Vitamin A for Acne – Does it work?
Well, topically, it’s all the rage – anything that has the word tretin or retin or retinol or anything similar uses a bioactive form of Vitamin A topically to help shed dead skin cells faster and reduce sebum production.
While it may work topically (sometimes poorly or with lots of irritation), it does not address the root cause of the acne, and simply keeps the symptoms suppressed – not ideal.
What about as an internal supplement?
Does Vitamin A work as a supplement?
Yes…ish. Dermatologists love prescribing synthetic forms of Vitamin A for acne. Some you might recognize are called Tretinoin and Accutane. *Shudder.* The idea is to mega-dose Vitamin A to really limit sebaceous gland activity. It has some serious risks and side effects, and I am not a fan of this. Seriously, think long and hard about it before you do it, and research it well. :/
But what about natural Vitamin A? Let’s look into it and see!
What is it?
Vitamin A is actually more complicated than taking a pill that says “Vitamin A.” There are multiple forms of Vitamin A, but there are only two kinds of Vitamin A that are bioavailable (ie useful to the body) – they are:
Retinoids and Carotenoids.
Retinoids – which include retinol, retinal and retinoic acid – are the forms of vitamin A that are biologically active (ie, useful) in the body. Retinol is found in animal foods, especially liver, but also eggs and dairy products.
Carotenoids (you might be familiar with the form called “beta-carotene”) are actually yellow-orange pigments, which are found in many fruit and vegetable sources. Three of the carotenoids, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, are called pro-vitamin A carotenoids because your body can convert them into retinol.
A good rule of thumb is that if the fruit or vegetable is bright yellow-orange (ie carrots or squash) it is a good source of carotenoids. Other dietary sources of provitamin A carotenoids include dark green veggies.
Which do you need: retinoids or carotenoids?
Provitamin A carotenoids are excellent antioxidants, but to combat acne beta-carotene must be absorbed and converted to retinol in the small intestine.
However, the body doesn’t absorb and convert carotenes nearly as efficiently as retinol. On average, your body only gets 1/12 of the vitamin A activity from carotenes (and some sources say only 3%!!) as from the same quantity of retinol!
But unfortunately, the more beta-carotene you consume, the less efficiently your body absorbs it, so just consuming more beta-carotene, especially in supplement form, is not the whole answer.
The truth is, especially to get the amount of Vitamin A recommended to have an effect on reducing acne, it is difficult to meet your total vitamin A needs from plant sources alone. That’s why it’s important to include plentiful preformed vitamin A – retinol – in your diet. More on this in a sec.
How does it work?
Retinoids combat acne in the following ways:
- Help dead skin cells to slough off completely and at a good pace to prevent dead skin cell buildup and clogged pores
- Cause the sebaceous glands to reduce the amount of oil produced, which also reduces pore-clogging
- Suppress androgen formation (androgens are testosterones that encourage and increase sebum production and dead skin cell buildup)
- Protect fats from oxidation (which keeps cell damage and inflammation at bay)
Who will benefit from it?
Vitamin A can play an effective role in controlling hormonal acne, but it does not typically address the ROOT CAUSE, which might be a progesterone deficiency, estrogen dominance, insulin resistance or androgen sensitivity.
It is best used for a finite period of time, while making the necessary dietary and lifestyle adjustments.
Vitamin A supplementation can be good if you have excess androgen activity, ie, if your skin is oily, and your breakouts are painful, inflamed, large and frequent.
Here are some other ways to tell if you might be Vitamin A DEFICIENT and need to beef up your intake not just due to your acne, but due to your overall health needs. Do any items on this list resonate with you?
- Night blindness (reduced ability to see in low light)
- Impaired immunity, susceptibility to infections
- Rough, dry skin, including hyperkeratosis pilaris (rough bumps on the backs of the arms)
- Gut damage (which many acne sufferers have – see “Probiotic” for another supplement that might be useful)
- Strenuous exercise and other stressors (ie lots of stress)
- Alcohol consumption
- Zinc deficiency
- Consumption of polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils such as canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, peanut oil. Olive oil is fine!)
- Consistently low dietary fat intake
If you have cystic breakouts that are large and deep, but not painful and inflamed, or if you have mild congestion, dry blackheads or milia, or dry skin acne, then there are better supplements out there for you than hyper-dosing Vitamin A.
HOWEVER, if you do struggle with the “drier” forms of acne mentioned above, that means that your whole system is probably dehydrated. In which case it is never a bad idea to INCREASE intake of healthy fats, and your most viable Vitamin A supplement (revealed below) is just such a thing: a very healthy fat.
Nevertheless, everyone can benefit from the forms of Vitamin A recommended below, since Vitamin A is necessary for overall health.
What is the best dosage?
Want to keep reading?
This post is an excerpt from a book I have coming out called:
I wrote this book because I will be honest – while changing my diet and lifestyle helped a lot, what REALLY banished my acne was supplements. And it took a loooong time of experimenting, not knowing if I was doing it right or what exact dose to take, before I figured out a supplement regimen that worked for me. But boy, does a proper supplement regimen do wonders – I can be way less strict with my diet and lifestyle and still know my skin is not going to freak out.
Supplements are FAR more effective for my acne than any dermatologist prescription I EVER received (topical OR internal) and let me tell you, I’ve been on them all.
And all of the supplements I take contribute not only to the health of my skin, but to my overall wellness. Here are some other things my supplements help with: stress, focus, UTIs, weight loss, liver health, fertility, menstrual pain, PMS and more!
Special Pre-order Only Gift!
Supplementing can be frustrating and a little intimidating, which is why there’s a special chapter ONLY in the pre-ordered version of the book that teaches you how to listen to your body and your instinct, so you can feel confident, in control, and SAFE with supplements.
The book covers Vitamin A and 9 other common and natural supplements that can help clear skin.
BUT – if you pre-order you get $9 off AND a VERY important supplementary chapter that will ONLY be included with books that have been pre-ordered before the offial launch.
Click below to get the rest of the info on Vitamin A (totally free but in PDF form) and/or to pre-order the book!
If you pre-order you get both the Vitamin A AND the Estroblock/DIM info immediately! 🙂
It truly is a labor of love on my part, so you can be guided through what I blindly stumbled through, and is such a beautiful investment in your health.
Definitely a must-have if you are struggling to adjust diet and lifestyle to help with your acne, but you KNOW the problem is internal, so you are feeling at a loss, frustrated, stuck or hopeless – supplements help buy you not only time, but also wiggle room! 🙂
Thanks for reading!
In bliss and beauty,