woman using vitamin A on her skin

5-minute focus on: Vitamin A for skin 

23 Mar 2023


Are you curious about Vitamin A for skin? Perhaps you’re aware of the impact Vitamin A can have on the body and have heard about the great things it can do for skin? Or maybe, you just want to find out a bit more about Vitamin A in general?

Keep reading for everything you need to know about Vitamin A, including the impact it can have on the body and difference it can make when incorporated into skincare regimes.

But where to begin? Let’s start with the basics; a quick top-level explanation of what Vitamin A is:

What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that contributes to many different bodily functions, from our eyes and skin (more on this below), to our immune system. This one nutrient alone is responsible for a lot in relation to the inner workings of our bodies!

Naturally present in most foods, there are two different types of Vitamin A:

  1. Retinoid/retinol (i.e. pre-formed Vitamin A).
  2. Carotenoids (i.e. pro-formed Vitamin A)

Pre-formed or pro-formed, what’s the difference?

  • Pre-formed Vitamin A (AKA previtamin A) is found in: meat, fish, poultry and dairy products
  • ProA (AKA provitamin A) is found in: fruit, vegetables and other plant-based products1

An additional bit of info for you - the most common type of provitamin A that’s present in most foods and multivitamins is something known as beta-carotene. This is responsible for giving red, yellow and orange fruit and veg their bright and distinctive colours.2 And if you think beta-carotene sounds a lot like carrot, then you’re spot on with the connection, as it’s actually where the name stems from (beta-carotene means carrot in Latin).

So, now you’re most probably wondering why there’s such a link to carrots? It’s because orange carrots contain the highest level of total carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A.3

Vitamin A foods

Pre-formed Vitamin A, also known as retinoids/retinol can be found in animal products, such as:4
  • Salmon
  • Beef liver and liver pate
  • Dairy products, think milk, yoghurt, butter and cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Cod liver oil
  • Shrimp
Pro-formed Vitamin A, also known as carotenoids, can be found in plant products, such as:5
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as kale, cabbage and spinach
  • Fruit, including mangoes, apricots and plums

How much Vitamin A do we need a day?

Vitamin A’s responsible for a lot in our bodies, so how much of it do we actually need to make sure it does all of those things (and more) that we mentioned above?

According to NHS guidance, men need 0.7mg of Vitamin A a day and women need slightly less, 0.6mg, a day.

Ideally, we should be able to get all of the Vitamin A that’s required from our diet. Interestingly, any Vitamin A that’s not immediately used by the body doesn’t go to waste. It’s simply stored in our Vitamin A reserves for another day.6

Vitamin A for skin

Now that we’ve covered Vitamin’s A relationship with the body, let’s spend a minute or two focusing on what it can do for our skin.

It’s essential that Vitamin A gets to both our upper and lower layers of skin, also referred to as the dermis and epidermis. If we don’t get enough of it, our skin can become dry and itchy.

As with the body, Vitamin A’s responsible for helping our skin in some many ways too.

For example, by helping to prevent our skin from getting damaged by the sun - it interrupts the process that breaks down collagen. And thanks to its antioxidant properties, Vitamin A helps protect the skin from free-radicals.

What’s more, it also stimulates the oil glands around our hair follicles, which can help make the skin less oily and more balanced. It’s also believed to help cuts and scrapes heal faster too.7 Other Vitamin A-skin benefits include: helping to improve the appearance of pigmentation by normalising the activity of the tyrosinase enzyme, which plays a big part in the production of melanin. It also helps to promote healthy collagen and elastin production by stimulating fibroblasts, i.e. the cells that are responsible for producing collagen in the dermis. In turn, this can make the skin look more firm and radiant.8 Want to build on this 5-minute focus? For more information about what Vitamin A can do for the skin, take a look at this article, ‘What does Vitamin A do for your skin?

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Last updated: 29 May 2020

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-Consumer/
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/beta-carotene-benefits
  3. https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/do-multi-colored-carrots-have-less-beta-carotene
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-a-for-skin#usage
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-a-for-skin#usage
  6. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a/
  7. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/nutrients-for-healthy-skin#1
  8. https://www.environskincare.com/vitamin-a/what-does-vitamin-a-do-for-your-skin/