Vitamin A For Skin


When it comes to looking your best, many different types of vitamins can help you feel and look your best. Vitamin A is one of these vitamins, and it has been shown to have many different benefits for the skin.

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that helps keep your body healthy by helping with growth and development. In addition, it also helps maintain healthy skin and eyesight. For this reason, it is important to get enough of this vitamin in your diet every day.

There are two main forms of vitamin A: retinol and retinoic acid (RA). Both forms can be used to treat acne or other skin conditions related to aging or sun exposure. RA is typically found in topical treatments such as creams or lotions while retinol is found in supplements like pills or capsules.

Vitamin A has been shown to improve the appearance of fine lines around the eyes as well as reduce inflammation associated with scarring from acne breakouts or other blemishes on your face. This makes it an effective treatment for reducing dark circles under the eyes which often occur from lack of sleep or stress due to work commitments such as working late shifts at night time when its dark outside already so you don’t get any sunlight exposure through windows during daylight

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Vitamin A For Skin

What is vitamin A?

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that supports skin, eye, and reproductive health, as well as immune function.

Preformed vitamin A, or retinoids, is found in animal products like meat, poultry, and dairy. ProvitaminA, or carotenoids, is found in plant products like fruits and vegetables.

Your liver converts both types to retinol. Then, it’s either stored in your liver or transported by the lymphatic system to cells throughout your body.

Your skin is retinoid-responsive, which means it can readily absorb vitamin A when you apply it topically.

What does vitamin A do?

Vitamin A does quite a bit for your body and skin.

It plays a role in:

  • vision
  • reproduction
  • immune system function
  • the function of organs like your heart, lungs, and kidneys
  • skin health, including acne

The benefits of vitamin A for your skin

Vitamin A can benefit your skin by:

Improving the appearance of wrinkles and sagging

EvidenceTrusted Source suggests topical retinoids — vitamin A, in other words — work to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production.

Retinoids like retinol can also improve skin elasticity and sagging by helping remove damaged elastin fibers and promoting angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels.

Reducing hyperpigmentation and other sun damage

A diet high in carotenoids, such as beta carotene, can help prevent cell damage, skin aging, and skin diseases. Carotenoids can also help protectTrusted Source your skin from environmental factors like pollution and UV radiation, which can also affect skin health and appearance.

Retinoids promote skin cell turnover. So, they can help improve hyperpigmentation, age spots, and sunspots, plus lead to a more even skin tone overall.

Helping address acne

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends topical retinoids to help treat acne in both adolescents and adults.

Retinoids can help exfoliate skin on the surface, removing dirt, oil, and dead skin cells from pores to prevent pimples.

They also penetrate the skin’s surface to stimulate collagen and elastin production, which can help reduce the appearance of pores and acne scarring.

Helping treat psoriasis and other skin conditions

Both topical and oral prescription medications used to treat psoriasis contain vitamin A.

Topical retinoid reduces the formation of raised skin patches and the formation of cytokines and interleukins that cause inflammation.

A healthcare professional might also prescribe oral acitretin, another retinoid, to treat severe, refractory psoriasis.

Bexarotene (Targretin), a vitamin A-based drug, is also used to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a type of cancer that can cause skin changes like rashes, dryness, itching, and thickness.

Vitamin A For Skin

Is vitamin A deficiency common?

In the United States, commercially fortified products like breakfast cereal and milk contain vitamin A, as do many nutrient-dense foods like cheese, butter, and fruits and vegetables.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)Trusted Source, people over the age of 4 should consume 400 mcg RAE of vitamin A each day. You can meet this requirement from both plant and animal sources.

Most people in the U.S. get enough vitamin A from the foods they eat. That said, premature infants and people living with cystic fibrosis may need additional amounts of this vitamin. Young children generally require less vitamin A than adults of reproductive age and people nursing infants.

Though vitamin A deficiency is uncommon in areas where nutritious food is readily available, it commonly affects people in many African and Southeast Asian countries.

Ways to take and use vitamin A

Vitamin A in foods

You can support the health of your skin by eating a diet that includes a wide range of foods high in vitamin A.

Retinoids can be found in animal products, such as:

  • salmon
  • beef liver
  • dairy products, including milk, butter, and cheese
  • eggs
  • fish
  • cod liver oil
  • shrimp

Carotenoids can be found in plant products, such as:

  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • leafy green vegetables
  • fruits, including mangoes, apricots, and plums

Vitamin A supplements

Most people get all the vitamin A they need through their diet, but if you’re considering vitamin A supplements, you have a few options, including:

  • multivitamins, most of which contain some vitamin A
  • beta carotene (provitamin A)
  • retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate (preformed vitamin A)
  • a combination of provitamin A and preformed vitamin A

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Topical and prescription retinoids

Plenty of evidence from trusted sources backs the benefits of topically applied retinoids.

The boost in collagen and elastin production, not to mention the proliferation of new skin cells, can help smooth your skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Retinoids also have anti-inflammatory properties trusted Sources that help reduce clogged pores and treat acne.

If you want to try topical vitamin A, your options include:

  • creams, serums, and oils designed to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles
  • moisturizers
  • sunscreen
  • over-the-counter (OTC) acne products
  • prescription acne treatment

If you’re exploring options based on your skin goals:

  • For acne. OTC retinoids for acne generally work best for mild, non-inflammatory acne, like blackheads and whiteheads. Differin gel is one OTC option you could previously only get with a prescription. If you have inflammatory acne, a dermatologist may prescribe a different retinoid, like tretinoin, or other treatments.
  • For signs of aging. OTC retinol creams and serums can help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as slight discoloration. Along with full-face options, you can also find creams specifically for use around your eyes or neck. A dermatologist can prescribe stronger retinoids to help address deeper wrinkles, skin sagging, and age spots.
  • For psoriasis. Tazarotene, a prescription retinoid, is sometimes used along with a corticosteroid to treat skin and nail psoriasis. This retinoid helps to slow the growth of skin cells, reduce thickness and scaling, and improve discoloration and swelling.

Retinoids aren’t always the best option

Topical retinoids can have benefits, but they don’t offer a permanent remedy for any skin concern. Their positive effects stop when you stop using them.

What’s more, they won’t work for everyone, and even OTC options can cause a number of unwanted side effects, including irritation and swelling, stinging and burning, and skin peeling.

It’s always best to connect with a dermatologist before trying any new skincare products or remedies. They can offer more guidance in creating a personalized treatment plan that works for your skin.

Using vitamin A safely

Vitamin A isn’t the right choice for everyone. Too much oral or topical vitamin A can cause side effects. It can even be harmful, especially for people with certain skin conditions and other health issues.

Here’s what you need to know so you can use vitamin A safely.

Topical retinoids

Products containing retinoids may not be good options if you have:

  • rosacea
  • eczema
  • skin allergies
  • dry skin
  • hormonal acne
  • moderate or severe acne scarring

Potential side effects of topical retinoids include:

  • skin dryness, redness, itching, and scaling
  • increased sensitivity to UV light (real and artificial)
  • eczema flare-ups

Oral vitamin A

Most people get enough vitamin A from their diet. Getting too much-preformed vitamin A from supplements or certain medications can cause serious side effects, including:

  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • liver damage
  • birth defects
  • coma
  • death

Consuming high amounts of provitamin A, like beta carotene, doesn’t carry the same risks as getting too much-preformed vitamin A, but it can turn your skin yellow or orange. This isn’t serious, and your skin will return to its typical color once you lower your beta carotene intake.

Vitamin A can interact with other supplements and medications, including:

  • acitretin (Soriatane), used to treat psoriasis
  • bexarotene (Targretin), used to treat the skin effects of T-cell lymphoma
  • Orlistat (Alli, Xenical), a weight-loss drug

Don’t take vitamin A supplements or apply topical vitamin A, like retinol and other retinoids, if you take any of these medications, or if you’re pregnant.

Other ways to get and maintain healthy skin

If you want to improve your skin, you have options beyond vitamin A.

These steps can also help you get and maintain healthier skin:

  • Aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Eat a nutritious diet rich in antioxidants.
  • Wear sunscreen every day. Make sure to reapply sunscreen or cover your skin before spending time outside.
  • Avoid excess sun exposure, especially when not wearing sunscreen, and tanning beds.
  • Avoid smoking, and try to quit if you already smoke.
  • Wash your face each morning and evening.
  • Maintain a regular skincare routine based on your skin type.

It’s also essential to work with a dermatologist if you have skin issues, like rosacea or acne. A dermatologist can also offer more tips on caring for your skin.

The bottom line

It’s usually possible to get all the vitamin A you need from food. Still, topical or oral vitamin A treatments could have benefits for treating skin conditions like acne and helping reduce the signs of sun damage.

Keep in mind, too, that eating a diet rich in other essential vitamins and reducing your exposure to UV light and smoke can also help promote skin health.

vitamin a for skin whitening

You’ve heard about vitamin E and vitamin C, but let’s chat about our pal vitamin A.

The nutrient is touted as a fix for wrinkles, acne, and sunspots. But what does it actually do — and what’s the best way to reap the benefits?

While food sources of vitamin A are beneficial for a bunch of reasons, they may not be the most potent solution for your skin. Here’s what you should know about how vitamin A works its magic, the best way to use it, and the risks to keep in mind before giving it a try.

vitamin a for skin

How does vitamin A help skin?

Vitamin A plays a bunch of key roles in the body, and it’s essential when it comes to the health of your skin. It’s involved in the production of fresh, new cells, which keeps your skin both functioning and looking its best.

Vitamin A contains retinoids, compounds that are well known for performing several skin-friendly jobs, like:

  • minimizing fine lines and wrinkles by boosting the production of the skin-smoothing protein collagen
  • fighting signs of UV damage like hyperpigmentation and sunspots (which can help your skin look more youthful and potentially reduce the risk for some skin cancers)
  • combating acne by sloughing away dead skin cells (helps prevent clogged pores and inflammation)
  • improving skin tone by stimulating the production of new blood vessels
  • promoting wound healing

Studies have shown that people with higher vitamin A concentrations in their skin tend to look younger, while those with lower vitamin A concentrations tend to look older.

In short, getting your fill can make a noticeable difference in the way your skin looks — and have a long-term effect on your health.

Nutritionally speaking: How to get more vitamin A

It’s recommended that men get 900 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A per day and women get 700 micrograms. You can get your fill by eating plenty of red, orange, or yellow veggies, along with some animal products.

Some of the top sources are:

  • sweet potato (1,403 mcg in one medium sweet potato)
  • carrots (459 mcg in 1/2 cup raw)
  • milk with added vitamin A (149 mcg in 1 cup)
  • cantaloupe (135 mcg in 1/2 cup)
  • red bell pepper (117 mcg in 1/2 cup)
  • dried apricots (63 mcg in 10 halves)
  • eggs (75 mcg in one large egg)
  • salmon (59 mcg in 3 ounces)
  • plain yogurt (32 mcg in 1 cup)
  • canned light tuna (20 mcg in 3 ounces)

Pro tip: Your body can only absorb vitamin A when you eat it with fat. So if your A source doesn’t have much fat on its own (like in the case of raw fruits or veggies), pair it with a higher fat food like olive oil, avocado, or nuts.

As for supplements? Most people can meet their vitamin A requirements through food alone, and taking high doses of vitamin A could be dangerous. Talk with your doctor before taking a vitamin A capsule, and make sure your daily intake doesn’t exceed 10,000 micrograms.

Finally, keep in mind that consuming vitamin A — as food or as a supplement — likely isn’t the fastest route to clearer or smoother skin.

Research suggests that eating a diet rich in vitamin A long-term can be a good preventive and pro-aging strategy and potentially lower your skin cancer risk.

But loading up on carrots or sweet potatoes won’t reverse skin damage that’s already done, and likely won’t help improve your acne either.GREATIST NEWSLETTERBe your Greatist, every day

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Apply generously: Using topical vitamin A

Skin is ace at absorbing the retinoids in vitamin A. So if you’re looking to make real gains in your battle against wrinkles, acne, or sunspots, topical vitamin A is the way to go.

There’s loads of science to back this up. Retinoids, specifically one called tretinoin, are known to trigger changes that boost the production of fresh skin cells, and have been shown time and again to minimize fine wrinkles, make skin appear visibly smoother, and reduce hyperpigmentation.

Tretinoin is also considered an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne.

If you’re wondering which topicals work best, you’ve got plenty of options. For extra glow or heavy-duty or acne-fighting, you’ll want to see a dermatologist about prescription tretinoin, or other powerful prescription retinoids like tazarotene or adapalene.

You can get gentler goods over the counter too — look for creams containing retinol or other retinoids:

  • For acne, try Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment or La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment.
  • For wrinkle reduction and skin firming, try RoC Retinol Correction Anti-Aging Retinol Night Cream or Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream.

They’re not as potent as a prescription, but they can help still help make your skin look clearer or smoother.

Whichever option you choose, keep in mind that consistency — and patience — are key. It’ll take at least 3 months of regular use to see a noticeable improvement in your skin, and up to 1 year before the full effects take hold.

Risks: Who shouldn’t use vitamin A?

Vitamin A can be a legit savior for your skin, but the stuff isn’t perfect. It has some downsides that you definitely need to factor in, and it’s very much possible to get too much of a good thing.

With topical products, the main concern is irritation. Retinoids are powerful, and they can actually sort of making your skin worse — think red, dry, and peel — before things start to improve.

You can head this off as much as possible by starting with a product that contains a very low retinoid concentration and using it every other day. Over time you can build up to applying the stuff daily or trying a product with a higher retinoid percentage.

Since your skin is more sensitive while you’re using a retinoid cream, take steps to baby it as much as you can.

Avoid overexposure to sunlight, wind, or extreme cold, and steer clear of using additional skin products that are drying or abrasive — think scrubs, peels, astringents, or acne products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Thinking about supplementing with vitamin A pills? Remember, doses above 10,000 micrograms daily can be dangerous. Excess vitamin A intake can cause nausea, diarrhea, headaches, skin irritation, joint pain, bone thinning, and even liver damage.

If you’re unsure whether your supplement is causing you to take in too much A overall, talk with your doctor. In some cases, it’s better to steer clear of vitamin A supplements altogether.

Excess vitamin A is linked to birth defects, so you should avoid supplementing during pregnancy. Vitamin A supplements can also be dangerous if you’re taking anticoagulants, cancer drugs like bexarotene, hepatoxic drugs, or prescription retinoids.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does vitamin A clear skin?

There is no evidence that vitamin A clears skin. In fact, some research suggests that high doses of vitamin A can actually cause skin problems.

Is vitamin A the same as retinol?

No, vitamin A is not the same as retinol. Retinol is a specific form of vitamin A that is found in animal products and is used to treat eye diseases. Vitamin A can be found in both animal and plant products and has a variety of functions in the body, including keeping the skin healthy.

Which vitamin makes the face glow?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the effect that different vitamins have on the skin will vary from person to person. However, some vitamins that are known to have a positive effect on the skin include vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. These vitamins help to keep the skin healthy and glowing by protecting it from harmful UV radiation and free radicals, and by promoting collagen production.

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