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 to improve the appearance and 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 beautiful 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. Still, 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, the delivery to the skin, and its impact continue to evolve. A revised story needs to be told, and bust the beauty myths surrounding retinol and vitamin A.
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.
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 than skin with an abundance of vitamin A
So while sun protection is always essential, a daily application of a low concentration as part of your morning routine, such as one of the vitamin A esters, like retinyl palmitate, is also highly recommended.
Not only will it maintain your skin’s supply of vitamin A but it will also contribute to the protective antioxidant network in your skin.
However, suppose you’re using a concentrated retinol or pharmaceutical grade retinoic acid? In that case, you may find your skin is more sensitive, irritated or inflamed. In other words, 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.
And, to preserve the potency of more intense concentrations of vitamin A, I agree and recommend ingredients like retinoic acid (prescription only) or cosmetic preparations like retinol or retinaldehyde are better used at night while the skin is rejuvenating and reduces the degradation of vitamin A caused by daylight.
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 caused by the sun and keep your skin healthy.
Let’s be clear about this, wearing sunscreen should be part of your anti-ageing modus operandi with or without vitamin A (but preferably with). Everyday.
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 critical 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, you can expect some level of irritation and discomfort, an ongoing rash or itchiness is not part of the retinol solution, and sophisticated formulations rarely cause any inflammation 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 excellent 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 topically applied vitamin A formulations.
Sure, if you have flawless skin, you may not need intense 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.
Sure, you could opt for a prescription from your doctor or dermatologist. However, medical strength tretinoin does have its drawbacks. It can be very irritating and limit its long-term use due to the constant irritation and redness in the skin.
The other issue I have is; most prescription brands of Vitamin A don’t contain other essential 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 pregnant.
Now, I would never suggest using an over the counter 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 cosmetic cream or serum will do any harm to your baby.
But even so, you may decide that maintaining a well-balanced, healthy diet during pregnancy will provide all the nutrients you need.
You are far more likely to ingest a more significant amount of vitamin A from your regular diet than you could ever absorb through a cosmetically formulated vitamin A cream or serum.
It’s worth noting if you’re using a medically derived 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 routine skincare simple during pregnancy.
Enough with the myths. How about some truth.
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 excellent for daytime use.
- Keep your ‘big guns’ like retinoic acid, high concentration retinol or retinaldehyde for nighttime application.
- If you’re using vitamin A for the first time or giving it another try, start slowly with a low concentration, then introduce higher retinol concentrations 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 concentration 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. Cod liver oil and other proteins like meat, fish, and dairy are excellent sources of Vitamin A. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, 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, have I challenged your beliefs? You can shoot me an email here with your questions. I’d love to hear from you, or if you liked this article, why not share it with your friends.
See you next time,