, they also help to maintain the product stable.

Panthenol’s outstanding  moisturizing abilities make it a prime ingredient in numerous products in skin-, nail- and haircare, and also in makeup. The skin absorbs it quickly and it is metabolised into pantothenic acid. Panthenol helps stimulate cells that boost the skin’s barrier function. By penetrating the lower layers of the skin, it helps retain moisture deep within the tissue, as it imbues the cells with water.

The two optical isomers of panthenol, the dextrorotatory (D) and the laevorotatory (L) both act as moisturisers (humectants). Panthenol (L+D) maintains the softness and elasticity of the skin. However only D-panthenol has an anti-inflammatory effect, achieved by stimulating the proliferation of fibroblasts and the epithelialisation of damaged epidermis. Thus, it accelerates wound healing and the regeneration of damaged skin, including damage caused by sun burns.

In hair- and nailcare products, Panthenol is used as moisturiser, because of its ability to penetrate the hair cylinders through openings in broken hair cuticles and bind moisture to them. Consequently, this results in increased hair elasticity, it also makes the hair softer and shinier, and reduces static charge.

For everyday skin care, the recommended concertation of Panthenol is up to 1%, while for therapeutic treatments is between 3-5%. Quality lotions, milks or facial creams contain 1-3% of D-panthenol, while wound healing and baby facial and diaper creams contain 5% of D-panthenol.  Hair shampoos and conditioners usually contain 0.75 – 1% of Panthenol, hair styling gels 0.5-0.75% and hair lacquers 0.25%. Nail care products usually contain 1% of Panthenol.

Due to its synthetic source, some standards for natural & organic cosmetic do not permit the use of panthenol in their certified products.

At Essentiq we appreciate the benefits of Provitamin B5 very much, and thus use D-Panthenol a lot. We basically use it in every emulsion, cream and lotion, and even in our Olive & Rosehip facial scrub.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C

(Ascorbic Acid), INCI name: Ascorbic Acid.

Benefits: Protects against free radical damage, evens out the  skin tone, promotes collagen production, lightens brown spots

If we wish to highlight the benefits of Vitamin C on your skin, we need to explain the oxidative stress and its impact on the skin.

Exposure of the skin to ultraviolet radiation causes the formation of reactive oxygen elements that cause the stress of the skin, so called oxidative stress. The adverse effect of oxidative stress may result in free radicals causing chemical changes in DNA, cell membranes and proteins, the degradation of collagen and the formation of inflammatory factors. The skin defends itself against the oxidative stress by using antioxidants, and these neutralise or prevent the harmful effects of oxygen and other free radicals, thereby preventing the oxidation of the skin’s basic building blocks.

The benefits of vitamin C are numerous. The Ascorbic acid is an antioxidant that is present intracellularly and extracellularly in the skin. It functions in synergy with vitamin E (lipophilic tocopherol), which is anchored in the lipid bilayer of cells and prevents the oxidation of membrane lipids. When tocopherol loses its antioxidant capacity, it is generated in the presence of ascorbic acid.

Ascorbic acid applied on the skin promotes the synthesis of collagen and ceramides and has anti-inflammatory effect.

Ascorbic acid and its derivates are most often used in concentration of 0.2%, when used as antioxidants to protect cosmetic products against oxidation. In the concentration of 2% the ascorbic acid and its derivates have antioxidative effects on the skin and protect it from damage by ultraviolet radiation. If combined with complementary antioxidants, such as vitamin E or ferulic acid, the impact is even bigger, due to synergistic effect in boosting the efficacy and stability of the molecule. Concentrations up to 5% have a positive effect on treatment of acne-prone skin and by inhibiting the synthesis of melanin on skin -lightening. Some recent in vivo laboratory studies have shown that a combination of 15% of vitamin C and 1% of vitamin E is the optimal one to offer best protection against erythema and cell damage caused by UVB radiation. However, they must be applied prior to exposure of the skin to UVB and not during the exposure.

However, there are some limitations and precautions. You should avoid using Vitamin C with benzoyl peroxide (which can oxidize the vitamin C and make it useless very quickly) and Retinol (which can make the vitamin C more unstable and less likely to penetrate the skin). The use of Vitamin C with other acids is also to be avoided, as it may cause excessive skin irritation, especially if used on a daily basis.

Vitamin C is not recommended for those with extremely sensitive skin and can be problematic for those with oily skin. Another important final message that should not be omitted is that cosmetic products with an excessively high concentrations of Vitamin C may have a harmful prooxidative activity. Therefore, sometimes less is more.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A

INCI: Retinol (Vitamin A), INCI: Retinyl Palmitate, INCI: Retinal

Benefits: enhances skin cell turnover, boosts collagen production, evens out skin tone, clears acne, helps repair sun-damaged skin, lightens dark spots

At the moment, vitamin A is the most demanded ingredient in facial care products among customers. Especially in the form of Retinol. But what is Retinol?

Retinol is a type of retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A, used for anti-aging and found in many skin care products. Though many people are under the impression that retinol is an exfoliant, it’s actually an antioxidant. In order to be incorporated into skin cells, it has to go through two steps. First it must be converted to retinaldehyde, and then to the active form retinoic acid.  If you’re using a retinol ester, it will have to go through three steps to become active, because it must be converted to retinol first. The closer you are to retinoic acid, the better it works. In other words, retinaldehyde is strongest, then retinol, then retinol ester. Let us tell you more about each of the forms.

Retinoic Acid is used in dermatology for dermal treatment of acne, improvement of skin damage due to sun exposure such as hyperpigmentation or small wrinkles. As it may irritate and dry the skin it must be added to products with care and knowledge. It is not recommended to be used as an ingredient by amateur home cosmetic cooks.

Retinal is rapidly metabolised in epidermal cells when applied to the skin. Of all the retinoids it is considered as the most effective in supplying the skin with retinol and its esters. It has proven antibacterial effects on the skin, it is effective against photo ageing (fine and deep wrinkles), hyperpigmentation and roughness of the skin. Similar to retinoic acid it is used to treat acne in dermatology, although its use in cosmetic products is not so wide spread.

Retinol and its esters are less effective than retinoic acid. To achieve effects similar to those of retinoic acid, the concentration of retinol must be on average 10 times higher. Consequently, as a positive effect, it irritates the skin less than retinoic acid and is widely spread as cosmetic active ingredient. Retinol increases the thickness of the epidermis, stimulates the formation of collagen and glycosaminoglycans and consequently helps retain moisture in the skin. It is most often used in products for dry and mature skin where it fights facial wrinkles and improves skin elasticity.

The important thing about retinol, which most of the customers do not know, is that it is very unstable due to its sensitivity to oxygen and ultraviolet light. Thus, as an active ingredient in cosmetic product it is only effective in the appropriate concentration and appropriate packaging, such as airless or opaque containers, having as little contact with light and air as possible. Retinyl esters are more stable compared to retinol and thus more frequently used in cosmetic products.

If you have a super-sensitive skin or a severe skin condition like eczema or rosacea, retinol might cause dryness, peeling, and irritation and can flare and enhance inflammation. It is also recommended to stop applying retinol for at least a week before submitting your face to a laser treatment, chemical peel, waxing, or intense sun exposure, since it increases your sensitivity.

The recommended concentrations of retinyl esters are up to 0.55% and retinol up to 0.3%. For people with sensitive skin or for beginners that start using retinol, the dosage up to 0.25% max is sufficient and after that a gradual increase to more intensive concentrations. Nevertheless, increasing the dosage beyond the mentioned limits can cause serious facial skin irritations.

At Essentiq we use Retinyl Palmitate (stable Vitamin A) in our whole luxury MAGIC line.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E

(TOCOPHEROL), INCI: Tocopherol

Benefits: Antioxidant, protects the lipid barrier, smooths skin, helps to retain skin moist, wound healing properties

Vitamin E is the main lipophilic antioxidant in the skin. It is known for reducing skin damage caused by ultraviolet radiation, for smoothing the surface of the skin, increasing the hydration of the stratum corneum, inhibiting inflammation, stimulating cell regeneration and accelerating wound healing. It is found in all of the skin’s layers, anchored in the phospholipid bilayers of cell membranes, preventing the oxidation of membrane lipids. It enters the stratum corneum from two different angles. From supplies in keratinocytes stored in lower layers and from outside through sebaceous glands and sebum. Since children, women over 50 and men over 70 have a reduced delivery mechanism of vitamin E to the skin surface, it is beneficial to apply extra Vitamin E on their skin.

If we want to achieve the antioxidative effects on the skin, Vitamin E should be included in concentration of 1-3% for daily use and up to 5% for professional use. The majority of over-the-counter antiaging creams contain 0.5%–1% of vitamin E, but it is usually combined with other ingredients.

But on the other hand, excessively high concentration might lead to prooxidative effect which is more harmful than beneficial.  When applied directly to the skin in its pure form, vitamin E may cause dermatitis-type reactions, especially on the thinner and more sensitive skin around your eyes. It could also potentially clog pores, so those users who are prone to acne and breakouts should pay attention to their skin when starting to use it.

Like in many life situations more does not necessarily mean better. It can worsen the skin condition or even cause harm. Therefore, we should use it wisely 😊.

Every product of our Luxury line MAGIC contains vitamins B5, E, C & A in a carefully thought out and optimised concentration to prevent any harm to our users’ skin.