what does vitamin A do

What does vitamin A do for the skin?

Vitamin A’s known to do a lot for the skin – from speeding up the healing process, preventing breakouts and supporting the skin’s immune system, to promoting natural moisturising, it’s responsible for a lot1. In fact, this essential nutrient plays such a big role in enabling our bodies to function and boosting skin health, that we actually happen to have it down as being one of the eight essentials for healthy skin.

The science bit - how Vitamin A works…


Vitamin A comes from two sources, retinoids, such as retinol (which comes from animal sources, i.e. Vitamin A rich foods, such as liver, eggs and dairy products) and carotenoids (such as beta carotene that’s present in dark green veg and carrots). For more on this, as well as more of an insight into Vitamin A sources, read more here.

The body uses the carotenoids to create retinol meanwhile, the liver stores vitamin A and helps maintain vitamin levels in the blood.

Vitamin A helps transfer light into our nerve signals, which is needed for vision. This mighty vitamin’s also required for cell growth, as well as the process of making stem cells into various kinds of cells, bone growth and reproduction. In turn, this can help maintain a healthy urinary, respiratory, and intestinal tracts, as well as control the genes that are required for structural proteins, such as those in the skin2.

What happens if we don’t get enough Vitamin A?


Vitamin A deficiency can lead to dry skin and dry eyes, infertility issues, throat and chest infections, slow skin regeneration, acne and breakouts, among many other things.

On the other hand, too much Vitamin A can result in too much of it being stored in the liver. This can lead to toxicity and problematic symptoms, such as vision changes, swelling of the bones, dry and rough skin, mouth ulcers and confusion.3

Advice for choosing Vitamin A skincare products


Vitamin A is said to single-handedly do a lot for the skin. For instance, retinoid/retinol products alone are responsible for:

  • Smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and minimising new lines and wrinkles4

  • Exfoliating skin cells and promoting cell renewal5

  • Preventing pores from clogging6

For more information on the impact of retinol on the skin, take a look at this article, ‘Is retinol safe?’

There are all sorts of different Vitamin A skincare products to choose from. For instance, within the Vitaskin Vitamin A range alone, you can take your pick between Vitamin A cream, cell renewal oil, and a daily SPF moisturiser and resurfacing mask. The choice is yours and the options are widespread!

How to apply Vitamin A to your skin


Vitamin A creams are available in different strengths, i.e. some have higher levels of retinol properties in than others, and the higher the levels, the higher the potential to impact the skin.

Over-the-counter products are a weaker version, which means the retinol they contain isn’t as potent as their prescription-strength counterparts.

However, due to the very nature of how retinol works, it reportedly can cause the skin to become red, sensitive, dry and flaky in the early days until your skin gets used to it.7 This is one of the main reasons why it’s extremely important you follow the less is more rule to applying it, especially if you’ve never used it before or are trying out a new product for the first time.

The dos and don’ts of applying Vitamin A

  • Do – apply a thin layer.

  • Don’t – use more than a pea-sized amount.

  • Do – gradually increase how much you use it (e.g. every three nights for three weeks, every two nights for three weeks).

  • Don’t – use perfumed products – they may aggravate the skin.

  • Do – make sure you moisturise, especially if it looks as though it’s drying your skin out.

  • Don’t – forget it can take time for retinols to work their magic. Results can usually start to be seen after three months onwards.8

  • Do – use an SPF30+ every day, as retinols can make your skin more sensitive and can break down in sunlight.9

Now that you’ve reached the end of this article, we’re hoping any initial questions you may have had at the start have been answered and you’re feeling one step closer to testing out the power of Vitamin A for yourself.

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Last updated: 29 May 2020