Can a Vitamin Deficiency Cause Dry Skin?

Updated October 16, 2022
Person rubbing moisturising lotion on dry elbows and arm.

Getting proper nutrition boosts your odds of maintaining healthy, glowing skin. Consuming plenty of vitamins and minerals every day is important for maintaining skin health. Vitamin deficiencies, on the other hand can cause dry or flaky skin.

How Nutrient Deficiencies Can Cause Dry Skin

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can affect your skin in several ways. B vitamins play a role in your body's metabolism, allowing energy from foods to be broken down and utilized by your organs including the skin, the body's largest organ. B vitamins also help your body metabolize and use proteins, carbs, and fat, which is a must for healthy hair, nails, and skin. Being deficient in B vitamins can really take a toll on skin health.

But B vitamins aren't the only nutrients that help you to maintain healthy skin. According to a 2021 review in Nutrients vitamin C is also necessary for skin's collagen production. Vitamin A and carotenoids help maintain the different layers of skin, and zinc and selenium protect the skin from oxidative stress that can cause skin damage.

Vitamins and Minerals That Boost Skin Health

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on expensive skin creams, you might want to head to your local market and pick up some skin-boosting, nutrient rich foods to add to your diet. Getting enough of these nutrients can help prevent skin damage and help you to get a million-dollar glow.

Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Too little niacin in your diet can lead to skin conditions, such as dermatitis, which leads to flaking, crusty, or itchy skin patches. Niacin deficiency can also be associated with photosensitivity dermatitis (photodermatitis) which causes a rash, scaly skin patches, or blisters in response to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Aim to get plenty of niacin-rich foods in your diet daily, such as beef, poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, grains and fortified cereals, and speak to your doctor about taking a niacin supplement or a multivitamin if you're deficient in this essential nutrient.

Vitamin B12

Getting too little (or too much) vitamin B12 in your diet can also cause changes in your skin. According to a 2015 review published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause skin conditions like atopic dermatitis (dry, scaly skin patches) and acne.

Eating plenty of B12-rich foods such as fish, meat, milk, poultry, eggs, fortified cereals and, for vegans, nutritional yeast, can help prevent a deficiency. Because some people don't properly absorb vitamin B12, check with your doctor to see if you need a B12 supplement.

Vitamin B6

Because B vitamins are so important for healthy-looking skin, it's no surprise vitamin B6 deficiency can also lead to itchy, dry, flaky, or scaly skin according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. So be sure to load up on vitamin B6-rich foods such as poultry, fish, potatoes, starchy vegetables and fruit, and speak to your doctor about taking a supplement to correct a vitamin B6 deficiency.

Biotin

Getting plenty of biotin in your diet is a crucial part of keeping your skin hydrated. While biotin deficiency is rare in the U.S., it can cause dry scaly skin, cracking in the corners of your mouth, and seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap) in infants.

Eat biotin-rich foods and talk to your doctor about taking a biotin supplement due to poor biotin absorption that can occur with certain medical conditions or medications. Foods rich in biotin include cooked eggs (especially egg yolks), brewer's yeast, nuts, nut butters, sardines, soybeans, legumes, mushrooms, bananas, cauliflower, and whole grains.

Vitamin C

You may think of vitamin C as the immunity nutrient and not necessarily associate it with youthful-looking skin. But vitamin C is crucial for healthy, hydrated skin and collagen production. Rough, dry, scaly skin is a sign you might be deficient in vitamin C.

So load up on vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, red and green peppers, broccoli, strawberries and cantaloupe, or speak to your doctor about taking a supplement to prevent or correct vitamin C deficiency and dry skin associated with it.

Vitamin A

If you have abnormally dry skin, vitamin A or carotenoid deficiency might be the culprit. Carotenoids are the pigments that give certain fruits and vegetables their deep color, and these compounds are precursors to vitamin A in the body. This means your body is able to convert some of these compounds into vitamin A.

Be sure to include plenty of vitamin A-rich foods in your diet daily and ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin supplement or retinyl palmitate, referred to as preformed vitamin A, or beta-carotene, also called provitamin A. It's especially important to speak to your doctor about taking any form of vitamin A supplement, as large doses of vitamin A can be harmful to pregnant people and high doses of beta-carotene supplements have been linked to lung cancer.

Include plenty of vitamin A and carotenoid-rich foods such as salmon, herring, organ meats, green leafy vegetables, green, orange and yellow vegetables, cantaloupes, eggs, and dairy products.

Zinc

Getting too little zinc in your diet can cause skin problems like psoriasis, marked by dry, scaly skin patches, acne, and atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema. Zinc helps keep your skin barrier intact protecting it from damage. Choose zinc-rich foods such as oysters, red meat, poultry, crab, lobster, beans, nuts, and fortified breakfast cereal and speak to your doctor about taking a supplement.

Other Potential Causes of Dry Skin

Just because you have dry skin doesn't mean you're deficient in vitamins or minerals. Other causes of dry skin include:

  • Aging
  • Cool, dry weather
  • Exposure to irritating cleaning solutions or other chemicals
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Frequent swimming
  • Harsh soaps
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Hot baths or showers
  • Wood burning stoves, fireplaces, and space heaters

Also, it's important to drink enough fluids every day, since dehydration is one cause of dry skin. According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, women require 11 cups of water and men require 15 cups of water daily, with an increased requirement for those who are active, especially when doing outdoor activity, and during pregnancy and lactation. This includes water from food, other drinks and water, so by no means do women require 11 cups of straight water in addition to other fluids and fluid supplied by food, unless you're exercising in the heat.

To maximize skin health and maintain a healthy-looking glow, be sure to get a good variety of all essential vitamins and minerals in your diet daily. If you have a nutrient deficiency, talk with your doctor about taking a supplement. Use a daily moisturizer to lower your risk of dry skin. If you have eczema or psoriasis, ask your doctor about lotions, ointments, or oral medications as treatment options.

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Can a Vitamin Deficiency Cause Dry Skin?