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This is the second instalment of a seven-part series, where we invite skin and beauty experts to explain the intricacies of the vitamins found in our skincare products

What types of vitamin B are taken orally, and which ones are best applied topically? With eight different variants and each boasting their individual benefits, the functions and uses of vitamin B can be difficult to grasp. To help us understand this class of vitamins better, we ask Dr Gerard Ee of The Clifford Clinic and Dr Georgia Lee of TLC Lifestyle Practice to break down the jargon for us.

What is Vitamin B?

A class of water-soluble vitamins, there are eight types of B vitamins—B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. These vitamins are vital for maintaining our energy levels, brain functions, and cell metabolism and are easily derived from food sources such as dairy, meat, fish, vegetables, seeds and nuts, and more.

What does Vitamin B do for our skin?

Used in skincare, vitamin B is an antioxidant that helps to treat signs of ageing and alleviate sensitive skin. The most common ones found in topical skincare are vitamin B3 (niacinamide), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), and vitamin B12 (cobalamin).

“Vitamin B3 reduces inflammation, signs of ageing like fine wrinkles and blemishes, and improves the function of the skin's barrier. Vitamin B5 is a humectant that keeps skin moisturised,” Dr Gerard Ee, founder of The Clifford Clinic explains.

“Vitamin B12 helps to increase cellular regeneration and encourage wound healing. When taken orally, it helps in red blood cell production, regulates pigmentation in skin and maintains healthy hair and nails,” says Dr Georgia Lee, medical director of TLC Lifestyle Practice and co-founder of A DrBrand.

Who should use it and who shouldn’t?

Both vitamin B3 and vitamin B5 are suitable for all skin types. Vitamin B3 is especially beneficial for sensitive and acne-prone skin, while vitamin B5 is useful for normal to dry skin types.

“Vitamin B3 is antibacterial and helps to reduce pigments, while vitamin B5 is hydrating and promotes wound healing,” Dr Lee shares.

These vitamins are also very versatile antioxidants.

“If you would like to protect your skin against oxidative free-radical damage—which is one of the main causes of ageing skin—you can get started on using vitamin B3 and vitamin B5 in your skincare routine,” Dr Ee advises.

What is the best way to use Vitamin B?

If you use acid toners or exfoliants on a regular basis, vitamin B3 might be the perfect addition to your skincare routine.

“Vitamin B3 pairs well with most anti-ageing and acne skincare ingredients like retinoids to reduce irritation that these ingredients might cause,” says Dr Ee.

Vitamin B5 is compatible with almost any ingredient and is often found in hydrating serums.

“As vitamin B is water-soluble, use the serum after a toner and before any lotion- or cream-based products,” Dr Lee recommends.

Both vitamin B3 and B5 are suitable for use in the day and/or night. 

Are there any side effects to Vitamin B?

According to Dr Ee, vitamin B is generally very safe because it reduces skin irritation and sensitivity.

“Some people may be sensitive to Vitamin B3, but it can always be due to other additives in the formulations. The risk of allergy to topical Vitamin B itself is very low,” says Dr Lee.

Read more from The ABCs of Beauty: Vitamin AVitamin C | Vitamin D | Vitamin E