In addition to its vital importance in eye health, vitamin A performs key functions in the health of our skin. It regulates an important hormone-like growth factor that is responsible for underlying skin cell maturation and turn over. Its antioxidant activity also seems to affect the skin’s ability to keep the new cells from aging too fast. In other words, it induces new skin cell growth and then keeps the cellular structure healthy and elastic for longer.
Dietary vitamin A can reduce pore size and decrease the amount of oil produced by the skin. When used topically, it also has mild antibiotic activities that inhibit bacterial growth both on the skin’s surface and within the pores.
Supplementing Vitamin A Through Diet not Pills
Vitamin A is a either a fat soluble vitamin or a water soluble one, depending on its source. Animal products contain a pre-formed version that is fat soluble. Fruits and vegetables contain a water soluble form called carotene. Most foods today are fortified with a synthetic form of it that reduces the likelihood of a deficiency in developed countries.
Most people obtain enough with a balanced diet if that diet contains dairy, meats, dark colored fruits, dark leafy vegetables, and especially carrots. Either form is readily destroyed by exposure to heat, light, and air. The water-soluble version, as found in fruits and vegetables, can be consumed in great quantities within the foods that contain it since the body will flush out any excess. These carotene versions also contain other types of antioxidants that are vital to skin health.
Current Medical Treatments that Use Vitamin A
The retinoid drug 13-cis retinoic acid is widely prescribed for the treatment of acne. Called Accutane, it is a matter of some controversy. Currently considered a tetragon with a number of nasty side effects, this treatment requires application and supervision by a trained medical professional. It reduces inflammation, bacterial growth, pore size, and oil production, which also decreases pore blockages.
Popular Topical Treatments
Alternatively, some topical skin creams – those for use in anti-aging regimens and anti-acne skin care – may contain some forms of vitamin A in the form of a synthetic of a carotene, typically retinyl palmitate. There is very little medical research to back up their effects in the treatment of acne, but since consumption of the vitamin does reduce acne, it is possible that topical applications from homemade or store-bought creams will also assist in younger looking skin with a reduction in oil production and other symptoms associated with acne.
Precautions Against Vitamin A Overdose
Excessive fat soluble or synthetic vitamin A intake leads to a variety of symptoms that resolve when intake is ceased. In developing nations, over 75% of the population may be ingesting more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA). However, people who eat large amounts of vegetable-sourced vitamin A are not susceptible to overdose since that form is easily flushed from the body if there is an excess.
Vitamin A and Your Skin
It would seem, from research, that healthy vegetable sources of this vitamin are indeed essential to healthy skin and, particularly for acne sufferers, for clear skin. The best sources of this vitamin come from raw dark leafy greens, raw dark colored fruits, and raw carrots. While topical application of a prescription creams may be necessary in very severe acne cases, simply eating a diet higher in raw vegetables may be the key for clearer, younger looking skin for many people. And while you are at it, mix some in a blender with honey and yogurt and make a skin mask.