Most people have heard of B-group vitamins and Vitamins C and E, but although Vitamin K is less well-known it is no less important. It has been shown to have some surprising properties when applied to the skin.
Vitamin K1 (phytomenadione, or phylloquinone) is found in highest amounts in leafy green vegetables, because in plants it is directly involved in photosynthesis. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the human body, and both deficiencies and excesses are rare in the absence of other pathologies.
As a vitamin, vitamin K has one main function: blood clotting. It is required for the liver to activate a group of proteins called coagulation factors, all of which are necessary for blood to clot. In fact, the “K” in its name comes from its name in German, “Koagulationsvitamin”. The commonly-prescribed anticoagulant medication warfarin works by antagonising (opposing) Vitamin K’s action.
Vitamin K also plays an important role in bone health.
Bruising (or pupurea) is a common side-effect of many cosmetic laser treatments, for example laser hair removal or laser skin resurfacing. Several studies have found that products containing at least 1% w/w vitamin K shorten the length of time that skin is reddish-purple when these products are applied after laser treatment (2, 3, 4).
Vitamin K may also be applied to other skin areas that may benefit from bruise-reduction. For example, a cream containing 2% vitamin K, 0.1% retinol and 0.1% vitamins C and E has been shown to have a moderate effect on reducing dark circles under eyes (5).
Topical vitamin K has also been shown to promote the healing of wounds (6).
Topical application of vitamin K is unlikely to have any effect on systemic blood clotting, as it has no known toxicity in overdose. Any small amounts that may be absorbed across the skin must be significantly diluted before they can exert any effect where coagulation factors are activated in the liver.
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