We asked dermatologists if the underrated vitamin is the key to younger-looking skin.

By Kristin Granero
October 09, 2020
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Experts have long-hailed the benefits of certain vitamins—and especially antioxidants—for their nutrient-boosting, free radical-fighting capabilities. When it comes to skincare, in particular, you’ve probably sought out some of the heavy-hitters (such as beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C) to help pack a powerful punch to your personal routine.

A more uncommon skincare ingredient in the vitamin world is vitamin K, which is mainly hailed for aiding the body's process of healing wounds. But could ‘K’ prove another important link when it comes to building an iron-clad defense against anti-aging? The vitamin is a rather intriguing one—a study on vitamin K even confirmed that ample vitamin K intake can help you live longer. We asked dermatologists to break down the vitamin and its various health properties. 

What exactly is vitamin K (and how is it different from potassium)? 

According to Yunyoung Claire Chang, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, vitamin K—mainly found in green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collards, and swiss chard—is best described as an essential fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in blood coagulation (inhibiting excessive bleeding), blood calcium regulation, and overall bone health. 

“Additionally, lab and animal studies have found that vitamin K can reduce the production of pro-inflammatory proteins (called cytokines), therefore working as an anti-inflammatory," says Dr. Chang. "Both animal and human studies have shown topical vitamin K to help with wound healing, potentially due to its antioxidant or blood-clotting properties."

On the other hand, Dr. Chang points out that potassium—often found in fruits and vegetables, like bananas, apricots, squash, potatoes and mushrooms—is considered a mineral and electrolyte, not a vitamin.

“As an electrolyte, potassium has the ability to conduct electricity in water," she says. "In the body, potassium plays an important role in numerous bodily processes, including regulating fluid balance and blood pressure, muscle contractions, and nerve signal conduction."

What are the benefits of Vitamin K in skincare, and how can this help with anti-aging? 

By improving the elasticity of blood vessels and overall vascular health, vitamin K can help with a handful of leading aging factors, including the appearance of stretch marks, varicose veins, bruising, undereye puffiness, dark circles, and other conditions that have a vascular component,” says Sejal Shah, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. 

And thanks to its collagen-promoting and wound-healing capabilities, vitamin K could promote a smoother, more youthful glow, says Dr. Shah. “Applied topically, it also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, counteracting both inflammation and free radicals (both of which promote aging),” she says. Studies have shown it to protect skin against environmental aggressors and help with inflammaging, specifically.

Dr. Shah also points out that oral vitamin K has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. “As we now know, high blood sugar levels can also contribute to premature aging,” she says.

Can vitamin K also help with skin conditions like eczema? 

Another benefit of its anti-inflammatory properties? Dr. Shah says vitamin K could potentially have the ability to improve inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

But don’t get too excited—while promising (and worth a shot), both Dr. Chang and Dr. Shah note that studies surrounding vitamin K and problem skin have been limited, with much more research to be done. “Although vitamin K has been proposed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and collagen-producing properties, its direct benefits for skin conditions are still unclear,” says Dr. Chang.

Curious to test vitamin K for yourself, while also reaping benefits from a range of other power ingredients? Here are our favorite antioxidant-rich  product picks to put the potent ingredient into practice.

1

49, sephora.com 

The vitamin K (derived from lucern oil) in this cream works to eliminate dark circles, while arnica and cucumber extracts serve to de-puff and de-stress swollen and tired undereye skin.

2

$48, sephora.com

Like a smoothie for the skin, this lightweight moisturizer is powered by a fusion of phytonutrients and vitamins (C, E, and K) found in kale. Green tea and hyaluronic acid offer an additional boost of nutrients and hydration. 

3

$34, sephora.com

This cleanser, makeup remover and mask is made with strawberry seed oil (vitamins A, B, C, E, and Omega 3) and tomato extracts (vitamins A, C, and K), along with moisture-balancing wheat proteins, for a potent yet gentle antioxidant cocktail. 

4

$88, sephora.com

Restore as you snooze with this overnight face oil from Prima. Its star ingredient is prickly pear oil, which is chock-full of vitamin K, antioxidants, amino acids, phytosterols, and omega fatty acids to help nourish and brighten skin. Broad-spectrum hemp CBD lends an additional calming effect. 

5

$52, dermstore.com

Buff your way to skin bliss with this ‘fizzofoliant’ from Eminence, which relies on stone crop, rice, and adzuki powder, along with microgreens, to help (gently) rid skin of dead cells and impurities for a smoother, more radiant complexion.