One of the most misunderstood ingredients in mainstream skincare, vitamin A is a unique, powerhouse nutrient with a complicated story. Essential for human health, vitamin A is often associated with eye health and vision. But vitamin A also plays a role in the digestive tract, the respiratory system, the nervous system, the skeletal system, and of course, the integumentary system, otherwise known as skin. It is for the skin benefits of vitamin A that we love it.
The (Many) Skin Benefits of Vitamin A
We consider vitamin A an integral part of a well-rounded skincare routine. The multi-faceted nourishing properties of this ingredient offers a multitude of skin benefits:
- Helps normalize skin cells to improve skin texture
- Helps prevent acne from forming by decreasing sebum production and keratin build-up within the pores
- Helps create healthy collagen and elastin
- Helps promote the immunity of the skin and strengthens the skin’s barrier functionality
- Helps strengthen capillaries and reduce the symptoms of rosacea
- Creates a healthy dermis and epidermis
- Helps accelerate wound healing and reduce scarring
- Stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid to increase moisturization
- Reduces pigmentation
Retinol, Retinoids, and Vitamin A
Vitamin A is an umbrella term for part of a family of organic chemicals called retinoids, named because of their close association with retina and eyesight. Retinoids promote growth, reproduction, and resistance to and recovery from infection, as well as prevention of collagen degradation. For these reasons, retinoids are incredibly important to the care of damaged and aging skin.
Retinoids and vitamin A exist in a variety of forms, such as retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid, as well as several others. Each form interacts with the skin in unique ways. What they all have in common is that they all follow a metabolic pathway, where naturally occurring enzymes convert each form into the next with one final form in mind: retinoic acid.
Retinoic acid (RA) is the most active form of vitamin A and actually affects cellular DNA and repairs damage. The eventual conversion of other forms of vitamin A into RA occurs inside individual cells. The other forms are necessary for the proper absorption, transportation, storage, or delivery of the precursors into those cells.
Vitamin A in Skin Care
Arguably, the most popular retinoid used in skin care is retinol, the alcohol form of vitamin A. Retinol is converted in the body to retinal and then retinoic acid. To add more complexity, retinol can also be esterized – that is, combined with fatty acids – to become retinyl acetate, retinyl propionate, or retinyl palmitate. Confused yet?
Researchers argue over which of these forms is the most effective. The truth is that all forms of vitamin A benefit the skin and contribute to healthy skin production, good collagen and elastin production, and better pigment control. But not all forms are friendly on the skin – some forms are more easily absorbed and used by the skin, while others do not penetrate as readily and can cause irritation or a retinoid reaction when first introduced.
Because of the variety of available forms and the possibility of retinoid reactions, vitamin A isn’t always an easy ingredient to work with. Retinoid reactions are completely avoidable with the proper introduction of the right forms of vitamin A, in the right levels, at the right times. And this is all dependent on the individual in question. When in doubt, partner with a trusted skin therapist to discover the most appropriate form for your skin so you can enjoy the many skin benefits of vitamin A.
Our search for a superior vitamin A: Finding the right vitamin A product formulator to work with was a quest that took us years to navigate. For more information regarding our preferred solutions, see Introduction to Environ.
Do you have any Vitamin A questions? We welcome you to contact us online or visit our studio to ask our Skin Therapists about Vitamin A and which formulas will work for you.