Since the swinging sixties.
First discovered by dermatologist Dr Albert Kligman in the ’60s, when it comes to our skin, most of us have heard about the use of Vitamin A for the improvement in the appearance and to manage dysfunctions of the skin. Even if you’re not using it, you possibly know someone who does or you’re thinking about it or you dabbled for a while, but your skin became too irritated so you gave up.
In the wonderful world of cosmetics, it remains true: Vitamin A is a mainstay.
Once the discovery was made and the dramatic improvements to the appearance of the skin became well publicised, everyone jumped on the Vitamin A bandwagon, but like so many things, once the stampede begins, talk starts, opinions run rampant, leading to the inevitable misconceptions and myths about what you should use when you should use it and who should you use.
Vitamin A and all its derivatives are not new. But the technology, how it’s delivered to the skin and the impact on the skin continues to evolve. A new story needs to be told and a few beauty myths busted.
No doubt you’ve got questions of your own. Right? You’d like to use Vitamin A, but in the past it hasn’t worked out so well for you? Well, I’m hear to say; don’t give up!
Myth #1: Vitamin A should not be applied when going out in the sunshine.
No, not really. But with a caveat. If you’re using a concentrated retinol or pharmaceutical grade retinoic acid, you may find your skin is more sensitive, irritated or inflamed. This is known as a retinoid reaction while your skin is adapting, then, of course, it’s probably wise to reduce your exposure to the sun and wear sunscreen.
Vitamin A is found naturally in the skin and is an essential nutrient for skin health. Everyday exposure to sunlight damages our natural supply and skin with little or no vitamin A will function below par and is at far greater risk of developing basal and squamous cell carcinoma’s than skin with an abundance of vitamin A
So while sun protection is always important, so too is the daily addition of a low concentration as part of your morning routine, such as one of the vitamin A esters, like retinyl palmitate. Not only will it maintain your skin’s supply of vitamin A but will also contribute to your protective antioxidant network.
But, for the preservation of potent of more intense formulations, I agree and recommend ingredients like retinoic acid (prescription only), or cosmetic preparations like retinol or retinaldehyde are best used at night while the skin is rejuvenating itself and the vitamin A will remain in the skin for longer as it’s not being degraded by light.
During the day opt for a moisturiser or serum with retinyl palmitate, acetate, propionate or a low concentration of retinol to support your skin against Vitamin A deficiencies.
Let’s be clear about this, wearing sunscreen daily should just be part of your anti-ageing modus operandi with our without vitamin A (but preferably with).
Consider the inclusion of Vitamin A in the form of the ester known as retinyl palmitate as part of your morning routine to protect your skin from vitamin A deficiencies caused by sun exposure.
Myth #2: As long as my serum or cream has vitamin A, it’s all good.
When it comes to any form of topically applied vitamin A, the quality of the formulation, the packaging, the concentration of vitamin A and the type you use are all important factors to consider. A poorly formulated vitamin A serum with a tiny sprinkling of retinol will do very little for the skin and in some cases can set off a cascade of irritation leading to rashy-ness in the skin. While initially some level of irritation and discomfort can be expected, an ongoing rash or itchiness is not part of the retinol solution and sophisticated formulations rarely cause any rash or itchiness in your skin. Choose quality formulations.
Not sure how to choose the right vitamin A for you? Beauty 101 – Vitamin A – Activate your youth enzymes.
Myth #3: I don’t need vitamin A, my skin’s in great condition, I’m too young.
When it comes to vitamin A, we all need it. First and foremost we need to ensure we’re getting enough vitamin A through the foods we eat. Secondly, keeping our skin healthy and strong well into our advancing senior years can be achieved through regular use of a topically applied vitamin A formulations. Sure, if you have flawless skin, then you may not need a strong concentration, but going without any vitamin A in your routine would be a mistake.
Normal and healthy young skin will benefit from serum or cream with retinyl palmitate or a low dose retinol product.
If you’ve spent a good part of your adult years exposing your skin uv radiation from the sun, then a high concentration of vitamin A is recommended to repair the DNA of the skin.
Myth #4: The best vitamin A is a prescription from a dermatologist.
While prescription Vitamin A (retinoic acid) brings with it powerful results for those of us whose skin is visibly showing the wear and tear of life or suffering the onset of adult acne. Sure. However, straight up tretinoin does have its drawbacks. It can be very irritating and long-term use can be limited due to the constant irritation and redness in the skin. The other issue I personally have is; most prescription brands of Vitamin A don’t contain other important skin nutrients like vitamin E and C, or antioxidants to protect the skin from free radical damage.
So, while short-term use of prescription vitamin A provides fantastic results, after a time you may want to switch to a cosmetic preparation of vitamin A with added antioxidant nutrients to provide broad-spectrum environmental protection.
Myth #5: I can’t use topical vitamin A while I’m pregnant.
Now, I would never ever suggest the use of a topical vitamin A during pregnancy if it worries you. However, there is no evidence to suggest the small amount of vitamin A found in your cream or serum is going to do any harm to your baby. If you’ve got a bundle of joy coming your way, you’re already glowing! Just eat a well-balanced healthy diet secure in the knowledge you’re probably getting all the nutrients you need for your skin during your pregnancy.
You are far more likely to ingest a greater amount of vitamin A from your normal diet than you could ever absorb through a cosmetically formulated vitamin A cream or serum.
You’ve got a bundle of joy coming your way, you’re already glowing! Just eat a well-rounded healthy diet secure in the knowledge you’re probably getting all the nutrients you need for your skin right now.
That being said, if you’re using retinoic acid, then you should chat with the prescribing doctor as pharmaceutical tretinoin can cause congenital disabilities. My advice is to skip it altogether and keep your skincare routine simple during your pregnancy.
Now that we’ve shattered a few myths, I have a couple of truths for you.
- Start using vitamin A morning and night!! Retinyl palmitate or a low concentration of retinol is great for daytime use.
- Keep your ‘big guns’ like retinoic acid, high concentration retinol or retinaldehyde for night time application.
- If you’re using vitamin A for the first time or giving it another try, start slowly either with a low concentration or, if you’ve been recommended a potent formulation then introduce on alternating nights until your skin develops a tolerance to nightly use.
- If you’ve had a bad experience with vitamin A, don’t give up, your skin will adjust, it’s about finding the right formula that suits you. If you want more info you might like this article here.
- Always wear sunscreen regardless of when you apply your vitamin A product. This is just good sense. Every day.
- Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A in your diet. The best sources can be found in cod liver oil as well as other animal sources, such as meat and dairy products. If you are a vegan or vegetarian then you’ll need to source a quality vitamin A supplement as beta-carotene from vegetables may not be enough.
And now you?
Does your beauty routine include vitamin A? What’s your experience? Or do you have a question shoot me an email here. I’d love to hear from you or if you liked this article why not share it with your friends.
See you next time,