Vitamin A-The miracle ingredient that most of you have been prescribed/recommended by a professional
Vitamin A, also know as: retinol, retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate/acetate, retinoid, retin-A, and tretinoin. There are many forms of this infamous ingredient and most people have heard of at least one of the names listed above. Some may have also shy-ed away from it because of a past "bad experience". More commonly it was not a bad experience but a lack of knowledge about the product and what it is doing to your skin. Here is a tip of the iceberg to help you understand why dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and medical aestheticians are suggesting this "miracle cream".
From the time you were born to the age of 18 years old you have already done the majority of damage to your skin in your lifetime a whopping 80%. This occurs through the means of sun, environment, diet, smoking etc. Sunlight, although wonderful for the production of vitamin D, is the most notorious for causing skin conditions that most people complain about. These conditions tend to start appearing around age 30 and get progressively worse. Some examples are sun damage/hyperpigmentation, lax skin, rough texture, fine lines/wrinkles and loss of volume to name a few.
The skin is the largest organ in our body and sometimes the most ignored. It is not supplied directly enough with nutrition therefore applying vitamins and antioxidents topically helps repair the skin tremedously. There are "quick-fixes" out there such as lasers, IPLs and deep chemical peels but these treatments DO NOT actually MAKE the skin HEALTHIER which should be ones goal in order to avoid skin cancer and other concerns.
In order to repair the skin's damage, highly targeted vitamins are required to reverse these unwanted/unhealthy changes. Ordinary skincare products you purchase at your local pharmacy and beauty counters need to be replaced with high quality, pharmaceutical-like products backed by extensive research done by doctors and scientists. Your typical pharmacy or beauty- counter find will not pack the punch you need to reverse damage. The liability for these major manufacturers is too high because there is no one there with the education and knowledge you need in order to explain what you are putting on your face and its results; therefore they cannot produce active products that do much of anything for your skin. When searching for a good skin care regimen please seek out a professional with the education you deserve. And double check that the product lines they are using have active enough ingredients in them to give you the results they are gaurenteeing. That being said here is the 411 on vitamin A itself:
Vitamin A is essential for normal activity of skin cells and the regulation of their growth. It was discovered by scientists that vitamin A was very easily degraded by exposure to light and air. They came to the conclusion that the cause for aged skin was a deficiency of vitamin A caused by our exposure to sun and environment. It has been found that vitamin A takes 7 days to be replaced in the body through diet alone after heavy exposure to the sun. Topical Vitamin A moisturizers replace it in three hours and completely penetrate in 8 hours. After applied topically ( and goes through lots of scientific things that would take much too long to explain) it enters the skin cells nucleus.
*Normalizes the skin cell's DNA causing cells grow and look more normal.
*Increases the growth of skin cells, which then thickens the skin and tends to heal faster.
*Produces healthy collagen (which affects the volume in the skin)
*Helps the skin retain more water which can "puff out" some fine lines
*Blood supply to the deeper layers of skin is improved which means the skin is more nourished.
*Exfoliates the surface which helps cell turnover increase. (Our natural cell turnover slows down significantly as the years go by, this tends to make the skin dull looking)
*In short it helps treat pigementation, acne, sun spots, roughness, clarity, fine lines you name it.
Along with all this wonderful stuff vitamin A does for you there are some disadvantages. It can TEMPORARILY aggravate the skin, the most popular reason behind this is usually because one's skin has become depleted of proper vitamin levels for a long period of time. This hypersensitivity is called a retinoid reaction and is completely normal and common.
Completely normal side effects: (that one may encounter but needs to push through to get great results)
*Flaking, pink skin
*Slight Inflammation or puffiness in certain areas
*Small reddish pimples that are usually itchy (the exfoliated cells mix with sebum(oil) and can cause an obstruction in the follicle which can lead to a "problematic skin type" for about 2-6 weeks. The reaction disappears once the skin is acclimated to the level of vitamin A.)
To reduce these side effects:
*Slow down your usage or switch to a lower dose then work your way up.
*If you stop usage and the "reaction" clears up, this is a definite sign of a normal retinoid reaction and usage should be continued slowly.
* There are absolutely no known "allergies" to vitamin A itself.
In conclusion, push through! Ironically the people with the worst reactions end up with the best results. Vitamins are being used that can produce wonderful results, but they can in the process cause some irritation. This is temporary and shouldn't discourage you from getting the healthy skin you deserve.
Vitamin A and pregnancy: It is extremely UNLIKELY that TOPICAL vitamin A can pose a risk to fetal development. Chemical analysis of the skin has shown that the enzyme mechanisms that bind the vitamin to the protein that carries to the blood are not present in the skin therefore it is trapped in the skin cells. Research shows that extremely minimal traces of the vitamin have been found in the blood stream even after large areas were treated with retinoic acid. This is most likely because of diet not what you applied topically. Vitamin A is found in lots of foods we eat on a regular basis: liver, eggs, lean meat, fruits, leafy greens, you name it. So blood can carry vitamin A to the skin but not vice versa. In the USA, unfortunately, fetal abnormalities are very common, therefore there is a trend to advise people to avoid topical vitamin A use during the first trimester. Not because of risk but because the companies do not want to have any mistaken attribution of an abnormality to topical vitamin A and the subsequent risk of litigation.
*This article is not talking about oral cis-retinoic acid (accutane) this is about topical vitamin A creams.
*References: Dermaconcepts Environ training manual, Dr. Des Fernandes founder of Environ.