Wouldn’t it be great if you had a way to tell if you were short on a certain nutrient or two?
You can always take a multivitamin, but then how do you know for sure if you’re getting enough vitamin C, for instance, or chromium?
You can always ask your doctor for a blood test, but you can also take a close look at your skin. If you’re really low on a nutrient—to the level of being “deficient”—you might be able to see signs that it’s time to change your diet.
What is a Vitamin Deficiency?
First, it’s important to know what a vitamin “deficiency” is. The human body requires certain vitamins and minerals to be able to operate correctly, and if you aren’t getting enough, your health can suffer.
Of course, sometimes it’s good to get some extra vitamin C, such as during cold and flu season, but even if you’re not getting that extra boost, it doesn’t mean you’re deficient.
Vitamin deficiency develops when your body has an actual shortage of the nutrients it needs. This is a more serious condition than if you simply missed your vitamin-C-rich glass of orange juice one morning, for instance.
If you eat a nutritious diet most of the time, you may never notice any vitamin deficiencies, but if you’ve been stressed lately, have been fighting a chronic illness, or haven’t been able to eat well, your body may be fighting to get the nutrients it needs.
7 Ways Your Skin Tells You You’re Vitamin Deficient
Check your skin for the following signs. If you see them, you may need to increase certain nutrients in your diet.
1. Brittle Nails (and Hair)
Nails that break and split easily, nails that feel hard and brittle, and hair that is dry and frizzy could indicate low levels in biotin, also known as vitamin B7. It helps the body convert food into energy, and it also promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails.
A biotin deficiency is rare, but some people are more vulnerable, including pregnant women, heavy smokers and drinkers, and people with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Other symptoms of a deficiency include chronic fatigue muscle pain, cramps, and tingling in the hands and feet.
Eat more: Good sources of biotin include egg yolks, organ meats, fish, meat, dairy, nuts, seeds, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, whole grains, and bananas.
2. Pale Skin
Pale or yellow skin—also called jaundice—may indicate a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 helps produce red blood cells, which contribute to the skin’s normal shade. If you’re not getting enough, you may have fewer red blood cells than you should, which can cause a condition known as megaloblastic anemia—which is associated with pale, jaundiced skin.
If you notice this symptom plus weakness, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and fast or irregular heartbeat, talk to your doctor right away. Also keep in mind that as we get older, our bodies don’t absorb vitamin B12 as well as they did, so it may be wise to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Eat more: Organ meats (liver), clams, sardines, beef, tuna, trout, salmon.
3. Dry, Flaky Skin
Dry skin is extremely common and can be caused by several factors, but one of the main ones is a lack of essential fatty acids (EFAs) in the diet. These help keep your body moisturized from the inside out, and are critical for supporting the natural lubricating fats in your skin.
Signs you may be low on EFAs are dry, itchy skin, cracking fingertips, peeling skin, eczema and psoriasis flare-ups, and even dry arms.
Eat more: Fatty fish, flaxseeds, eggs, and walnuts.
4. Bruising and Wounds that Won’t Heal
If you have lots of bruises on your skin or wounds that take forever to heal, you could be low on vitamin C. It has healing properties and is important for collagen synthesis and skin repair. It also helps decrease skin cell damage and aid in the overall process of healing.
Easy bruising can also be a sign of low vitamin K, as it’s responsible for blood clotting.
Eat more: For vitamin C, eat more lemons, mangos, cherries, berries, papayas, oranges, chili peppers, yellow peppers, spinach, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. For vitamin K, eat more green leafy veggies like kale, spinach, and turnip greens, as well as vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
5. Puffy Eyes
Everyone gets puffy eyes now and then, particularly after a late night or when you’re a little dehydrated. If you notice puffy eyes on a more regular basis, though, it could be that you’re low on iodine. It’s essential to thyroid health, and low levels can lead to hypothyroidism, which causes fatigue, weight gain, brittle nails, and puffy eyes.
Eat more: Cod, tuna, seaweed, shrimp, and other seafood, as well as dairy products, breads, and cereals.
Have you noticed a vitamin deficiency on your skin?