Friday, August 24, 2007

The Debate is Over: Vitamin C and Niacin Protect the Skin from the Sun

Food does not provide enough vitamin C and niacin to provide maximum protection against damage caused by exposure to the sun (skin aging). The benefits of vitamin C and niacin have been proven in numerous controlled clinical trials using high potency vitamin C and niacin creams. The evidence is indisputable. I found 29 reports published since 2003 using niacin creams and 8 using vitamin C creams. Many of the niacin reports were in the form of patents. Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, and L’Oreal were among the companies developing niacin-containing anti-aging skin creams.

Last week I visited a dermatologist for the first time. The purpose of my visit was to consult with a doctor that would have to be aware of the benefits of vitamin supplements and could not subscribe to the view that one RDA was enough. I intended to get advice about which brand of niacin and vitamin C cream to buy, because poorly formulated creams are known to be ineffective. The dermatologist acknowledged that the vitamin creams probably worked, but confessed to a lack of expertise. Dermatologists do not see preventing skin aging as their job. Their job is to diagnose skin diseases, prescribe drugs, and perform surgery. I was stunned. Vitamin supplements in the form of creams are mainstream treatments for the skin. There is a consensus between the mainstream and alternative medicine communities that they work when properly formulated. Yet somehow dermatologists rationalize the view that vitamin creams are not their business.

The studies I read showed that vitamin creams maintain skin barrier properties, elasticity, and smoothness, and prevent skin pigmentation and possibly skin cancer. Some of the testing involved sophisticated biochemistry. Other described tests are easily understood. For example, researchers use a “tape stripping test”. Tape is attached to shaved skin and then torn off. Several minutes later the skin is photographed to document the damage caused. The less redness and swelling observed, the healthier the skin.

Clinical trials and patents from leading cosmetics companies prove that creams containing vitamin C and niacin help maintain the skin in a healthy, youthful state. To me, this means that a substantial portion of skin aging is a disease that can be prevented. I believe it is the responsibility of dermatologists to inform their patients that they should be using vitamin skin creams, just like it is the responsibility of my dentist to inform me that I have to brush and floss my teeth every day. I believe it is also the responsibility of dermatologists and cardiologists to teach their colleagues that vitamins have proven benefits at doses well above one RDA.

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