Vitamin A is a powerful vitamin for the skin. It has many great benefits for your skin, as well as your health.
Not all vitamin A types are created equally though. It’s important to know that excessive amounts of vitamin A can result in Hypervitaminosis A, which is a toxicity that has a negative impact on your health, vision, skin irritations, & appetite.
Hypervitaminosis A can also cause headaches, drowsiness, irritability, and even liver damage.
The good news is, excess amounts of vitamin A are only found in Performed vitamin A (also known as Retinoids). Preformed vitamin A is found in dairy products, poultry, fish, meat, and oral synthetic medications.
First, you need to understand the difference between the two main classes of vitamin A. One is Retinoids, and the other is called Carotenoids. Let’s go over the difference between the two and the impact they can have on your skin and body.
Retinoids (retinol) are fat soluble, bioavailable forms of vitamin A that are found in animal products and synthetic medications. These bioactive forms of vitamin A are converted into retinoic acid, retinal, and retinyl esters.
They are the only type of vitamin A that your body can use right away. Retinoic acid improves your skin health, bone health, and tooth remineralization. Retinal improves your vision and overall health. Retinyl esters function as antioxidants in skin care products.
Two common ester forms for vitamin A are Retinyl Palmitate and Retinyl Acetate. They aren’t as strong as Retinol, but they are gentler on the skin.
Carotenoids are found in plant foods like carrots, dark green veggies, and yellow/orange colored fruits and vegetables. There are over 600 types of different carotenoids, but only a small number of them can actually be used in the human body. 33% of all vitamin A consumption comes from carotenoids found in our diet.
Your body has to first convert the carotenoids into a bioavailable form of retinol before it can be used. It’s important to note that there are certain health factors that can actually inhibit your body’s ability to absorb the carotenoids, which blocks them from converting into retinol. Some of these health issues include:
- digestive problems
- alcohol use
- toxicity in the body
- crohn’s disease
- cystic fibrosis
- certain medications
- gallbladder disease
Does Vitamin A Help Fight Acne?
So, now that you understand the two main classes of vitamin A, let’s take a look at the benefits of using vitamin A for acne. Acne comes in many different forms such as blackheads, whiteheads, nodules, and cysts. There are many factors that can contribute to acne, so it’s good to know how to both prevent it and combat it.
Ongoing acne breakouts can eventually take its toll on a person’s self-esteem. Thankfully, vitamin A is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to fighting acne. It promotes healthy new cell grown and strengthens your skins tissue from within. This fat-soluble vitamin is extremely beneficial in regard to the health of your skin cells and skin function.
Our skin has a process of specific pore behaviors called retention hyperkeratosis.
This process causes certain pores to be acne prone. Which is why the healthy pores never break out. Retention hyperkeratosis is a process that sheds ‘under the skin’ dead skin cells up to 5 times more than the normal amount per day.
Since the pore can’t get rid of the extra dead skin cells, it starts to build up in the pore. This results in clogged hair follicles called microcomedones. This is the beginning stage of acne.
As sebum continues to build up under the skin, the chance of an acne breakout increases. Since microcomodones are underneath the surface of the skin they aren’t visible to the naked eye. It could be close to 90 days before the breakout even occurs.
Vitamin A from synthetic sources like Retin-A and natural sources like food are some of the better-known ways to effectively treat acne. It is a potent antioxidant that helps your skin combat against both free radicals and acne. Free radicals can actually cause changes to your sebaceous glands, which results in bacteria forming to cause blemishes. Vitamin A also helps to reduce your skins sebum production. This really benefits people with oily and combination skin, as these skin types are prone to acne.
Medications like Accutane and Retin-A have a synthetic form of vitamin A as an active ingredient. They work to keep your pores from becoming clogged by preventing dead skin cells, reducing the amount of oil your skin produces, and decreasing androgen formation. They also help to prevent inflammation and cell damage by protecting the fats from oxidation.
Now, when it comes to vitamin A for acne from natural sources, there are a few different ways you can get it. You can get an active form of vitamin A from animal products like cod liver oil and liver. You would need to eat them and drink them daily for it to make an impact though. It will be a challenge to meet the necessary amounts of vitamin A through this method alone, however, it can help to aid you when combined with other methods.
As we mentioned above, another form of vitamin A are Carotenoids. Eating vitamin A enriched foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, & leafy vegetables will help, but it will take a lot to reach the recommended daily value of 5,000 IU per day.
So, it is possible to get your vitamin A through food sources, and it is recommended to add them into your diet, but keep in mind it will be hard to meet all your daily requirements through this method alone. This is where supplements come into play. Most supplements will give you close to 5,000 IU per day. They are not a ‘cure all’ in and of themselves, but they definitely do help when combined with vitamin A enriched foods.
How Do You Use Vitamin A for Acne?
The two most effective ways to use vitamin A to treat acne are through nutrition and medications. As mentioned previously, there are foods and supplements you can add into your daily routine to boost your vitamin A levels naturally inside your body. Topical medications are another option. Let’s take a deeper look at these two methods.
There’s an old saying ‘you are what you eat’. This is true for many different areas of our health, acne being one of them. Acne is a hormone imbalance that can’t be ‘cured’, however, it is an issue that can be reduced and managed. When we eat poorly, or body has to find a way to remove some of those toxins. One way it releases them is through our pores. Foods with the highest vitamin A content are:
- beef liver – 31,718 IU per 100 g
- chicken liver – 13,328 IU per 100 g
- butter – 2,500 IU per 100 g
- beef kidney – 1,578 IU per 100 g
- cream – 1,470 IU per 100 g
- eggs – 520 IU per 100 g
- whole milk – 200 IU per 100 g
Vitamin A is fat-soluble, so it has to build up in your body. Be careful to not exceed more than 10,000 IU (international units) per day. Exceeding this amount can be toxic to your body. Also, keep in mind that if you have a slow metabolism your body will not be able to convert carotene into vitamin A as easily as it would for someone with a high metabolism.
Using vitamin A in topical medications is an effective way to treat acne with faster results. These types of medications are chemically altered forms of vitamin A, making them retinoids that you can apply directly to your skin.
If you have stubborn acne that just seems to get worse, you may want to consider seeing a dermatologist. Your dermatologist can prescribe a topical vitamin A medication to you based on the level of your need. First, your dermatologist will need to examine your pores and skin.
Based on the examination, your acne will then be rated on a level of 1 to 4, with 1 being mild and 4 being severe. Mild cases of acne, which consists of whiteheads, blackheads, and/or a few blemishes, can generally be treated without a prescription.
Topical acne medications and treatments will give you fast results, but it won’t happen overnight. These medications work to kill bacteria on the skin, reduce redness, and decrease inflammation. Just like the rest of your body, your face needs to be cleaned each day. Dirt, environmental elements, sweat, and oils can get in your pores and clog them up all over again.
You’ll need to be consistent in your hygiene regimen, using the medication exactly as the directions say to. Be careful to not miss a day or two in between uses. The medication needs to be consistently treating the blemishes and controlling the oils in your skin.
You’ll smooth a pea-sized amount of the retinoid cream medication over your face prior to washing your face. Retinoid creams are known to cause redness, peeling or flaking skin, and worsening of acne in the beginning stage of using them. If it becomes too irritating, you can try using it every other day. Just stay consistent with every other day during this phase while your skin is getting familiar with the medication.
If you experience any burning, stinging, tingling, or swelling side effects, contact your dermatologist. You may need to stop using it altogether while your doctor finds you a medication that works with your skin type.
Generally, sunlight should be minimized while you are using Retin-A medications. Your skin becomes overly sensitive to light while using these types of medication. Limit your exposure to outdoor lighting during this time. If you must go out into the sun, make sure you wear protective clothing and accessories to cover your skin from the sunlight. A few good suggestions for adding protection are sunglasses, a scarf, a hat, long sleeve shirt, pants, and sunblock.
Vitamin A is beneficial to the body in many other ways as well, not just when it comes to acne. Boosting your vitamin A levels will help to improve your vision, your immune system, and decrease your inflammation level. The carotenoids in vitamin A also help to protect by protecting against macular degeneration, the leading cause of age-related blindness.
Your immune system gets a needed boost with the increased level of vitamin A. It helps to regulate the genes that signal sickness and disease, and the antioxidants in the beta-carotene work to combat a number of these different illnesses.
The antioxidant also helps to prevent further cellular damage, resulting in decreased inflammation.
Remember, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”. Vitamin A does not cause acne, but too much of it actually can worsen some conditions. Hypervitaminosis A, which results from too much vitamin A in the body, is a toxicity that can negatively impact your health.
The effects from it can range in severity from a simple skin irritation to a heart valve calcification. Hypervitaminosis A is a result of too much-performed vitamin A. As mentioned above, performed vitamin A is found in foods like fish, meat, poultry, and dairy.
The synthetic forms of preformed vitamin A are found in oral medications used to treat acne. Health experts recommend 5,000 IU of vitamin A per day. The U.S. daily recommended amount of vitamin A is 3,000 for adult males and 2,300 for adult females, however, these are very conservative numbers. 5,000 IU per day is easily accomplished through a healthy diet alone.