Most people think of vitamin A as an important vitamin for good vision health, especially night vision, as well as healthy teeth and bones and many other areas of the body. And it’s also an important vitamin for both reproduction and breathing.
When it was first discovered in 1920, nobody knew the important role it plays in human skin. But thanks to research and years of use, it is widely recognized as a key to healthy, firm, and vibrant skin.
There are two types of vitamin A in the human diet; preformed vitamin A that comes from animal sources and are called retinoids; and provitamin A found in many plant-based foods like vegetables and fruits.
Plant-based foods contain many natural dyes that are called carotenoids. One of those dyes is beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that helps to ward off free radicals - the molecules that cause damage to the collagen and DNA within the skin’s cells and brings on the appearance of premature aging. That’s one of the reasons vitamin A is crucial to having younger, more radiant-looking skin.
Some prescription creams that contain retinoids, which are a synthetic type of vitamin A, help treat various skin conditions. These conditions include acne and psoriasis, among others. It’s also used to help in the treatment of skin that has suffered premature aging due to UV exposure from the sun.
Many ingredients naturally contain vitamin A, like for example, shea butter. That’s one reason why it’s in high demand as a component of many different cosmetic product formulations. One of shea butter's advantages is that it retains all of its vitamins in processing, including vitamin A. A similar butter is mango butter, which also has natural vitamin A and helps to keep skin youthful and plump, while improving the skin’s overall complexion due to its moisturizing ability.
Vitamin A works on the skin by stimulating the dermis, the area where collagen, elastin, and the blood vessels are located. The vitamin acts to reduce fine lines and wrinkles while increasing blood flow to the skin’s surface.
It also helps to slow the breakdown of collagen and elastin that happens during the natural aging process. By slowing down this process, the skin remains more firm and youthful in appearance. Elastin is one of the components that help to keep the skin firm. As you age, the body produces less elastin and as it breaks down the skin begins to sag and appear older than it actually is.
In addition to free radicals, topical vitamin A helps to tackle oxidative stress. This is a condition within the body that develops when it can’t fully regulate damage from free radicals. Topical vitamin A boosts the body’s own defense in handling oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress causes many problems including inflammatory disease, certain cancers, cardiovascular problems and other conditions. Vitamin A works to increase the plasma antioxidant activity at the cellular level.
There is a direct connection between nutrition and skin conditions. That’s why many people supplement their diets with vitamin A among other nutrients.
In addition to topical vitamin A, many foods are rich in vitamin A as well. These include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, broccoli, salmon, liver, cheese, eggs, and other foods.
There have been studies on whether or not nutritional vitamin A could help prevent skin damage from UV radiation and oxidative stress. To date, the studies are inconclusive, but there are strategies that support boosting the body’s antioxidant system with consumption of foods containing vitamin A. Consuming regular dosages of fruits and vegetables is probably on of the safest and healthiest way to to keep youthful, both inside and out.
One of the strategies for keeping younger, healthier looking skin is to prevent the breakdown of collagen and elastin. The skin’s appearance is based on two factors: the natural aging process and environmental factors. Since there is no way to stop the aging process, the focus needs to shift to the environment. Environmental factors include exposure to sunlight, toxins, smoking, and other areas that negatively impact the skin, both physiologically and in appearance.
Photoaging (skin damaged by continuous UV exposure) shows on the skin with fine and coarse wrinkles, mottled hyperpigmentation, freckles, roughness to the skin, and other visible changes. Its all due to histological changes that happen at the cellular level in the skin.
There are several strategies to implement in order to protect the skin. The first is to minimize exposure to the sun as much as possible. This means protecting the skin with appropriate clothing, wearing hats to keep sunlight off the face and scalp, and using a quality sunscreen product to prevent the skin from constant exposure to harmful UV radiation. Here’s another finding: pretreatment with retinoids may help to prevent ultraviolet damage to the skin.
UV radiation not only hurts the overall antioxidant process, it also leads to inflammation and cellular damage. Recent studies show that UV radiation is capable of creating free radicals in human skin, which further damages collagen and can even cause mutation in the skin cells mitochondria.
The second is to use powerful antioxidants on the skin to minimize the harmful effects of free radicals. These topical antioxidants include vitamin A, essential omega 3-fatty acids and other carotenoids. One of the key benefits of using highly potent antioxidants is not only battling free radicals to prevent further damage to skin, but to help reverse some of the damage that has already been unleashed.
As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin A does wonders in preventing and repairing collagen damage from UV exposure. But it does quite a bit more as well.
Vitamin A, or retinol, remains one of the most well known nutrients for healthy skin. It’s been in use for treating acne and psoriasis since the 1980s, and works to decrease sebaceous gland activity that promotes excessive oils. It also treats rough, dry skin, which is one of the major signs of vitamin A deficiency - this often shows up as rough, raised bumps on the back of the arms, a condition sometimes called "chicken skin," known officially as keratosis pilaris.
Vitamin A binds with the receptor sites on skin cells, which signal genes to turn them on and off. That’s how prescription topical retinoids like Retin-A and Accutane work to treat acne, by telling the genes controlling sebaceous glands to stop producing oil.
Rosacea is also treated with vitamin A, along with dry and irritated skin. Again, this vitamin is useful for treating keratosis pilaris, eczema, calluses, and many other skin problems.
There’s no doubt that eating healthy foods that contain vitamin A can help keep your body healthy and work to boost the body’s antioxidant system to help with skin problems. But diet alone won’t treat photoaging, acne, or other inflammatory skin problems.
To treat those conditions you also need to use products that contain topical vitamin A. As one of the more potent antioxidants, vitamin A helps to prevent collagen loss and cellular damage in skin. A regular regimen of vitamin A products can help to keep your skin looking youthful with less fine lines and wrinkles. What vitamin A does for skin is extremely beneficial!