Researchers have been investigating the impact of specific antioxidant vitamins for decades. Based on what they’ve learned so far, we know that many of the antioxidants in our diet can have a significant impact on our skin when applied topically. That’s why you’ll find so many creams, lotions, and serums infused with vitamin E to soothe irritation, vitamin C to help repair sun damage, and B-3 (niacinamide) to help protect and repair barrier function.
But it’s vitamin A that gets credit for delivering effects researchers had not expected. When prescribed to help with the frequency and severity of acne flares, the vitamin also had a noticeable impact on other skin concerns. Here’s what you need to know about the skin care benefits of vitamin A. 1,2,3
What Is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant. The nutrient is essential for immune system function, normal vision, and ensuring your reproductive system works as it should. Vitamin A has two distinctive forms. The first is provitamin A (carotenoids). Provitamin A is a plant-source nutrient you’ll find in fruits, vegetables, and many dietary supplements.
The other form of vitamin A, preformed vitamin A, is the derivative found most abundantly in poultry, fish, meat, and dairy products. This type of vitamin A has topped the list of “must-have” topical vitamins for decades. Retinol is preformed vitamin A.4
What Are the Benefits of Topical Use?
Like many vitamins that can do wonders for your skin, the antioxidant properties of retinol help fight the potentially detrimental effects of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that contribute to numerous health concerns. Sun exposure, stress, and even eating too much sugar can contribute to free radical formation and skin damage. UV exposure can create so much free radical damage; it’s considered the number one cause of visible skin aging.5
Retinol not only helps fight free radicals, topical application can also have a considerable impact on how your skin functions. When retinol was first introduced as a treatment for acne in the 1970s, it was clear that topical use had a significant impact on blemish-prone skin. Oil production balanced, and the anti-bacterial properties helped clear blemishes and prevent breakouts. Then researchers noted an unanticipated effect, benefits for the visible signs of skin aging.6
Today, we know that retinol converts to retinoic acid when it interacts with specific skin enzymes. In its active form, retinol changes the way skin cells function. The vitamin speeds the rate at which new skin cells divide, boosts turnover rate, and reduces the amount of melanin produced in the skin. The vitamin can also stimulate collagen production. The overall effect can mean improvements in tone, texture, and fewer wrinkles.7
Can Retinol Be Harmful? What Are the Side Effects?
Retinol can be quite beneficial, but it can also cause side effects. The vitamin is a potent chemical exfoliant. That’s why so many skin experts suggest starting with very low concentrations and once-weekly use.
Although retinol is still considered one of the most effective ingredients in anti-aging skincare, using retinol can cause visible irritation, dry skin, itching, and uncomfortable tightness. Flaking and peeling are common. Creams, lotions, and facial serums with even low concentrations of retinol can also increase photosensitivity.8
The side effects of retinol tend to diminish somewhat as skin adapts. But the list of potentially complex side effects likely explains why so many people stop using retinol soon after they start. Although consumer-grade topicals tend to produce less extreme reactions than prescription medications (retinoids), patience with either treatment is essential. Many people report a noticeable decrease in the signs of skin aging within 6-12 months of consistent use.9
Are There Skin Benefits from Plant-Sourced Vitamin A?
Although retinol is still considered a game-changer in the skincare industry, plant-sourced vitamin A is essential for skin health. That’s why a diet featuring an assortment of colorful vegetables and fruit can do wonders for your skin. Your skin needs their carotenoids to repair cellular damage, produce healthy new cells, and maintain moisture levels. Some of the best dietary sources of carotenoids are spinach, peppers, papaya, and tomatoes.10
You can also benefit from the natural power of plants by applying carotenoids topically. Current studies suggest carotenoids can help reduce hyperpigmentation, boost collagen production, and protect skin from the impact of free radicals. Like retinol, carotenoids also convert to retinoic acid as they interact with your skin. But carotenoids are shown to help reduce sun sensitivity, not increase it.11
Where Can I find Topical Carotenoids?
While you’ll find retinol-infused products just about anywhere you look, skincare products made with carotenoids tend to fly just a bit under the radar. You need to know what to look for. When your skincare products contain carotenoids, you’ll see lycopene, beta-carotene, lutein, or zeaxanthin in the list of ingredients. You’ll also find plant-source vitamin A in full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD oil.
When you choose CBD-infused skincare products, vitamin A is just one of many nutrients that could benefit your complexion. Full-spectrum hemp extract also has an impressive amount of vitamins, E, C, D, and several B vitamins. You’ll also find an ample supply of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Once you consider each of the many nutrients and other active botanicals that could benefit your skin, it’s easy to see why so many people are investing in plant-powered skincare products infused with the additional potential of CBD oil.12
If you’re curious about using retinol but concerned about how your skin might respond, visit BOTA® to browse our Complete Guide to Natural Skin Care. Then consider taking a look at our selection of high-quality plant-powered products featuring the many potential skin benefits of our pure, potent full-spectrum hemp extracts.
As the CBD (cannabidiol) in BOTA™ toners, serums, and moisturizers absorbs through your skin, it interacts with specific receptors found on nearly every type of skin cell. That includes the receptors regulating skin cell formation, cellular turnover, oil production, moisture retention, and collagen formation. Plus, when you shop with BOTA™, your CBD skincare products are third-party tested, cruelty-free, and formulated for all skin types.
- Indian Dermatology Online Journal. M Keen, I Hassan. (2016 July-August) Vitamin E in Dermatology.
- Real Simple. W Gould. (2019 June 17) The Power Couple of Sun Protection: Vitamin C and Sunscreen.
- Bazaar. A Tunell. (2015 February 04) The Vitamin Guide to Skincare.
- National Institutes of Health. (2021 January 14) Vitamin A Fact Sheet for Consumers.
- Dermatology Research and Practice. B Poljsak, R Dahmane. (2012 February 02) Free Radicals and Extrinsic Skin Aging.
- American Spa. (2006 January 17) History of Skincare in the 1990s.
- Advances in Dermatology and Allergology/Postepy. M Zasanda, E Budzisz. (2019 August) Retinoids: Active Molecules Influencing Skin Structure Formation in Cosmetic and Dermatological Treatments.
- Beauty Answered. W Coy (2021) What Are Retinol Side Effects?
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2019 October 22) Do Retinoids Really Reduce Wrinkles?
- Opting Health. (2021) 10 Nutritious Foods High in Carotenoids.
- Les Nouvelles Esthetiques & Spa. S Hickman. (2016 July) Skin Care Properties of Carotenoids.
- CBDistillery. (2020 August 27) What Is Full Spectrum Hemp Oil?