While most people are familiar with vitamins like C and E for skin health, one lesser-known but equally important vitamin for your skin is vitamin K2. Deficiency in this critical vitamin is increasingly linked to signs of premature aging, like wrinkles, sagging skin, and dark circles.
In this article, we will explore the fascinating science showing the anti-aging and rejuvenating effects of vitamin K2 on your skin. Proper supplementation may help restore a more youthful complexion as you age.
|Here is a summary of the key points from the article:
What Is Vitamin K2?
Leafy greens contain vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), one form of the fat-soluble vitamin K family. Vitamin K plays a vital role in proper blood clotting. Fermented foods and animal products provide another type of vitamin K2 (menaquinone). The K vitamins work together to support key bodily processes like coagulation. However, newer research shows vitamin K2 offers unique bone and heart health benefits not seen with K1.
While K1 is essential for blood coagulation, research in the last decade has shown that K2 offers unique benefits for bone and cardiovascular health not seen with K1. And now, an emerging area of research is uncovering the skin anti-aging properties of K2.
Of the K2 forms, menaquinone-7 (MK-7) shows particular promise for skin rejuvenation benefits. MK-7 is the most bioactive K2 subtype, with a longer half-life than other forms.
How Does Vitamin K2 Benefit Skin?
Vitamin K2 helps improve skin health and slow aging in a few key ways:
Prevents calcification and wrinkles
Vitamin K2’s primary role is regulating where calcium ends up in the body. Vitamin K2 activates proteins that help deposit calcium into bones and teeth where it is needed. Without enough K2, calcium can get deposited in soft tissues like blood vessels and skin.
Improper calcium metabolism in the skin can lead to cross-linking of elastin fibers. Elastin gives skin its elasticity and youthful bounce. When excess calcium binds elastin, it causes rigidity and wrinkling of the skin over time.
By optimizing calcium distribution, vitamin K2 prevents stiffening of elastin and may help mitigate wrinkle formation.
Stimulates collagen production
Collagen provides the structural framework in the skin to maintain elasticity and firmness. Starting in your 20s, your body’s collagen production declines by about 1% per year. Loss of collagen leads to wrinkles, sagging skin, and decreased elasticity.
Emerging research shows vitamin K2 has a role in enhancing collagen synthesis in skin fibroblasts. In cell and animal models, vitamin K2 increased procollagen type I production, the precursor to collagen-I, which makes up 80-85% of skin collagen.
By ramping up collagen production, vitamin K2 may counteract age-related drops in collagen levels to maintain a more youthful complexion.
Reduces dark circles and bruising
The blood clotting properties of vitamin K2 may also improve the appearance of dark circles under the eyes. Some superficial venous pooling or leakage can lead to bluish discoloration under the eyes. Vitamin K2 helps strengthen capillaries and prevents blood from pooling in small vessels around the eyes.
Vitamin K-dependent proteins limit bleeding from injured capillaries. Ensuring adequate K2 can mean less lingering red and purple bruises. Less bleeding also translates to quicker clearing of bruises.
Low-grade inflammation is thought to be an underlying driver of both internal and external aging. Inflammatory cytokines degrade collagen and elastin while sabotaging skin cell renewal.
Emerging evidence suggests vitamin K possesses anti-inflammatory activities like suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines, which may help reduce inflammatory damage to skin proteins and tissues.
May protect from sun damage
Some early cell culture studies indicate that vitamin K may shield skin from UV radiation damage when applied topically. Vitamin K1 reduced UV-induced cell death and DNA damage in cultured human keratinocytes and fibroblasts.
More research is needed, but optimizing vitamin K status may aid sun protection when combined with topical antioxidants and sunscreen.
Vitamin K2 for Aging Skin: The Research
While vitamin K2 is still an emerging nutrient in skin care, several promising clinical studies demonstrate its anti-aging efficacy:
In a 12-week study of 38 women, taking just 45 mcg/day of MK-7 significantly improved the skin’s firmness and elasticity and reduced wrinkle depth.
Post-menopausal women given a 365 mcg/day MK-7 supplement for three years showed increased dermal density and thickness compared to placebo, indicating improved structural integrity of the skin.
A 6-week trial in women over 40 found that supplementing 360 mcg/day of MK-7 led to substantial reductions in bruising. Bruise color intensity was decreased by 20%, and bruise size diminished significantly.
In a small eight-week study, women who took 180 mcg/day of MK-7 showed a 5% reduction in hemoglobin color intensity, improving dark circles under their eyes compared to the placebo group.
Although more research is still needed, several studies have illustrated that taking vitamin K2 orally can improve various signs of skin aging, including reducing wrinkles, bruising, and dark circles. Topical vitamin K applications may also provide anti-aging skin benefits, but researchers must thoroughly examine topical vitamin K in clinical trials. Further research should explore the efficacy and safety of using vitamin K2 supplements and topical formulations to rejuvenate aging skin.
Food Sources of Vitamin K2
Very few foods are rich sources of bioactive vitamin K2. Here are some dietary sources and their MK-4 and MK-7 content:
Natto: MK-7 content ranges from 507 to 839 mcg per 100 grams. This fermented Japanese soybean dish is by far the richest source.
Certain cheeses like gouda and brie: MK-4 ranges from 75-200 mcg per 100 grams .
Egg yolk: 32 mcg MK-4 per 100 grams.
Butter and other full-fat dairy: 8-15 mcg MK-4 per 100 grams .
Meat and liver: Small amounts of K2 from MK-4, menaquinone-9, and menaquinone-10 forms.
As you can see, it can be challenging to get enough vitamin K2 from food sources alone. Natto is not a widely eaten food in Western diets. Full-fat dairy also contains K2, but only in small amounts.
For these reasons, taking an oral MK-7 or MK-4 supplement can be a more practical way to increase your vitamin K2 intake for skin and overall health.
How Much Vitamin K2 Do You Need?
Experts have not established a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin K2. The published adequate intake for total vitamin K is 90-120 mcg/day for adults. However, this guideline does not differentiate between the different forms of vitamin K. Researchers still need to determine optimal intakes for vitamin K1 versus K2 to provide more precise nutritional recommendations.
Researchers are still determining the optimal intake of vitamin K2. However, they use 180 to 360 mcg daily in studies that show skin anti-aging benefits. Toxicology studies suggest that doses up to 500 mcg/day are safe.
Of course, discussing personalized dosage recommendations with your healthcare provider is ideal. Vitamin K2 supplements are very safe at suggested doses. However, they can interfere with blood thinners like Coumadin due to K2’s effects on blood clotting factors.
Choosing a Vitamin K2 Supplement
When choosing a vitamin K2 supplement for your skin, look for the MK-7 form. As mentioned earlier, MK-7 has better absorption and bioavailability than MK-4 or K1.
MK-7 is also the specific form used in clinical studies demonstrating skin anti-aging effects. The optimal dose is between 180 and 360 mcg daily.
Some research indicates taking K2 with fatty foods enhances absorption. So, look for an oil-based MK-7 supplement for maximum efficacy.
Finally, opt for a natural MK-7 supplement derived from natto. Synthetic MK-7 supplements are also available, but researchers have yet to study them as extensively.
Other Tips for Youthful Skin
Vitamin K2 deficiency links to accelerated skin aging, but you can also control many lifestyle factors that promote a more youthful complexion:
Eat a diet rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods like leafy greens, colorful fruits and vegetables, omega-3s from fish and nuts, etc. These help counteract oxidative skin damage.
Stay hydrated and use moisturizers since dryness exaggerates the appearance of wrinkles. Look for hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides.
Wear broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen daily to block UV damage and break down collagen and elastin. Reapply every 2 hours when outdoors.
Don’t smoke cigarettes. Smoking drastically accelerates skin aging through chemical damage and oxygen deprivation to skin cells.
Manage stress levels through yoga, meditation, journaling, or other relaxing activities. Stress hormones like cortisol degrade collagen.
Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Insufficient sleep increases inflammation and lowers the growth hormone needed for skin repair.
New and exciting research highlights the potential for vitamin K2 supplementation to help maintain youthful, healthy skin as we age. By preventing wrinkle-causing calcification, stimulating collagen, and reducing inflammation, vitamin K2 addresses multiple age-related changes to the skin.
While more large-scale studies are still needed, current evidence suggests that taking 180-360 mcg daily of highly absorbable MK-7 vitamin K2 may help minimize wrinkles, age spots, under-eye circles, and other signs of maturing skin. Combined with skin-friendly nutrition and lifestyle factors, ensuring adequate vitamin K2 intake gives your skin the best chance to defy time.
Emerging research reveals vitamin K2 as a promising anti-aging nutrient for skin health. Studies show oral supplements of 180-360 mcg per day of the MK-7 form can reduce wrinkles, improve elasticity, minimize bruising and under-eye circles, and slow other signs of aging skin. While diet provides minimal K2, supplements can effectively increase intake.
Along with a healthy lifestyle, proper vitamin K2 status may help maintain a more youthful, vibrant complexion over time. Though more research is warranted, current evidence suggests strategically supplementing with bioavailable forms of K2, like MK-7, can counteract many intrinsic and extrinsic skin aging factors. Ensuring adequate vitamin K2 intake gives your skin the tools to better withstand the passage of time.