Vitamin K: why the unsung hero ingredient could be your secret weapon against dark circles

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Amber Ascroft
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It’s tipped to be one of the hottest vitamins for 2020 and has been found to help with shadows, wrinkles and elasticity under the eyes. 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’re skin care formulation-savvy.

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Often used to help skin recover from surgery or cosmetic procedures like laser treatment, it’s been shown to make 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 blitz dark circles, fine lines and boost skin elasticity.

As an oral supplement, it’s been shown 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 although it’s estimated that a staggering 99% of us have a vitamin K deficiency,” explains pharmacist and co-founder of Victoria Health, Shabir Daya.

Here, we take a closer look at the unsung hero and share the best vitamin K products to get your fix.

The benefits and use of Vitamin K in skincare

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.

What are the benefits of vitamin K for skin and what is it used for?

If either dark circles, under-eye wrinkles or crow’s feet count as one of your bugbears, you could benefit from vitamin K that plays a starring role in several eye creams.

Two studies have looked into the effects of creams containing both vitamin K and retinol. In both, participants showed a reduction in dark circles after several weeks.

In another, that used a blend of vitamin K, caffeine and emu oil, testers also showed an improvement in dark circles, skin elasticity and under-eye wrinkles within three weeks.

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 fillers or laser treatment.

Can vitamin K help with spider veins and improve the appearance of broken capillaries?

Vitamin K is often found in products tackling broken capillaries and their associated issues like rosacea and spider veins on the legs and face. This is based on the claim that the vitamin can help with blood clotting therefore preventing the veins from seeping and causing discolouration.

But some experts aren’t convinced of its abilities to make any difference to veins – big or small –when applied topically in skincare.

“No topical skincare cream can improve the appearance of broken capillaries (telangiectasia) on the face. Spider veins generally need to be treated with a vascular laser to be removed.

“There is a prescription cosmetic agent known as ‘Mirvaso’ that uses a medicine called brimonidine. This topical agent causes temporary vasoconstriction (closure) of the very fine blood vessels in the skin and can temporarily reduce the background redness and flushing in patients with rosacea.

“However it’s not a treatment for broken capillaries and again, a vascular laser would be required to improve the appearance of these broken capillaries on the skin in rosacea sufferers,” comments Dr. Natalia Spierings, medical director of online dermatology service Dermatica.

How is best 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.

Can vitamin K be used for all skin types? 

Yes, it’s not likely to cause problems if your skin’s 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.

The best vitamin K products to try

  • The gel eye cream

    Omorovicza Reviving Eye Cream with Vitamin K

    Omorovicza Reviving Eye Cream, £82

    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 life the eye area while getting to work on fine lines and wrinkles.

    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.


  • The brightening moisturiser

    Jason Lightening Vitamin K Creme Plus

    Jason Lightening Vitamin K Creme Plus, £17.53

    Applied twice a day, this skin-brightening cream ticks off radiance-boosting and moisturising in one hit.

    Think a blend of vitamin K alongside a tonne of other goodies like vitamin C, vitamin E, horsetail plant and echinacea. It’s a little too thick if you’re prone to clogged pores but if a dull, lifeless complexion is your issue, expect it to add vibrancy and an all-round lustre over time.


  • The under-eye serum

    Sesderma K Vit Anti-Dark Circle Serum

    Sesderma K-Vit Dark Circle Serum, £39

    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.


  • The sensitive skin cleanser

    Medik8 Calmwise Soothing Cleanser

    Medik8 Calmwise Soothing Cleanser, £19

    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.


  • The dark circles treatment

    Peter Thomas Roth Power K Eye Rescue Eye Treatment for Dark Circles and Fine Lines with Vitamin K

    Peter Thomas Roth Power K Rescue Eye Treatment, £62

    Wrinkles, puffiness and discolouration stand no chance against this fatigue-fighting weapon. As well as vitamin K, it’s loaded with age-defying ingredients like vitamin C, antioxidant green tea, co-enzyme Q-10 and brightening kojic acid.

    There’s a visible reduction when it comes to dark shadows although, as the name suggests, it’s pretty powerful so not one for super-sensitive peepers. It’s designed to be used twice a day but try patting it on at night only to start with - you’ll soon see results.


  • The under-eye exfoliant

    Eminence Naseberry Eye Exfoliant with vitamin K

    Eminence Naseberry Eye Exfoliant, £47

    We use all kinds of masks and lotions to combat tired eyes but have you ever though about smoothing exfoliants? Just like the rest of our face, the zone can benefit from some gentle skin-sloughing to help it appear more luminous, fresher and youthful.

    Enter: this five-minute treatment that works a treat before your favourite hydrating product. Fruit enzymes eat away at dead skin cells while calendula soothes and honey nourishes.

    Massage it gently in a circular motion then leave for five minutes and wipe away with a damp cloth.


  • The post-procedure moisturiser

    Dermaceutic K Ceutic Post Treatment Cream with vitamin K

    Dermaceutic K Ceutic Post-Treatment Cream, £31.50

    Remember we told you vitamin K was a saviour for helping to repair after surgery or skin procedures? 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.


  • The smoothing eye cream

    Exuviance Brightening Bionic Eye Creme Plus with vitamin K

    Exuviance Brightening Bionic Eye Creme Plus, £39

    While some eye treatments focus on comfort, this turbo-action treatment uses a bevy of hard-working ingredients to blitz under-eye shadows, wrinkles 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.


  • The redness reducing cream

    Skin Doctors Capillary Clear Broken Capillary Solution with Vitamin K

    Skin Doctors Capillary Clear Broken Capillary Solution, £21.99

    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.


  • The colour correcting under-eye cream

    Goldfaden MD Solution Bright Eyes Dark Circle Radiance Concentrate with vitamin K

    Goldfaden MD Bright Eyes Dark Circle Radiant Concentrate, £48

    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.


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Amber Ascroft

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