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Vitamin Self-Help Advice for Your Skin

Written by Lauren Long

Advice on vitamin-enriched skin creams. Will they help achieve a younger you? Dermatologists give us the skinny on great looking skin.

Getting your necessary daily vitamins used to be as simple as eating plenty of juicy fruits and vegetables. Well, things just got more complicated.

Now you can select a daily diet for your skin from a plethora of products containing vitamins that promise to refine, tone and retexturize.

Vitamin-enhancement has proved to be an effective skin-care marketing tool: The number of products containing vitamins has more than tripled since 1991. But is there solid science behind these lotions and creams?

"Not really," says Dr. John Joseph, a facial plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. "The vitamins help the sale of cosmetics and potions, but it's voodoo nonsense."

The doubts arise because few of the products contain vitamins or minerals in forms that can penetrate the skin. If a product has the capability of epidermal penetration, it's considered a drug and is not available over the counter.

Two of the most popular vitamins added to skin-care products are Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Vitamin C is an antioxidant added to liquids and creams that helps fight sun damage and refine the skin's appearance.

When shopping for topical Vitamin C, be sure the product contains L-ascorbic acid, the only form of the vitamin found to be stable when exposed to light and air. Products containing the citric-acid form of the vitamin, for example, will be ineffective, says Dr. Arnold Klein, a dermatologist in Los Angeles.

Even Joseph admits to using a Vitamin C serum with L-ascorbic acid. "I put vitamin C around my eyes. There is a little science behind this," he says. "I've noticed an improvement in the overall skin tone and texture in the few months.  I've used it."

Since the success of Retin A (available by prescription since 1971) in treating acne and later sun-related skin aging, we are seeing "all the emperors' new agents," says Klein of the over-the-counter knock-offs. Less concentrated than Retin A, these Vitamin A creams are being marketed for their cell-renewing properties for sun-damaged skin, but delivering few results.

While the over-the-counter Vitamin C and Vitamin A creams are not as effective as their by-prescription-only counterparts, doctors do see an important benefit to these products.

"Maybe they will get you thinking about skin care," says Dr. Seth Matarasso, a San Francisco dermatologist. "You'll think: `I just spent $25 bucks on this product; maybe I should use my sunscreen.' Or `I spent big bucks on this product, so I won't go to Malibu and bake my skin.' "