Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin. It helps build the structural framework of skin cells and supports cell growth and differentiation. This means that vitamin A can help repair damaged skin, including acne scars.
Acne is a common problem for many people. It usually affects teenagers and young adults, but it can also occur in adults of any age. Acne is caused by a combination of factors, including hormones, genetics, dirt and oil on the skin, bacteria on the skin, stress, poor hygiene habits and certain medications like birth control pills.
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to dryness and inflammation of the skin, which can make acne worse because it irritates already inflamed pores on your face or back. The best way to get enough vitamin A is by eating foods that contain natural sources of this nutrient, such as carrots or sweet potatoes.
Benefits of Vitamin A For Acne
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient found in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables as well as other nutrient-dense food sources, like leafy greens.
As an antioxidant, vitamin A can help promote better skin and overall health by fighting free radicals.
Vitamin A may also help ward off inflammation, an underlying factor in acne vulgaris.
When it comes to treating acne with vitamin A, topical formulas show the most promise. These products are also called retinols or retinoids.
Don’t take vitamin A supplements to treat acne without checking with your doctor first, though. They can make sure the supplements won’t interfere with any other medications or supplements you may already be taking.
Benefits of vitamin A for acne
Vitamin A is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are known for preventing free radicals that can lead to cell damage. This may help decrease skin aging.
Vitamin A may also help treat acne, but it all depends on the source and how you use it. Eating vitamin A-rich foods can promote better skin health from the inside out, while topical formulas may target acne directly.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), retinol (retinoid), a topical form of vitamin A, can help treat and prevent inflammatory acne lesions.
In fact, the organization recommends using topical retinoids to treat several types of acne.
Retinol may help improve acne by:
- decreasing inflammation
- increasing skin cell growth to heal lesions and scars
- possibly decreasing sebum (oil) production
- smoothing skin
- evening skin tone
- protecting against environmental damage
Retinoids may also work well with antibiotics as needed for clearing up severe acne breakouts.
What does the research say?
There’s a lot of research backing up the use of topical vitamin A for acne. But research on oral vitamin A for acne has been mixed.
Older researchTrusted Source couldn’t support oral vitamin A as an effective acne treatment, but researchers did say it could possibly prevent acne vulgaris from getting worse.
More recent researchTrusted Source concluded oral vitamin A is effective at treating acne, but the study was small and of low quality.
Overall, vitamin A as an acne treatment is most promising as a topical treatment only.
While it’s important to get enough vitamin A in your diet, this isn’t the best acne treatment solution. Taking too much can harm your health.
How much should you get daily?
Vitamin A content on foods and supplements is listed in international units (IU). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states the daily value of vitamin A for people ages 4 and up is 5,000 IU.
You shouldn’t take more vitamin A just for the sake of treating acne. This could lead to severe health consequences, like liver damage.
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Food sources of vitamin A
Vitamin A is an antioxidant, which may help fight inflammation and free radicals in your skin — all which may contribute to acne.
Most people can get enough vitamin A through diet alone. The following foods are rich in vitamin A:
- orange and yellow vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes
- green leafy vegetables
- beef liver
Overall, though, the AAD says there’s no specific diet proven to treat acne. The only exceptions are to avoid sugar and dairy, which could possibly aggravate breakouts in people who are already prone to acne.
Getting enough vitamin A in your diet can help promote overall skin health, but it’s not likely to treat acne alone. Instead, focus on a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables for healthier skin.
Vitamin A supplements may help improve your overall immune system and your skin health. However, consider taking supplements only if you don’t already get enough vitamin A through diet alone, or if you don’t already take a multivitamin.
Too much vitamin A can lead to adverse health effects, including liver damage. Birth defects are also possible if you take excessive amounts of vitamin A while pregnant.
Side effects from too much vitamin A in supplement form can include:
It’s important to note that these side effects are linked to supplemental forms of vitamin A only. Excessive amounts of beta carotene found in vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables won’t cause life-threatening side effects.
Also keep in mind that the FDA doesn’t monitor the purity or quality of supplements. It’s important to talk with your doctor before you begin taking any to weigh the benefits and risks for you.
Using a topical vitamin A product
Despite the potential antioxidant benefits of vitamin A, topical formulas show the most promise for acne treatment. These can come in the form of creams and serums.
A 2012 reviewTrusted Source found concentrations as low as 0.25 percent may provide benefits without side effects. If your dermatologist thinks you’d benefit from a higher concentration, they might order a prescription-strength cream.
When you first start using topical vitamin A, it’s important to begin gradually so your skin gets used to the product. This could mean using it every other day at first before you eventually use it every single day.
Beginning gradually can also reduce the risk of side effects, such as redness and peeling.
Retinoids can also increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Be sure to wear sunscreen every single day to prevent sun damage.
Vitamin A is just one potential treatment for acne. Your dermatologist can help you decide what treatment measures are best depending on the severity and history of your skin health.
Good skin care practices can also go a long way for acne-prone skin. In addition to eating a nutritious diet and using topical products, getting enough sleep, water, and exercise can also promote better skin health.
vitamins for clear skin
Skin is the largest organ on the human body. Skin serves as a protective barrier, regulates body temperature, and allows for the elimination of sweat and oils. A person’s complexion will change with age and time. Sickness and environmental factors can also affect the look and feel of skin. Changes in sex hormones, cortisol, and the thyroid will directly impact skin health, function, and appearance. Vitamins and minerals can help rebalance hormone levels, fight acne, and lead to clearer skin. Topical and oral medications have shown to be highly effective in the fight against acne. 4 of the most popular acne-fighting vitamins and minerals include vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin E.
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A counters the adverse effects acne has on the skin. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and fights free radicals, which can cause cell damage and lead to premature aging of the skin. Vitamin A also decreases inflammation, promotes new skin cell growth, and protects against environmental damage. Topical treatments are recommended over oral supplements.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D boosts the immune system and has antimicrobial properties. Similar to vitamin A, vitamin D blocks the negative effects acne bacteria has on the skin. Vitamin D helps more than just bones and is used to treat many skin conditions.
Zinc has been found to decrease the production of oil in the skin. Decreasing the production of oil helps reduce the chance of bacterial growth and blocked pores. The body only needs low amounts, approximately 8-11 milligrams, to meet daily allowances. Zinc can be taken as an oral supplement or topical treatment.
4. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is largely used as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The fat-soluble properties of vitamin E allow for quick absorption into the skin. The faster products are absorbed, the quicker acne can heal. Vitamin E helps the skin lock in moisture and promotes the production of collagen.
A bonus tip
Tea tree oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. The oil reduces acne-causing bacteria and can reduce redness and frequency of breakouts. Best used as a spot treatment over full-face care, tea tree oil should be used solely as a topical application.
How do hormones affect the skin?
Each hormone in the human body has a specific function. Sex hormones control the development of sexual organs and all reproductive processes. These same hormones impact muscle mass, bone density, sebum production, and growth of body hair. Cortisol regulates the body’s fight or flight process and can affect weight gain. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, muscle control, mood, and brain development. When hormone levels are not in balance, the skin is often the first part of the body to show signs that something is off.
Hormones in men and women
Hormones will affect men and women differently. Many of the changes in skin are directly tied to the production of sebum, the skin’s natural oil. The sebaceous glands are highly sensitive to changes in sex hormone levels, specifically testosterone. Increased testosterone often leads to the overproduction of sebum. During puberty, testosterone levels rise in both females and males. As men get older, testosterone levels even out. For women, testosterone levels increase right before the menstrual cycle. Changes in testosterone levels and increased production of sebum are the leading causes of acne.
Hormones directly impact the appearance and feel of skin. Each hormone will have a different impact on the body. Testosterone has the most significant effect on acne. Men are more prone to have acne surrounding puberty. Women are more prone to acne right before monthly menstrual cycles. Increasing consumption of vitamin A, D, zinc, and vitamin E can help fight acne and lead to clearer skin. For more tips on acne treatment and supplements, consult a dermatologist or pharmacist for more information.