Vitamin A - our long-term friend.
Our skin needs vitamins (apart from oxygen, nutrients, water and minerals) for proper functioning and maintenance. One of the most important vitamins - especially when you are trying to slow down the ageing process - is vitamin A. It is a very powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals (main cause of skin ageing). We need it to for maintaining healthy body. However opinions about this vitamin applied topically seem to be divided. Let's have a closer look!
Vitamin A is needed for many vital processes and one of them is to maintain healthy skin. We have to consume it with food (it is not synthesized within our body). Retinol (already formed) comes from animal derived food and Pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene) from plant derived food. It is fat soluble so we need to consume fat ass well for it to absorbed. We know it is essential for our overall health but still causes some controversy when it comes to topical applications.
Vitamin A comes in many different forms and names when you search it in online shops. Caroline Hirons in her book 'Skincare - the ultimate no-nonsense guide' explains that it can have many different names: retinol, retinyl palmitate or even adapalene. They all act the same: they have power to reverse the skin damage (bye wrinkles!🤗 ) and to prevent the damage altogether. It is scientifically proven so it's not just the marketing trick🧐 I personally have never used it (because I think I don't need it yet😉 and the side effects put me off a little too but more on this later) but I'll definitely will consider using it later in life.
Main function of vitamin A applied topically is the stimulation of collagen production and bringing out the new, fresh skin. It has double bonds in its chain (as you can see in the picture above) and that's what makes it an excellent free radical destroyer💪 But you need to be patient - vitamin A needs time to work and you won't see any changes after one application. What you will see though are some quite visible and scary-looking side effects: irritated, red skin with possible patches of dry, flaky skin. It doesn't sound nice (that is what really puts me off😖) but every book I've read has a very positive and promising feedback about this vitamin.
Let me remind you - our skin needs roughly 28 days to reveal the layer of new cells - as with every skincare product you're using for the first time you need to wait to see the results.
Jennifer Rock in her book 'The Skin Nerd' recommends retinyl palmitate as the product to start with your journey with vitamin A as it doesn't cause so dramatic side effects thanks to its stability and bio-availability.
The way of the application matters too - you want to start out slowly with a little bit of product and longer pauses in between uses. This gives your skin time to get used to the treatment and also enough time for any side effects to disappear. Once you get only little or no skin reaction you can start using it more frequently. The general rule for usage is that the older you are the more frequently you have to use vitamin A to get the best possible results but always listen to your skin - if it is very irritated you might have to slow down a little. You need to remember to be gentle for your skin and to give it a bit more TLC:
◾️ use more moisturiser (before applying retinol too) and light facial oils
◾️ always use SPF - your skin will be more prone to irritations without it and you should be using it anyway🙃
◾️ evenings are safer to use vitamin A - you won't be out in the sun
◾️ never apply products containing vitamin A and vitamin C together - you can alternate them if you wish to use both, just keep in mind that these are strong antioxidants and your skin might need more time to recover
I really recommend 'Skin care - The ultimate no-nonsense guide' by Caroline Hirons - she beautifully explains how to treat your skin while using retinol. For more books recommendation check our blog here.
Have I managed to convince you (and myself😉) to give it a go? Research is a very powerful tool if you're in doubt about skincare products or anything else in that matter. Read, ask and read more until you're comfortable enough to use something. In my opinion when something causes mixed reaction in people the best way to explore the topic is to do your own reading and to weigh all pros and cons. I think I have done enough reading and I'm ready to try it now!😁 will give you and update on how it is going. You should always speak with a qualified beautician or dermatologist if you still have doubts or you suffer from certain skin conditions - they will be able to shed more light on it and hopefully point you to the right direction 😘