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The power of Vitamin A   

Vitamin A is another cosmeceutical which means when used topically it has the ability to create biological change in the cells.  It is the one ingredient absolutely necessary for cell regulation and has over 125 skin benefits. It is a supreme regulator and without it, cells cannot function normally.  Every single skin is utterly dependent on Vitamin A to maintain skin health.  The paler or more sun damaged you are the more you deficient you are likely to be.  A Vitamin A deficient skin is prone to acne, pigmentation, wrinkles and ageing.  A Vitamin A rich skin is smoother, even coloured and radiant.  Our body does not make vitamin A at all.   The sun depletes vitamin A which is why people in the sun age faster.  Vitamin A has a molecule structure that’s tiny enough to get into ALL layers of the skin, where it finds collagen and elastin.


  • Whatever is dysfunction in the skin Vitamin seeks to regulate. If skin is turning over too fast (acne) it will slow it down – too slow (ageing it will speed it up)
  • Improves pigmentation as it inhibits the enzyme Tyrosinase and decreases melanin transfer
  • Improves acne breakouts as controls sebum and inflammation
  • Stimulates natural proteins such collagen and elastin and increases Hyaluronic production
  • Supports skins immune system
  • improves skin texture, colour, fine line and wrinkles and decreases collagen breakdown (collagenase),
  • Is an antioxidant and decreases free radicals
  • It is important for healthy skin, teeth, bones, cell membranes, and vision.

Vitamin D and A are needed to work together for either to be effective.  Vitamin A also works well with hyaluronic acid.  Look for products where Vit A is at the top of the list.  Beware of a clash of ingredients in products such as AHA or Vitamin C with Vit A.  AHA and Vitamin C have very low PH and retinoids must be over 5.5 to be effective. BHA (salicylic) is also an antagonist with Vitamin A.  Vitamin A is optimised when it’s in a group of As. Skin may appear dehydrated and more wrinkled as dead cell structure is lifting off.  Eventually once it sheds it will appear better.

How to decide which Vitamin A is best for you:


Retinoic Acid is the only active form of Vitamin A.  Cells must convert Vitamin A to this form for it to used however it is also the most irritating and therefore there are many varieties.

  • Retinol Esters such as Retinyl Palmitate, Retinyl Propionate and Retinyl acetate– are 3 steps away from the active Retinoic Acid. It is less irritating, more stable form but not very effective in creating change to the skin.
  • Retinol is the alcohol form and the most well know form. It is 2 steps active from converting the Retinoic Acid.  It is less stable than esters and can be more irritating. Active lifespan can be as little as 6 months. Once past, the product will oxidise and turn brown.  It thickens the dermis and epidermis but thins the stratum corneum.  It works well with AHAs in treating sun damage (AHAs are still superior in exfoliating) but cannot be used at the same time.  Not everyone reacts well at first to Retinol, however all cells have a receptor for Vitamin A but some are damaged so persistence is key.   Unlike other Vit A derivatives, Retinol does not enter the blood stream.  Retinol will break down in sunlight so only use at night.  It works in all layers of the skin.
  • Retinaldehyde– powerful antibacterial properties targeting bacteria. Only one step away from Retinoic Acid. Good at stimulating but not resurfacing.  Not used often as it is highly unstable.  However, brands such as Medik 8 have stabilised the formula. It is more tingly than the above types of A and 2.8 times more biologically available.
  • Retinoic acid – acid form, prescription only, tretinoin synthetic form it is only form body can use. For example .05% is what doctors prescribe.  We need 20% retinol to match this amount due to all the change vitamin A needs to go through. (skincare usually has about 1% retinol).
  • Beta Carotene Vit A precursor (not actually a Vitamin A) and is anti oxidant.
  • Tretinoin is prescription only and has powerful anti ageing effects but also powerful side effects with skin irritation and birth defects.
  • Retinyl retinoate is a hybrid of retinol and retonic acid. 8 times more powerful than Retinol as does not break down.  Photostable so does not deteriorate in sunlight like other A’s.  Not as powerful as retinoic acid.


Vitamin A progression through the body to the cells

We eat carrot or pumpkin which gives us beta carotene.  The small intestine absorbs beta carotene and the liver stores it as retinyl palmitate. When cells need vitamin A they take from liver and then convert it to retinol and transport through the blood stream.  When retinol reaches the dermis-epidermis it converts back to retinyl palmitate (which is only way it can enter cells).  As it crosses cell membrane it then switches back to retinol. This is bound to CRBP1 which is then converted to retinal and then converts to retinoic acid.

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