Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin A Skincare

Get ready to turn “Happy New Year!” into “happy new skin” by getting the best from your skin after the party season and giving it a fresh start for 2023. Over the next 4 weeks, we’ll be exploring the best rejuvenating ingredients for healthy, calm and radiant skin for everyone from beginners to experts so that you can go into the year feeling confident with your complexion. 


This week, we’re looking at vitamin A: the ultimate anti-ageing skincare ingredient to help you turn back the clock and achieve healthier, younger-looking skin. Stay tuned as we explore the top ingredients each week for your healthiest skin yet. 


What is vitamin A and how does it work? 

Vitamin A is a powerful and effective antioxidant, which means it helps fight free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to cells in your body and accelerate signs of ageing like loss of elasticity, hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. These free radicals can come from environmental pollution, stress, poor nutrition and alcohol. 


Vitamin A deficiency can cause dryness and roughness on the surface of the skin; it may also contribute to wrinkles forming earlier than normal. Antioxidants like vitamin A help to neutralise these free radicals and reduce their effects. 


What are the benefits of using vitamin A? 

Vitamin A has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so it can be used to reduce acne and signs of ageing. This vitamin also has been shown to help with dryness, dullness, and hyperpigmentation (dark spots).  

Vitamin A helps to keep your skin healthy by building new layers of cells as you slough off dead ones—a process known as cell turnover. This is especially beneficial for ageing skin, when our skin's ability to produce vitamin A decreases and its rate of cell turnover slows down. 


What layer of the skin does vitamin A work on? 

Vitamin A skincare works on the top two layers of your skin known as the dermis and epidermis (outermost later). Because of this, it’s one of the most effective anti-ageing ingredients available. Within skincare, one of the best-known derivatives is retinol found in serums and moisturisers, which can soften fine lines and wrinkles, brighten discolouration, decongest pores, and improve texture and tone. 


Which skin types is vitamin A for?  

Vitamin A is mostly known as an anti-ageing ingredient so its use usually begins during the late 20s or 30s, but it's also beneficial for acne-prone skin as it helps to regulate your natural oil (sebum) production so can be used for teenagers too. If you have sensitive skin, you can still use vitamin A but it's best to start with a low concentration and phase it into your routine. 


Can I use vitamin A during pregnancy?

Since topical retinol or vitamin A is absorbed through the skin, it can be transferred to the placenta or breast milk and therefore to your baby. It is recommended to avoid retinol during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and use a safe alternative instead like bakuchiol, which is natural, plant-derived and has similarly effective anti-ageing benefits. 


How do you use vitamin A on your skin? 

You can use vitamin A in a variety of ways, depending on what you're looking for. If you're hoping to treat dry skin or redness, look for an oil-free product that absorbs quickly. For a high concentration of vitamin A, choose an emollient cream or lotion and apply it at night. If you want something lightweight and easily absorbed into the skin, try using a serum instead. Since vitamin A promotes new skin cells to form that will be sensitive to sunlight, it’s always best to phase it into your routine, use it before bedtime and use an SPF in the morning to protect your skin, even in winter.


Are there any side effects of using vitamin A for my skin? 

It's possible that your skin will become more sensitive to heat or cold, as well as perfumes, makeup or soaps. If you experience an adverse reaction while using vitamin A-based skincare products it’s best to stop use immediately, but if you start with the right product then you should start to see the results you’re looking for without irritation. Starting with Medik8’s Crystal Retinal 3 is recommended as a starting point for beginners, but if you have sensitive skin then you can start with Crystal Retinal 1 and work up from there. 


Will vitamin A irritate my skin? 

Using vitamin A in the right strengths and formulations for you shouldn’t cause irritation. As it causes the skin cell renewal process to accelerate, you might experience flaking, itching or peeling but this is usually a temporary effect as your skin adjusts. If you've been using a vitamin A product but are noticing uncomfortable irritation or redness after use, try switching it out for a milder strength or reducing the frequency of application. 


Which products should I use to get the best results from vitamin A? 

Medik8, Skinceuticals, MZ Skin and Avene all offer incredible science-backed vitamin A and SPF formulas to help you achieve younger-looking skin. Medik8 is often the go-to brand for vitamin A beginners due to their award-winning progressive Crystal Retinal ladder, which allows you to easily build up to higher concentrations without irritation due to increased vitamin tolerance in the skin. If you’re a pro at vitamin A and have already worked your way up to Crystal Retinal 10, their new Crystal Retinal 20 is their new highest, ultimate-strength formula, to ensure your skin benefits don’t plateau. Only for those who have used 2 tubes or more of Crystal Retinal 10, the new 0.2% retinaldehyde formula will speed up and intensify your results. 


When will I start seeing the results of vitamin A? 

The amount of time it takes for your skin's condition to improve will vary from person to person; however, generally speaking, most people notice an improvement after 3 months. It’s a good idea to take before and after photos to track your progress. 


Should I use vitamin A every day of the year? 

Vitamin A isn't designed as a quick fix; rather, it's meant to be used over time so that the effects are cumulative. It’s a great skincare ingredient to use all year round and you can use it as often as you like, depending on your skin’s needs and sensitivity. Always use an SPF with it—and always use an SPF without it! We can’t stress enough the protective benefits of sunscreen on skin ageing to maximise the effects of vitamin A.