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When it comes to maintaining a healthy, clear complexion, what we put in our bodies matters just as much as what we put on our faces. Many factors can lead to blemish-prone skin (think: hormones, genetics, hygiene), but one element that is in our control is nutrition. Eating a varied diet that is rich in skin-nourishing vitamins is important, but sometimes we might need a little extra help from supplements. It's important to note, though, that supplements should always be used in addition to a robust diet and should not take the place of consuming nutrients from food—and, as always, be sure to consult your medical provider before trying a new supplement.
Meet the Expert
Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery and a clinical assistant professor at Cornell University.
What to Look For in a Vitamin for Clear Skin
When it comes to using vitamins to treat acne, Dr. Garshick recommends reaching for vitamin A. “It’s known that vitamin A derivatives, also known as retinoids, help to clear acne as they help to regulate skin cell turnover, which helps prevent pores from clogging,” she says. “Retinoids also work to stimulate collagen production, which can improve the appearance of scarring related to acne as well. At the molecular level, retinoic acid diffuses through the cell membrane and binds to nuclear receptors to promote cell turnover.” While isotretinoin (also known as Accutane) is available via a doctor's prescription, lower-dose formulas are available over the counter. It's also important to note that it's a fat-soluble vitamin and that hypervitaminosis A can occur with too much vitamin A.
According to Dr. Garshick, vitamin B3 is another must. “A form of vitamin B3 or niacin, called nicotinamide, may be helpful in the treatment of acne through its anti-inflammatory effects,” she says. “It also may be effective at reducing oil production, which leads to shine and oiliness. Both topical and oral supplements have been studied and have shown improvement in acne.”
Dr. Garshick also recommends looking into zinc, though the overall verdict is mixed. “There is some evidence to show that lower levels of zinc can be associated with more severe acne, suggesting that zinc supplementation should help acne,” she says. adding that it’s been shown that supplementing zinc in those who are lacking it can help to improve acne.
However, there are some side effects. “When taken in high doses, zinc also causes some nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, causing some patients to stop taking it,” she says. “There are different formulations of zinc available, so if you’re interested in taking a zinc supplement to treat your acne, be sure to check with a medical specialist first to ensure you’re taking the proper dose. Given its role in fighting bacteria and increasing concern for antibiotic resistance, further research needs to be done to determine the best dose and type of zinc that’s most effective for the treatment of acne.”
Of course, as mentioned earlier, Dr. Garshick says it will take time to see any improvement when using vitamins to help clear your complexion, so patience is key. “We usually recommend giving most treatments for acne approximately two to three months before determining if it is effective or not,” she says.
Supplements are not regulated by any governing body so it is important to prioritize products that feature certified ingredients and seals of approval. Some common certifications include NSF gluten-free, non-GMO project verified, certified vegan, and certified glyphosate residue-free. In addition to specific ingredient-focused certifications, some products have been verified by third-party testing sites like Labdoor or ConsumerLabs. These independent companies verify that what is in the bottle matches what is on the label.
Interested in adding this type of supplement to your routine? Read on for the best vitamins for clear skin.
Best Overall: MegaFood Skin, Nails & Hair 2
Whole food-based supplement
Tested for pesticides and herbicides
Serving size is two large tablets
Megafood’s Hair, Skin, and Nail supplement is a multivitamin and herbal product designed to support skin health. In addition to the most well-known skin-health nutrients (vitamin A, C, and E) this product also includes critical minerals selenium and zinc, as well as a few B vitamins and the herb nettle leaf (nettles are rich in polyphenols and may be beneficial in decreasing inflammation). Suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets, this product can be taken any time of day—even on an empty stomach.
Type: Tablet | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 2 tablets/day | Certified: Non-GMO, B corporation, glyphosate residue free, kosher
Best Budget: Nature's Bounty Extra Strength Hair, Skin & Nails
Serving size is three capsules
Contains soybean oil and soy lecithin
Nature’s Bounty, which has been making quality vitamins for more than 50 years, prides itself on being backed by science and using the purest ingredients. These rapid-release softgels contain collagen, minerals, B vitamins like biotin, and vitamins A, C, E, and D. We love that this supplement is lab-tested and contains no artificial colors, flavors, and are free from sugar, milk, lactose, soy, gluten, wheat, yeast, and fish.
Type: Capsules | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 3 capsules/day | Certified: Non-GMO, gluten-free
Runner-Up, Best Budget: Olly Flawless Complexion
Three grams of sugar per serving
Only one flavor option
Similar to our pick for the best budget, Olly’s Flawless Complexion is also extremely affordable, at less than $15 for a 25-day supply. In addition to vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium, we love that Olly includes spearmint and dandelion root, too. One serving of two berry-flavored gummies contains 3 grams of sugar and 20 calories.
Type: Gummies | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 2 gummies/day | Certified: B-corporation, NSF gluten-free
Best Vegan: Solgar Hair Skin and Nails
Suitable for a wide range of dietary needs
60-day supply in one bottle
Tablets might be too large to swallow for some
Solgar’s Hair, Skin, and Nail supplements provide over 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, zinc, and copper. In addition to these nutrients, one serving contains the amino acids lysine and proline as well as MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane). MSM is most commonly used for its anti-inflammatory properties and has been studied for a variety of purposes. We love that this product is suitable for vegans, too.
Type: Tables | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 2 tablets/day | Certified: Kosher, halal, hon-GMO, gluten-free
Best Gummy: HUM Nutrition Glow Sweet Glow
Only two grams of sugar per serving
Independently tested for purity and potency
Gummy vitamins that aren't loaded with added sugars and artificial flavors are hard to come by. Thankfully, HUM’s Glow Sweet Glow’s tangerine-flavored gummies only contain 2 grams of added sugar per serving. Offering 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamins C and E, each serving also contains hyaluronic acid. Some research has shown that ingesting hyaluronic acid can help moisturize the skin.
Type: Gummies | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 2 gummies/day | Certified: Non-GMO, gluten-free
Best Powder: Amazing Grass Greens Superfood Detox & Digest
No added sugars
Designed to benefit the digestive system and skin
The taste may not be pleasant for all
Clear skin starts from the inside out, and the gut is one part of the body you want to optimize if you want healthy-looking skin. This powder is filled with tons of skin-loving vitamins, minerals, fruits, seeds, and herbs. One scoop contains vitamin K, vitamin A, and iron as well as alkalizing farm-fresh greens, probiotics, and Actazin green kiwi fruit powder, which is formulated to increase the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. We love that this product is sugar-free and can be enjoyed in water, juice, or your favorite smoothie recipe.
Type: Powder | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 1 scoop/day | Certified: Certified organic by CCOF
Best Organic: Garden of Life mykind Organics Women's Once Daily Multi
Only one tablet per serving
Vitamins and minerals work best when they're taken together, so for this reason, it might be wise to take a multivitamin if you want to help promote clear, healthy skin. Mykind's vegan multivitamin is certified organic and boasts powerful skin-supporting nutrients like vitamin A, C, E, zinc, selenium, and biotin. In addition to nutrients made from whole foods, one tablet also contains an organic food blend.
Type: Tablet | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 1 tablet/day | Certified: Vegan, gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, kosher
Best with Vitamin C: Thorne Vitamin C
Free of common allergens
High doses of vitamin c might not be helpful unless deficient
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a vitamin that must be obtained from the diet. In addition to being a potent antioxidant, vitamin C is also critical to the synthesis of collagen. Many fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C—however, for those looking to supplement their vitamin C intake, Thorne is our top pick. One capsule contains more than 500% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and is free of gluten and many of the most common allergens.
Type: Capsule | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 1 capsule/day | Certified: Gluten-free
Best with Vitamin E: NOW Wheat Germ Oil
NPA A-rated GMP certification
Flexibility in dosage
Might have a slight flavor or odor
Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin and works as an antioxidant. Most commonly found in nuts and seeds, supplementing with vitamin E may be helpful for those with limited diets. However, it's important to note that many supplements provide much more than the recommended daily intake of vitamin E; many provide close to or more than the tolerable upper limit for vitamin E (1,000 milligrams). For this reason, NOW Food’s wheat germ oil is our top pick for supplements containing vitamin E. One tablespoon provides 20 milligrams of vitamin E and buyers can decide to adjust the amount based on their needs.
Type: Liquid | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 1 tablespoon/day | Certified: Non-GMO, halal, kosher
Best Blend: Nordic Naturals ProOmega-D
Gluten and dairy-free
Two large capsules per serving
We love the Nordic Naturals blend of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D as an all-around nourishing supplement. The combination of EPA/DHA and vitamin D supports the endocrine system and immune health, which in turn supports healthy, clear skin. Every batch of Nordic Naturals fish oil is crafted from fresh, wild-caught, omega-rich fish; Nordic Naturals is committed to using only non-GMO ingredients.
Type: Capsule | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 2 capsule/day | Certified: Non-GMO, certified sustainable
Best Probiotic: Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Probiotics Platinum Series Skin+
Only one capsule per serving
Best if refrigerated
The research on probiotics and how they affect numerous functions in the body, especially skin health, is constantly evolving and growing. However, it's becoming more widely accepted that a healthier, more diverse gut microbiome can help decrease acne and other skin concerns. Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Platinum Series Skin+ supplement provides 90 Billion CFU of 12 bacterial strains, as well as vitamin A and lycopene. We love that the serving size is one capsule and each capsule features two clinically studied strains: L. Johnsonii la-1 and L. Paracasei st-11.
Type: Capsule | Age Range: Adults 19+ | Dosage: 1 capsule/day | Certified: NSF gluten-free
When it comes to vitamins for clear skin, Megafood’s Skin, Nails, & Hair 2 supplement is our top overall pick thanks to its skin-nourishing ingredients like vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the minerals selenium and zinc. If you're looking for a budget-friendly pick, reach for Nature's Bounty Extra Strength Hair, Skin & Nails.
How do vitamins for clear skin work?
Certain vitamins may help promote clearer skin for some people. However, the ways that specific vitamins and minerals aid in doing this is still unclear. One 2013 study found that participants with acne had significantly lower amounts of vitamin A and E, as well as the mineral zinc, compared to those without acne. Continued research needs to be done to explain if and how certain vitamins work to clear skin.
How often should you take vitamins for clear skin?
The frequency of supplement use depends on the individual and the supplement. If you're deficient in a specific vitamin, it might be necessary to take supplements daily for a few months at least. Additionally, it might take a while to see a difference in your skin—usually, the best results will occur when you can be consistent and take supplements daily. As always, follow directions from your doctor or health care provider.
Why Trust Byrdie
As a registered dietitian, Sydney Greene takes supplement recommendations seriously. Every product has been researched and vetted by her against clinical research, product reviews, and third-party testing websites. These are products she would not only feel comfortable recommending to her clients but she would take them herself if needed.