Vitamin A plays a significant, and important, role in several functions of the body. It is essential for bone growth, immune function, eye health, antioxidant activity, and skin and cellular regeneration.
In the beauty and cosmetics world, Vitamin A is most commonly associated with Retinol. Retinol is the purest and most active form of Vitamin A – among other things, it helps to resurface and rejuvenate the skin, creating a clearer, more vibrant complexion for all ages and skin types.
How Vitamin A (Retinol) Works
Essentially Retinol is just a fancy name for Vitamin A. Retinol is the whole Vitamin A molecule, which can be broken down into thousands of smaller components, including “retinoic acid” (also called Tretinoin, the active ingredient in Retin-A).
Retinol is Vitamin A in its purest and most active form. It is perhaps the most important vitamin for the appearance of the skin. It is one of the few substances with a small enough molecular structure to penetrate the outer layers of the skin and work to repair the lower layers where collagen and elastin reside. It penetrates deep into the skin, where it becomes fully operative. Wrinkles and lines are gradually smoothed, moisture and elasticity increase, the complexion glows and damage is diminished.
Our skin cells are very receptive of retinoic acid. This relationship between retinoic acid and skin cells allows a type of communication which encourages normal function and cell renewal (something that changes as we age). However, retinol cannot communicate with a cell until it has been broken down into retinoic acid. Recently, new, more stable forms of retinol have been formulated and studies have shown them to be very effective.
What Does Vitamin A (Retinol) Treat?
Acne – In acne conditions, Vitamin A promotes the normalization of follicular epithelial desquamation and reduces cellular cohesion. This helps drain existing blackheads and whiteheads, and prevents the development of microcomedones, the start of all types of acne. In short, the increased skin exfoliation of vitamin A helps unclog pores.
Keratosis Pilaris – A common skin condition in which a protein in the skin called keratin forms hard plugs within hair follicles, resulting in a fine, bumpy texture to skin. Vitamin A can be used to slough off the surface layer of the skin and reduce the buildup of keratin. However, this vitamin must also be coupled with natural ingredients to fully exfoliate and protect the skin while removing the bumps.
Anti-Aging – Retinol has also been shown to increase the rate of cell turnover and stimulate new collagen production. Retinol also stimulates new growth of tiny blood vessels, which improves circulation, increasing the oxygen supply to the skin giving it a healthy glow.
As an Antioxidant – It now seems clear that Vitamin A is a beneficial cell-communicating ingredient, as well as an antioxidant. In other words, it assists in creating stronger, healthier skin cells and increases the amount of skin-support substances.
Sources of Vitamin A
In Foods – Vitamin A can be found in a variety of different foods including meat products. Foods rich in Vitamin A are dark green and leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, spinach, and things like cantaloupe, pumpkin, dried apricots and sweet potatoes.
In Cosmeceuticals – Vitamin A can be found in a variety of strengths in creams, serums, acids and enzymes. When blended with other ingredients such as skin-building organic stem cells, peptides, micro algae or lactic acid, the formula offers a more gentle approach to the regenerating benefits of retinol while providing hydration and skin strengthening. When combined with ingredients like salicylic acid, the exfoliation and regenerating properties are enhanced.
Retinyl Palmitate – Vitamin A also appears in the form of retinyl palmitate, or Vitamin A palmitate. This provides a gentle, non-irritating skin resurfacing action which smoothes skin texture, reduces wrinkles, and aids in the production of collagen.
A Note of Caution
When using Vitamin A as a topical treatment – proceed with caution If you are an Esthetician using Vitamin A, or someone planning to use Vitamin A products at home, a clearer understanding of the affects of Vitamin A on the skin is recommended.
Vitamin A should not be used in sunscreen formulas or when the skin is exposed to the sun. A recent study of over 500 sunscreens revealed that almost half of them may actually increase or promote the development of malignant cells. That’s because the formulas contained Vitamin A and Vitamin A derivatives. To read more about this important issue, click here.
When used properly, however, Vitamin A is a proven ingredient that can become a valuable tool in your skincare and anti-aging regimen.
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