It may not be on the receiving end of as much hype as its peers like vitamin A and vitamin C, but in 2021, vitamin K is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Our guide has all you need to know…
Any skin guru worth their (Himalayan pink) salt will have a bathroom cabinet that reads like an A-to-Z of vitamin-loaded lotions and potions. But we’re not just talking vitamin A (that’s where retinol comes from), vitamin B3 (also known as niacinamide) and vitamin C (a super duper brightening antioxidant).
There’s another, considerably less shouty, skin hero on the block. Meet vitamin K – a complexion-boosting ingredient that’s increasingly causing a buzz in the beauty sphere.
While it doesn’t have quite the same research behind it as the other more famed vitamins, it’s thought to boast a few exciting powers making it ‘one to watch’ if you are skincare formulation-savvy.
Often used to help skin recover from surgery or cosmetic procedures like laser treatment, vitamin K is believed to help cuts, wounds and bruises heal considerably faster than usual. It’s also a star ingredient in many eye creams with studies showing it can help brighten dark circles and boost skin elasticity.
As an oral supplement, vitamin K is thought to help with everything from bone building to memory function and preventing premature ageing. It also helps with blood clotting which gives it the potential to be used in treatments for conditions associated with broken capillaries like rosacea, varicose veins or spider veins in the future.
No wonder its discovery was granted a Nobel Prize in 1943.
“Often dubbed the ‘forgotten vitamin,’ I’m predicting a huge rise in the popularity of vitamin K. It’s appearing in both skincare and oral supplements,” explains Shabir Daya, pharmacist and co-founder of Victoria Health.
Here, we take a closer look at the unsung hero and share the best vitamin K products to get your fix.
What is vitamin K?
Also known as phytonadione, it can be taken in supplement format as well as consumed in our diet. Foods high in vitamin K include leafy greens like kale, spinach, cabbage and broccoli. “The vast majority of us are vitamin K deficient. It’s fat soluble so people on low-fat diets are likely to be particularly low. Alcohol, even in moderation, can reduce our body’s ability to store it and antibiotics can affect how we absorb it,” explains Daya.
Benefits of vitamin K
Brightens eyes: If tired-looking eyes count as one of your bugbears, you could benefit from a vitamin K eye cream. Studies looking into the effects of creams containing both vitamin K and retinol found that participants showed a reduction in dark circles after several weeks.
Boost skin elasticity: In another trial that tested a blend of vitamin K, caffeine and emu oil, testers also showed an improvement in dark circles and skin elasticity within three weeks.
Aid skin healing: Further research has found vitamin K to speed up the natural heal and repair process in damaged skin while others have shown it to clear up bruises more quickly. That could explain why the ingredient is often found in creams used post-aesthetic procedure such as laser treatment.
What skin type is vitamin K best for?
Vitamin K is not likely to cause problems if your skin is sensitive and there are no restrictions on how to use it in your skincare routine.
Most of the products containing vitamin K are designed to be used twice a day – morning and night – and, unlike vitamin A (retinol) there aren’t any side effects or known issues with it making skin more sun-sensitive.
How to use vitamin K
It’s a smart addition to your arsenal but it works best when combined with other proven ingredients.
If it’s dark circles you’re looking to tackle, choose a cream, lotion or serum that boasts vitamin K along with caffeine or retinol. The latter is proven to increase collagen production making the skin less thin and transparent. In turn, dark purple blood vessels underneath will be less visible.
“When taken orally, vitamin K has many benefits including building strong and healthy bones, protecting the cardiovascular system, preventing premature ageing and enhancing memory function,” explains Daya who recommends Victoria Health’s Life Extension Super K with Advanced K2 Complex, £22. It’s been known to work in synergy with vitamin D – try Holland and Barrett Calcium with Vitamin D and K Capsules, £4.99.
The best vitamin K products to try
The face mask: Summer Fridays Overtime Mask
Ever feel like your complexion looks a bit dull and congested? This mask is packed with vitamins A, K and C, along with pumpkin to gently exfoliate skin and leave it looking brighter and more balanced.
Apply a thick layer to cleansed, dry skin with your fingertips and massage it in circular motions for 60 seconds. Let the mask sit for 10 mins before washing it off with warm water. You’ll be left with clean, pump and radiant skin.
Shop Summer Fridays Overtime Mask at Cult Beauty, £39
The gel eye cream: Omorovicza Reviving Eye Cream
This Hungarian skincare brand offers the perfect mix of proven ingredients and spa-worthy, pampering textures. This award-winning gel harnesses vitamin K, along with hazelnut peptide, to firm and lift the eye area.
There’s an instant ‘ahh’ factor, too. It uses cucumber extract to soothe, de-puff and refresh making it the perfect cooling fix for tired, hungover eyes or as the weather gets warmer. Just tap gently around your eyes after cleansing.
Shop Omorovicza Reviving Eye Cream at LookFantastic, £85
The under-eye serum: Sesderma K-Vit Dark Circle Serum
Rich eye creams can sometimes worsen puffy eyes by loading up the thin, delicate area of skin. If you’re prone to it – or you’re just not keen on the texture of a thick cosseting cream – this featherlight serum is well worth trying instead.
A little goes a long way and the silky texture makes it the perfect tool for a light daily massage. Apply a drop and gently work it into the area upwards and outwards using your ring finger. Hyaluronic acid adds an extra moisture boost.
Shop Sesderma K-Vit Dark Circle Serum at Dermacare Direct, £39
The sensitive skin cleanser: Medik8 Calmwise Soothing Cleanser
Formerly known as Medik8 Red Alert Cleanse, this calming foam is the dream for sensitive, reactive skin. While some foaming cleansers can be stripping, this utilises vitamin K and green chlorophyll to gently clean while easing redness and flushing.
Reach for it if your skin’s feeling compromised or you’ve over-done it with the actives and you can rest assured it won’t irritate further. One or two pumps once or twice a day is all that’s required.
Shop Medik8 Calmwise Soothing Cleanser at LookFantastic, £21
The post-procedure moisturiser: Dermaceutic K Ceutic Post-Treatment Cream
Remember we told you vitamin K was a saviour for helping to repair skin? This soothing cream harnesses the ingredient for exactly that.
Targeting skin post-aesthetic treatment, the clever formula optimises recovery time and can be applied as often as required.
The vitamin K is joined by hydrating hyaluronic acid and nourishing shea butter and vitamin E as well as a glycoprotein that helps with regeneration. It also boasts SPF 50 that’s hugely important when skin’s sensitive after peels, laser or resurfacing treatments.
Shop Dermaceutic K Ceutic Post-Treatment Cream at Skin City, £32
The smoothing eye cream: Exuviance Brightening Bionic Eye Creme Plus
While some eye treatments focus on comfort, this turbo-action treatment uses a bevy of hard-working ingredients to blitz under-eye shadows and crow’s feet.
It claims vitamin K will hit those weak capillaries causing dark circles while a patented lactobionic acid helps thicken the thin area of skin.
But the clinical studies behind it are seriously impressive. When applied twice daily over four weeks, 90% of users saw a reduction in puffiness and increased elasticity while 87% had an improvement in fine lines.
Shop Exuviance Brightening Bionic Eye Creme Plus at Face the Future, £37.89
The redness reducing cream: Skin Doctors Capillary Clear Broken Capillary Solution
Promising to visibly combat redness and age-related blemishes within weeks, it’s no surprise that vitamin K is at the heart of this formula.
The comforting yet lightweight consistency quickly quells irritation and, over time, flushed areas look diminished.
Give it around a month to see an effect when applied morning and night on cleansed skin.
Shop Skin Doctors Capillary Clear Broken Capillary Solution at LookFantastic, £21.99
The colour correcting under-eye cream: Goldfaden MD Bright Eyes Dark Circle Radiant Concentrate
You can’t beat a product that gets to work on two-levels and this double-duty eye treatment does just that. Immediately, the fine light-reflective mica particles will blur away purple tones making you look infinitely more awake before you’ve even wielded concealer.
Jojoba oil replenishes moisture for softer, more supple skin while, over time, expect a reduction in crepey skin and lines thanks to soy peptides and that all-important vitamin K.
It can be used morning or night but makes a particularly great canvas for make-up.
Shop Goldfaden MD Bright Eyes Dark Circle Radiant Concentrate at SpaceNK, £48
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