Vitamin A: Resurfacing Retinoids

Most people can get soft skin through different moisturizers but never feel satisfied whenever they feel rough patches around certain areas. And for people tired of applying vitamin E lotion everyday without seeing any improvements, you may want to try a topical derivative of vitamin A. It acts like a resurfacing agent, giving you a fine texture.

Today’s fad is all about fighting free radicals and since vitamin A is not an established antioxidant, it doesn’t get to bathe much in the limelight given to vitamins C and E. You won’t see it as often as other vitamins in skin care products not because it’s less effective but because caution is needed in its use. From a study comparing elderly population with and without retinol lotion, the results were in favor of those with. Wrinkles, roughness and overall aging severity were all significantly reduced in the retinol-treated arm compared with the control arm. The researchers even took skin biopsies and it showed that the retinol increased the production of glycosaminoglycan and procollagen, which both contribute to the skin’s structure and strength.

In the ingredients list of your cosmetic product, you may see isotretinoin, retinoic acid, retinoid, retinol or vitamin A; they all refer to the same thing and they only different in their strength. Some are over the counter and others need prescription. Dermatologists recommend topical forms for a lot of things such as acne, actinic keratosis, psoriasis, rosacea, verruca, keloids, etc… Peeling and burning sensation are some of the side effects. Systemic vitamin A, however, are not typically prescribed because of the side effects like depression, hair loss and altered night vision. Keep in mind that pregnant women should never use any products with vitamin A because it is a known teratogenic substance, meaning it can cause malformation of the fetus.

The following are known functions of the different forms of vitamin A: prevention of aging, reversal of aging, wound healing, anti-inflammatory and many more. According to an article in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, the single most effective component in a skincare regimen, for reversal of photoaging is the use of retinoids. Also, pretreatment with retinoids likely promotes wound healing after facial full- or partial-thickness wounds. Majority of the evidence available shows favorable wound-healing properties, even in fresh wounds. For 30 years, topical retinoids have also been used for acne because acne, both inflammatory and non-inflammatory (see Acne Troubles: Inflammatory, Acne Troubles: Non-inflammatory pages) respond well to vitamin A. It takes care of comedones and reverses thickening of the top layer of the epidermis.

But exactly how does vitamin A work?

Humans, via basal keratinocytes (cells at the deepest layer of epidermis, see Skin: the Basics page), produce their own vitamin A; and like vitamin E, it is capable of entering the cell. Over-the-counter beauty products have retinol and if your product has it, then it becomes oxidized to the stronger retinoic acid/tretinoin upon absorption into the cells. After which it binds to receptors in the nucleus (retinoic X receptors and retinoic acid receptors) and activates genes with response elements to it. This means that it can actually regulate gene expression via transcription factors; an example of which is AP-1. AP-1 has a role in inflammation and stress response so when vitamin A is present, the symptoms for both can be controlled. The other known effects of vitamin A have similar mechanism; it is through its lipid-solubility and gene regulation that it exerts its cosmetic wonders.

Nowadays, we can see vitamin A in serums, eye creams, lotions, day and night creams, etc…and though a bit expensive, its effectiveness makes it all worth it.