Vitamin A (Retinoids) are the modern exfoliant

Well sort of….

You may have already heard of/be using a vitamin A analogue. Also known as retinol, tretinoin, isotretinoin, rentinaldehyde, retinoid; vitamin A derivatives have exploded onto the skin care market because they are effective and wide-reaching, targeting almost every skin care concern out there.

But what are they, what do they do, and why is that important?

Vitamin A is an essential, fat-soluble vitamin which is important for a number of functions including vision, growth, cell division, reproduction and immunity. Furthermore, vitamin A is an antioxidant, capable of countering environmental damage and inflammation.

Found in foods such as spinach, dairy, and liver, the end products are able to be generated from the precursor b-carotene (the orange pigment of carrots)… hence the adage that carrots help you to see in the dark. Vitamin A is actually taken orally in strong doses as Roaccutane, as a last resort for treatment of severe acne.

Retinoids appear to prevent photodamage by interfering with UV-mediated action of signalling pathways that damage collagen. Several studies have shown the collagen-sparing effects of topical vitamin A derivatives, with authors from one study demonstrating that pre-treatment of skin with tretinoin can decrease UV-induced destruction of collagen and other skin proteins by activated enzymes up to 70-80%. **Note because of some of the other effects of vitamin A, application prior to sun exposure is generally not recommended due to risk of increased burning

As well as preventing destruction of collagen, topical retinoids are thought to induce a number of dermal changes at the deeper and more superficial levels. Likely underpinned by the collagen effects induced by vitamin A, visible improvements to fine wrinkling, smoothness, hyperpigmentation and superficial blood vessels is often seen. Studies show that a long-term commitment to Vitamin A use is necessary, as upon discontinuation, skin is seen to return to baseline, both grossly and at a microscopic level.

Deficiency of vitamin A is associated with impaired immunity and delayed wound healing. Cod-liver oil is a rich source of vitamin A and has been shown to improve wound healing in deficient animals. It seems that the historic practice of necking a teaspoon was not in vain! Furthermore, the data indicates that wound healing in the context of steroid use (e.g. cortisone), may also be positively influenced with vitamin A therapy.

As previously touched on, vitamin A has well recognised efficacy for the treatment of acne vulgaris. Affecting the pilosebaceous unit (site of sebum production), vitamin A helps to downregulate oil and improve skin turnover which in turn decreases the food source for P acnes bacteria, involved in acne pathogenesis

The way that vitamin A achieves skin turnover, growth and maturation, is by acting on keratinocytes (immature skin cells) and by encouraging shedding of corneocytes (mature, hardened, outer skin cells), in this way, vitamin A can be thought of as a modern-day exfoliant.

Need some vitamin A in your life? Visit our store or book below for a consultation with an Aescend artisan

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