Beauty education

‘Vitamin A’, a new ingredient to include in your skincare routine?

Elise Deylgat

No cosmetic substance has been tested as much in recent years as vitamin A. This ingredient has a proven skin rejuvenating effect. However, is this molecule as effective as claimed? Which type of vitamin A should you use to get the best results for your skin? How can you see if your cosmetic product contains vitamin A? Many questions! We will answer them all for you in this blog.

Which forms of vitamin A does exist and where can I find them?

Vitamin A exists in many forms, for which the collective name is retinoids. Most people will know the ingredient mainly from cosmetics as ‘retinol’. Vitamin A consist of two different forms: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A. Preformed vitamin A is known as the active form, which your body can use just as it is. It includes the compounds retinol, retinal and retinoic acid and can be found in animal products including meat, chicken, fish. Provitamins are the inactive forms of vitamin A but they can be covert to the active form inside the body. They consists of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin and can be found in plants. In this blog, we will focus in particular on retinol and tretinoin (or retinoic acid).

How was vitamin A discovered?

The anti-aging effects of A vitamins were actually discovered by accident in the eighties. The ingredient tretinoin was initially developed as an active substance for the treatment of acne. Not only did acne complaints improve after the use of this ingredient, the skin was also visibly younger. An interesting feature that, however, stands or falls with the correct dosage form and concentration.

Which effects has vitamin A on your skin?

The efficacy of topical tretinoin as an anti-aging ingredient is sufficiently evidence based1-4. Topical treinoin creams induce type I and type III of procollagen gene expression your human skin, resulting in increased collagen in the dermis. Collagen is responsible for firmness and elasticity of the skin, so it ensures that the skin remains young, firm and supple. Moreover, tretinoin reduces collagen breakdown by inhibiting metalloproteinases, the enzymes that are responsible for the natural breakdown of your collagen. Through a DNA test, Nomige can check whether you genetically are at greater risk for having a high collagen breakdown.

Unfortunately, tretinoin is a prescription drug and is not free to purchase. Therefore, cosmetic companies are searching for other forms of vitamin A that can be used as an anti-aging ingredient. A possible alternative, that has become very popular in recent years, is retinol. Although, retinol has positive effects on your skin, there are some disadvantages related to it.  Retinol compounds are easily degraded by oxygen and light exposure and are therefore difficult to formulate. Moreover, the ingredient, just like vitamin A acid, has an irritating effect on the skin. Therefore, creams will always be formulated with relatively low concentrations of the substance. That automatically reduces the effectiveness. It seems that the useful concentrations of topical retinol should range from 0.3% to 1%. Most cosmetic products contain lower levels of retinol (about 0.08% or less).  

Therefore, we can conclude that vitamin A could be a very effective ingredient in skincare products, but there is still a high need for further research and development of retinol and other forms of vitamin A as a cosmetic ingredient

Some advice

  • Discuss this with a skin care professional
    They will go through any precautions, allergies or conditions that would prevent you from using topical vitamin A and will probably have a high-quality formulation on hand to recommend you. 
  • Effective concentration
    Search for a high concentrated retinol formulation. Products containing 0.3 % or less are probably not effective for your skin.
  • Try a gentler version first
    Look for an ingredient like ‘retinyl propionate’, as it's much milder on the skin as compared to pure retinol.
  • Build up gradually
    Retinol can be used more often as time builds. Start with a small dose, only a few times a week. If everything is going well, and you’re  experiencing no dryness, redness, or flaking, you can gradually increase the frequency of application.
  • Sun protection
    As with any skin care regimen where the goal is to minimise and fight the signs of ageing, once vitamin a has been included in your skin care routine you really should be considering a well-formulated SPF 15, 30 or 50+ (day)cream. No point going to all this effort just to ruin it with more sun damage. Right? 

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