Vitamin A

When it comes to skincare, some products are incredibly effective and can change the skin and some do not. This is all about having active ingredients in said products and not only that, they need to be bioavailable to your skin. As skin is the largest organ it’s cells are always in communication with other cells, this constant cellular communication ensures that they function properly.

Let us look at Vitamin A (other names are retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinyl propionate, retinyl acetate, retinaldehyde) one of the chattiest of all of the skin ingredients and for sure the most important molecular signaller. If fires off chemical messages all of the time. Of course all cells converse all day every day but it’s what Vitamin A says that make it so special!

Vitamin A constantly signals to cells to do the following:

  • Replicate accurately
  • Behave normally
  • Repair that broken DNA
  • You’re damaged, do not replicate
  • Fix the cell to ensure correct colour and texture of skin
  • Do not replicate and self destruct

Skin is constantly in a state of growth, change, cell death and reproduction, this is the life of skin. From those fresh stem cells that start the lifecycle of the skin, as they go through their own life cycle and programmed cell death (apoptosis) how do we keep the skin behaving correctly?

If we look at ageing, I often describe ageing in terms of a photocopy.  If a picture gets photocopied repeatedly, you’ll see the sharpness decline, lines blurring and compared to the original document, it will look different. If you think that our cells are constantly dividing and making copies of themselves, it is inevitable that ‘mistakes’ will be made. This is what causes lines, wrinkles, hyper-pigmentation other changes to the skin.

Another issue for skin is photo damage, it is problematic for lots of reasons (DNA mutations/ageing to name but a few). Every time the skin is exposed to UV, it destroys the Vitamin A, this light damage to the skin can result not only in ageing but can cause a number of common skin issues. From oily to dry skin, ageing, congestion, cell mutations and not to mention skin deficient in Vitamin A is actually more vulnerable to the sun.

This brings me nicely to the many myths surrounding Vitamin A, the first is that it dries your skin out. This isn’t actually true, in the same way that skin deficient in Vitamin A can cause damage to the hyaluronic acid (HA) in your skin (the naturally occurring substance that plumps and hydrates and assists cell messengers) resulting in it becoming too dry.  Vitamin A will fix this it as it will regulate the cells to produce HA and thus help hydrate the skin.

Conversely, this deficiency can also manifest as overly oily skin. As the Vitamin A helps to regulate cell activity, this ensures that cells behave correctly and in this case it would be cell regulation to control the production of sebum.

All cells can convert cosmetic Vitamin A into medical Vitamin A (retinol acid) so using an excellent quality retinol (0.75-1%) will ensure your skin tolerates the application as putting retinoic acid topically in your the skin will cause issues and certainly severe sun sensitivity.

Interestingly, when Vitamin A is used correctly it can actually protect you against UV damage. Starting slowly and building up to stronger doses ensure you don’t get the Retinol Rash.

What is retinol rash? I have heard people say they can’t use it as it makes their skin red, sore and flaky but response by the skin actually means you are in desperate need of it and are deficient!

Classic Retinol Rash

Particularly in sun damaged skin, the retinoids receptors are damaged and cannot not receive or process Vitamin A. Because there are no receptors on the surface of the cells, a build up occurs around the cell wall and this is what causes irritation of the skin. As you work to slowly build up your usage, your stores build up and the receptors begin to function correctly. This process does vary from individual to individual but eventually you can use it every day and at a reasonably strong dose without any issues at all.

Some also claim that Vitamin A can cause thinning of skin but actually the opposite is true, as the skin becomes healthier it gains density which is a good thing. This can repair the barrier function, ensuring you don’t suffer trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) which is a common cause of skin disfunction. However if you rush it, it can cause the skin to flake, this is temporary so again caution is advised when starting on Vitamin A as it can make you sun sensitive when you first use but regular use will help protect your skin along with a daily high quality SPF30 or above.

As an Advanced Skin Therapist I am a huge fan of using a great quality retinol, it addresses so many skin concerns from acne, ageing, rosacea, tone and texture, sun damage and general skin health.  Skin that functions correctly with excellent cell health is less likely to get cell mutations.  I believe virtually any one can use it and get great benefit even starting in your 20’s will ensure your skin functions correctly.

My only notes of caution are always invest a correct, clinical grade Retinol from a Skin Clinic and get advice about how to use it.  I have seen skin when people buy online, whack it on morning and night every day from the off, not wearing SPF30 or above (a proper one, not a foundation with a tiny amount in) without any research.  The result is fragile, red, sore and flaky skin.  Everyone tolerates it differently and I take great pride in saying that my clients never have any adverse reactions and I often start them on 1%.  It’s all about building it up, taking your time to get the skin adjusted and not abusing this powerful ingredient.  Respect the Retinol and it will serve you well!

So the question is, why aren’t you using a great quality Retinol/Vitamin A in your skin regime 🙂

If you are ready to start your skin journey with us, simply book your Skin Consultation online now or get in touch via any of our social media platforms, or call or message.

Penny Davis