We know that vitamin A is essentially the gold-standard ingredient in topical skincare, used to combat signs of ageing and address problematic or acneic skins. However, vitamin A is such a complex ingredient that many are still a little perplexed when it comes to the exact benefits and usage surrounding it. Let’s explore these together.
One of the keys to understanding vitamin A is that not all vitamin A products are made the same. There are many forms, or derivatives, of vitamin A. These include retinol, retinol esters, retinaldehyde, and retinoic acid. The form can determine the penetration into the skin, as well as its efficacy, but so too can the strength of the product, i.e. the quantity of vitamin A derivative used.
Generally speaking, vitamin A products all boast similar benefits, including:
It’s a powerful collagen stimulator, meaning plumper, firmer skin with less wrinkle formation for longer.
Many acneic and problematic/breakout-prone skins suffer due to excessive sebum production. Vitamin A can slow this down and bring it back under control, reducing the incidence of acne lesions and blockages.
Vitamin A is used to regulate the inscription of our DNA, ensuring optimal function and prevention of mutations.
Vitamin A also helps to regulate the activity of melanocytes, and is used to control excess production of pigmentation.
Vitamin A products act as antioxidants, protecting cells from free radical damage and therefore delaying signs of ageing.
Another key factor to remember is that our skin already has vitamin A receptors within it. These receptors detect when vitamin A is present, absorb it, and put it to good use. Vitamin A is essential in a number of cellular functions within the body. However, these receptors have a baseline quantity of vitamin A tolerance, and can be overloaded if plied with too much too quickly. If you’ve had an adverse reaction to vitamin A, you will know exactly what this means. Many believe they are allergic or sensitive to vitamin A without realising that this baseline tolerance exists, and have simply overwhelmed their receptors. Signs of this can include inflammation, itchiness and flakiness, and rosacea-type symptoms. Thankfully, this tolerance is something that can be increased slowly over time.
Tips for vitamin A Use
- Follow instructions carefully.
Many vitamin A products advise gradual introduction to the skin, ie. applying once every 2-3 days for two weeks, before progressing to once every 1-2 days. If your vitamin A product is daily use but you find you experience sensitivity, you might consider starting at once every 2-day application.
- Avoid prescription-strength vitamin A if you wish to receive clinical treatments.
Many GPs and dermatologists prescribe vitamin A for skins that arguably do not require such a high dose, and what many individuals do not realise is that most clinical treatments such as peels, laser and IPL, skin needling and more, are contraindicated by prescription vitamin A.
- Apply at night.
Some vitamin A products can be photosensitisers, meaning your skin is more sensitive and prone to UV damage. So reserve your retinoids for PM use.
- Ensure you are using SPF throughout the day.
Particularly if you are using vitamin A for its depigmentation benefits, you may just undo all of your product’s hard work if you aren’t wearing sunscreen daily.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding vitamin A, or would like to begin incorporating one into your skincare routine, why not start by arranging a virtual skin consultation? We offer complimentary 15 or 30 minute sessions in order to provide tailored skincare advice.