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Vitamin A

Vitamin A: Your Secret Weapon Against Aging

This week on our Skincare Science series, we’re diving into one of our favorites - Vitamin A.

Vitamin A has long been known as the Beauty Industry’s wonder-ingredient for antiaging. You may be wondering, “Okay, then why haven’t I heard about it?” but you probably have; retinoids, retinol, and retinoic acids are all derivatives of Vitamin A.

Retinol and retinoic acid are the most popular Vitamin A derivatives. These are also the most often used versions in skincare products. For topical treatment, the molecule is most stable in this form; once it penetrates the skin, the product is converted into retinoic acid. Because retinoic acid is biologically active, it can penetrate the skin’s deeper layers and reach the cell nucleus. From this point, signals start the production of proteins that impact skin changes.

Understand that Vitamin A can affect skin at the molecular level by reaching and altering the DNA of a cell.

How does Vitamin A affect skin?

  • Promotes cellular turnover, stimulating the shedding of old cells
  • Exfoliates, improving skin tone and texture
  • Stimulates collagen production throughout the deeper layers of the skin
  • Thickens skin by increasing collagen and cell turnover
  • Reduces wrinkles + fine lines by slowing down the cells that destroy collagen
  • Improves acne by stimulating stem cells that promote wound healing
  • Helps decrease oil production

Who can use it?

Anyone other than those pregnant or breastfeeding! Those battling oily, acneic skin. Someone looking to start an anti-aging routine; mid-20’s to early 30’s.

Vitamin A can affect skin at the molecular level by reaching and altering the DNA of a cell.

When and how should I be using it?

Nightly! Night time application is the best time to apply a retinol. Your skin goes through a deep reparative process while asleep so applying your retinol before bed actually aids in increasing the efficacy of your skin’s ability to regenerate and repair itself.

Slow and steady wins the skin care race. When starting retinol, we recommend a percentage of .05 or .1, every third night. You can adjust accordingly depending on how your skin can tolerate treatment. Ideally, you want to get your skin comfortable enough to use retinol nightly for maximum results. When starting out, you may find it easier on your skin to mix your retinol with your nightly moisturizer. You can also apply retinol on top of your nightly moisturizer instead to slow absorption while maintaining hydration. A minimum of 8 to 12 weeks is recommended when seeing improvements with retinol.

Will my skin be irritated at first?

Let’s talk about the side effects.

You may have heard of the “Retinol Purge”. This is a term to describe the time during your skin’s acclimation to a topical Vitamin A. The effects can include: irritation, dryness, photosensitivity, breakouts, blistering, and peeling. This is caused by cells replicating at a faster rate than they are used to, leading to an impaired skin barrier. To avoid these side effects as much as possible, it is recommended to develop a plan for introducing retinol into your routine with a licensed esthetician. We always offer complimentary consults if you are interested in booking online. 

Is there anything I need to use with it?

SUNSCREEN. You should be wearing SPF every day, but especially when using a topical Vitamin A. Due to the possible irritating effects of retinol, skin can be ultra-sensitive to the sun, so SPF is especially important.

What should I avoid while using it?

Be sure to keep your retinol-routine separate from your AHA’s, BHA’s, and Vitamin C’s to avoid added irritation. Staggering AHA/BHA on different nights and Vitamin C in the mornings is best practice. Retinol works best when paired with moisturizer or ceramide cream only.

How do I add it to my routine?

Retinoic acid, like Tretinoin –  is available by prescription only due to it being the purest form of retinol. However, much like anything too-good-to-be-true, prescriptions like Tretinoin come with side effects that cause some doctors to choose combination over-the-counter treatments that produce similar results with less irritation.

Retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate are ester forms of retinol and are the most common alternative recommendations. These are generally easier tolerated while still benefiting skin greatly. Esters are typically attached to a fat molecule that delays absorption and reduces irritation. Retinyl palmitate also has the ability to absorb UV rays, contributing to SPF protection and DNA degradation.

See below for some of our top retinol recommendations!

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