All About Vitamin A

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What it is:

Vitamin A can come in two forms: animal-based (fat-soluble) and plant-based (water-soluble).   Vitamin A derived from animal foods can be used directly by the body.  The fat-soluble or retinoids, includes retinol, retinal and retinyl esters, which are the most well-known.

A great example of the plant-derived vitamin A is retinyl palmitate, which is derived from beta carotene.  Beta carotene is recognized for its pro-vitamin activity and its metabolism takes place in a number of organs, including the skin.  With dietary supplementation, beta carotene can be further enhanced in the skin and the bioavailability of pro-vitamin A and retinol can be increased by essential fatty acid status.  Pro-vitamin A is acquired from fruits and vegetables that contain carotenoids.  Carotenoids are converted to retinol by the body after the food is ingested and are effective antioxidants. Dietary sources of Vitamin A include: apricot, beef, butter, broccoli, chicken, carrot, cheddar cheese, cod liver oil, eggs, fish liver, kale, milk, mangos, spinach, pork, peas, pumpkin, sweet potato and turkey.  The maximum recommended daily intake is around 10,000 IUs.

In the Body:

Vitamin A plays an integral role in keeping the body and skin functioning by boosting vision, as an essential component in the protein the absorbs light in the retinal receptors, stimulating the production and activity of white blood cells, helping maintain the health of the cells lining the body’s interior surfaces, taking part in remodeling bone, regulates cell growth and division, and improving the function of the immune system.

Skin effects of vitamin A deficiency affects epithelial tissue, increase keratinization, and facilitates delayed wound healing.  Vitamin A deficiency has been linked to keratosis pillars, sometimes referred to as chicken skin.  It manifests as pesky, red, inflamed bumps that appears on the back, arms, thighs, and even buttocks.  In more extreme cases, a lack of Vitamin A manifests into phyrnoderma, otherwise known as toad skin, which is more intense and includes raised plaques that can appear on all areas of the body.  Supplements high in Vitamin A can work on a number of different skin issues.

Vitamin A is part of the body’s natural repair system.  The body stores vitamin A, or retinol, for use in the production of new collagen.  As the body ages, its ability to produce and store vitamin A is diminished, making topical application all the more necessary.

History of Topicals:

Since its debut in the 1960’s, vitamin A has been a gold standard of the skin care industry.  In 1969, James E. Fulton, Albert Kligman, and Gerd Plewig, medical doctors at the University of Pennsylvania, developed the retinoic acid concentrations for the treatment of acne.  Researchers at the University of Michigan noticed that users in the study group also experienced a softer skin texture and fewer wrinkles.  This discovery led to Retin-A being approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of photodamaged skin, meaning skin affected by exposure to sun resulting in wrinkles, roughness, altered texture, decrease in collagen, hyperpigmentation and decrease of epidermal thickness.  Because of its tendency for irritation, this Retin-A formulation is available by prescription only in a strength of .01-.05%.

Gentler all-trans retinols, vitamin A palmitate and vitamin A propionate, are commonly found in over-the-counter products.  The skin has the natural ability to transform all tretinion into retinoic acid (Retin-A), but because the skin acts as a guard gate for the body, it is very partial about restricting large molecules with long-carbon chains from passing through the outer layer of the skin.  Vitamin A palmiate was commonly found for many years in over-the-counter cosmetic products and heavily marketed as the cousin of Retin-A.  It has a very large molecule and a 36-carbon chain that oxidizes quite slowly.  Poorly converted by the skin into retinoic acid, it is easily degraded by oxygen and sunlight.

In 1990, James E. Fulton patented vitamin A propionate.  It contains a 23-carbon chain and, with use over a longer period, this short-chain retinol gives similar results to Retin-A without the excessive redness and irritation.  Vitamin A propionate accelerates the body’s natural cell renewal cycle from 30 days to between 10-14 days.  With its shorter chain, the results are far superior to vitamin A palmitate.  In a strength of 1%, it is about as effective as a .01% retinoic acid, or Retin-A.

For the Skin:

Vitamin A is a pivotal player when it comes to treating acne.  It helps reduce the thickening of the skin due to retention hyperkeratosis, or holding onto too many skin cells, and it can help balance oil production.  Vitamin A reduces the process of hyperkeratinization, which is an abnormal clumping up of cells in the hair follicle, leading to impactions.  This reversal of comedogenesis, a primary factor in acne, can clear up acne and, with continued use, halt the acne process.

While vitamin A is a highly effective treatment for acne vulgaris, it is also an incredibly potent anti-aging treatment.  As it ages, the skin’s cell turnover rate begins to decline rapidly, leaving a dull and devitalized skin tone, as well as visible fine lines and wrinkles.  Vitamin A can help speed up skin cell turnover rate and create a smoother, more even skin texture.   In the skin, retinol is converted to retinal and then to retinoic acid.  Retinoic acid modifies gene expressions and influences cellular processes in both the dermis and the epidermis.  Vitamin A influences epidermal variation, controlling growth factors, inhibiting sebacecous gland activity, and suppressing androgen formation.  Severely photodamaged skin has an abnormal thickening of the stratum corneum, or outermost layer of the epidermis.  Applying a topical vitamin A normalizes this.  This reduction of keratin cells in the stratum corneum gives the skin a rosy, healthy glow and reduces the appearance of fine lines.  The thinning of the stratum corneum also enhances the ability of topical products to better react with the skin.

Retinyl palmitate will increase collagen and enhance DNA, skin thickness and elasticity.  Retinol boosts collagen production and increases cell renewal.  Prolonged application of topical vitamin A derivatives have been demonstrated to increase dermal thickness and stimulate collagen production, significantly reducing facial wrinkles for a youthful complexion.  Believed to aid in exfoliation, topical retinol products can also be sensitizing.  Advise clients when first starting with this to use once or twice a week initially to up the skin’s tolerance.  Vitamin A is an extremely effective ingredient for anti-aging.  It diminishes fine lines and wrinkles, significantly improves uneven skin tone, smooths and refines the skin surface, and increases the appearance of firmness.  Vitamin A is a smart addition to your night regimen.

Check out our awesome Vitamin A products!

Retinol Night Creme, Matrix Oil, Vit A & Retinol Night Masque

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