When it comes to skincare, two of the most popular vitamins are E and C. While there is no doubt in their ability to nourish, brighten and keep your skin looking youthful, these are not the only two vitamins that deserve all the praise. We are talking about the lesser appreciated beauty vitamin here — vitamin A! The benefits of vitamin A may not be known to many, but it helps address a number of skin concerns. For starters, it plays a key role in the body, as it helps produce new cells that accelerate skin regeneration and promote overall healthy functioning.

To understand this vitamin in detail and learn about the benefits of vitamin A for your skin, we got in touch with Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi, Owner & Director - Shine Skin, Hair & Laser Clinic, Mumbai, to talk to us in detail about how vitamin A helps in keeping the skin healthy. Here’s what she had to say.


1. What is vitamin A?

What is vitamin A?

First things first, we started by understanding what exactly is vitamin A and whether our body can produce it naturally. “Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and an essential micronutrient, which means our body cannot produce it and it needs to be obtained externally through our diet,” answers Dr. Modi. An essential nutrient is necessary for the healthy functioning of the immune system, reproductive health, eyes and skin.

There are two types of vitamin A — retinoids and carotenoids, both types are converted into retinol by the liver and then stored or supplied throughout the body by the lymphatic system. The skin has the ability to absorb retinoids, therefore the topical application of the same offers a number of benefits.


2. Benefits of vitamin A for the skin

Benefits of vitamin A for the skin

Vitamin A is very important for the skin, it contains retinoids, a compound that performs various jobs to keep your skin in the best condition. Here are some benefits that Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi mentions:

  • Vitamin A boosts the production of skin-firming collagen and elastin which helps minimise fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Exposure to UV rays can lead to hyperpigmentation and spots. One of the many benefits of vitamin A is that it helps reverse this damage.
  • It has mild exfoliating properties that help slough away dead skin cells, thereby preventing acne and clogged pores.
  • Vitamin A stimulates fibroblasts, this makes the skin youthful and radiant.
  • It helps normalize oil production, this makes the skin less oily and prevents breakouts.
  • Also known for supporting the skin’s immune system by promoting natural moisturizing factors and speeding up healing.
  • Promotes healthy a dermis and epidermis, the two protective layers of the skin

3. Ways to obtain vitamin A

Ways to obtain vitamin A

“There are two main sources of obtaining vitamin A through your diet, which are plant-based or animal-based products. Apart from this, you can also take vitamin A supplements and apply it topically to improve the health of your skin,” says Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi. Let’s take a detailed look at each of these sources so you can decide how to obtain the benefits of vitamin A.


4. Vitamin A in foods

Vitamin A in foods

Animal-based products

Vitamin A is found in the form of retinoids in animal-based products. Some of the best sources of vitamin A, according to Dr. Modi are

  • Dairy products like milk,
  • cheese and butter
  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Beef liver
  • Cod liver oil

Plant-based products

Vegetarians can obtain their share of vitamin A through plant-based sources. These compounds are called carotenoids and can be found in these foods according to Dr. Modi:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Plain yogurt
  • Red bell peppers
  • Fruits like apricots, plums and mangoes

Pro tip: Your body can only absorb vitamin A when it is consumed with some form of fat. So, while obtaining the benefits of vitamin A, if your preferred source such as raw fruits or veggies, do not contain fats, then pair it with foods rich in healthy fats like nuts, avocado and olive oil.


5. Vitamin A supplements

Vitamin A supplements

Most people can meet their required level of vitamin A through food alone. Since other parts of your body also need and fight for their share of the vitamin, whatever reaches your skin is minimal. Therefore, some people prefer or are recommended to take supplements to get the benefits of vitamin A. Some of these supplements combine retinoids with carotenoids whereas others are purely retinoids or carotenoids. It is also added to a number of common multivitamins and mineral supplements. However, high doses of vitamin A can be dangerous for your body, therefore do not self medicate. Talk to your doctor before taking any vitamin A capsule and ensure that your overall intake is not more than 10,000 micrograms per day. Having said that, you should also know that you cannot expect quick results from food sources or supplements. What might help and show results sooner, is topical application of vitamin A in the form of retinoids.


6. Topical application of vitamin A

Topical application of vitamin A

If you want to see quicker results in fighting your battle against wrinkles, acne or sun-damaged skin, then topical application of vitamin A is your best bet. Your skin quickly absorbs the retinoids in vitamin A and tackles the majority of your skin problems. In fact, you will find a lot of skincare products infused with this vitamin. Your sunscreens, moisturisers, anti-aging creams and serums generally contain vitamin A as an active ingredient to effectively fight skin concerns. One of the most common retinoids is tretinoin, it is known for boosting the production of fresh skin cells, thereby minimizing the appearance of wrinkles, dull skin and uneven texture. It is also recommended for those with mild to moderate acne.

Again, do not self-medicate, talk to your doctor about your skin goals and they may suggest something more than vitamin A for topical application and the two paired together can give you even better results.


7. FAQs about vitamin A

FAQs about vitamin A

Q. Can you put vitamin A directly on your face?

A. Yes, some vitamin A supplements come in the form of capsules and can be broken and applied directly to the face. However, when it comes to topical application, it is best to consult a dermatologist before trying anything.

Q. Are vitamin A and retinol the same?

A. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, a type of retinoid that is commonly found in a lot of skincare products for its ability to fight several skin concerns.

Q. How do you use vitamin A?

A. There are many ways to use and obtain the benefits of vitamin A. You can get it via food, supplements and even through topical application.