Your Vitamin A Questions Answered
If there’s one ingredient that creates equal amounts of hype and confusion in the skincare world, it’s vitamin A. From how to tell the difference between retinol and retinoic acid, to misconceptions about sun damage and sensitivity, let’s delve into the science behind the skincare ingredient and answer your vitamin A questions.
What is vitamin A?
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that supports our immune system, healthy cell growth, and our vision. It can be found in many different forms, including a group used in skincare called retinoids.
What does vitamin A do for the skin?
Vitamin A speeds up skin cell renewal and increases collagen in the skin. This means it can reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, scarring and sun damage, revealing fresher, more youthful-looking skin. Vitamin A can also normalise sebum production, so it can really benefit blemish-prone and oily skin.
Fun fact: Replacing vitamin A through your diet with food such as carrots and salmon can take several days compared to around 3 hours via topical application.
What are the different types of retinoids?
Skin fact: Out of all of these retinoids, your skin uses retinoic acid immediately. When you apply any other form of vitamin A, your body first needs to convert it into retinoic acid and then your skin will reap the benefits.
Meet the retinoids:
Retinyl Palmitate - this mild, oil-soluble retinoid goes through three stages of conversion into retinoic acid before the skin uses it. It boosts collagen production, strengthens the skin and reduces sun damage; plus, it has the advantage of being gentle enough for most skin types.
Find it in: Ultimate Cleanse, Age Repair Serum, Age repair Concentrate, Morning Facial, Overnight Facial, Dynamic Defence, Dynamic Defence Concentrate, Power A Renewal System, Neck and Chest Rejuvenating Complex, Icon Night.
Retinol is an alcohol form of Vitamin A and goes through two stages of conversion to become retinoic acid. Case studies have proved that retinol improves elasticity, softens fine lines and reduces sun damage, making it a true power player, however, it can also be sensitising.
Retinaldehyde goes through one stage of conversion before the skin can use it – some studies show it is up to 20 times as powerful as retinol. As well as its anti-ageing benefits, retinaldehyde is antibacterial, making it a great choice for breakout-prone complexions.
No conversion needed here – retinoic acid is ready to be used by the skin, so it’s highly effective. However, there is a downside: its strength means it can cause irritation and side-effects. Because of this, retinoic acid is only available with a prescription in the UK.
Are there any down sides to using vitamin A?
Vitamin A can increase sensitivity to UV rays if skin is not adequately protected. There may be some initial breakouts, redness or dryness. This retinoid response will subside as your skin acclimatises, and the benefits are worth the challenge.
What is the recommended dosage/usage?
This will vary – if you’re using a prescription retinoid, it is very important to follow the medical guidance. Usually only a pea-sized amount will be needed for the entire face.
Vitamin A is a key active in the Skinesis range, using it in both products specially formulated for daily use, to more targeted, at-home treatments.
If you are using vitamin A for the first time, a great place to start is daily usage of our Overnight Facial, as this uses vitamin A palmitate, the gentle yet effective form of vitamin A.
If you are experienced with using Vitamin A, try our potent Icon Day and Icon Night moisturisers.
You can’t use retinoids in the daytime
This will vary – if you’re using a prescription retinoid, it is very important to follow the medical guidance. Usually only a pea-sized amount will be needed for the entire face. If you are using retinol for the first time, add it to your regime gradually, using the formula for a couple of nights a week at first, then gradually increase usage.
You can’t use prescription retinoids if you’re pregnant
True! Avoid all prescription (i.e. very strong) retinoids if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If in doubt, always check with your doctor.
Retinol thins the skin
False! Retinol actually strengthens the skin. While your complexion might look more delicate and refined, the cells are becoming stronger and healthier.
I hope you’ve found this helpful! Vitamin A is the gold standard for keeping skin youthful, healthy and radiant, which is why you’ll find it throughout my Skinesis range and I recommend daily use.