Vitamin A. It’s a skincare buzzword you’ve probably heard before, but how much do you really know about it? If your answer is “not much,” read on.
Vitamin A is famous in the skincare world for its skin healing and regenerative properties, frequently used to treat acne, reduce wrinkles, fade pigmentation, even skin tone, repair sun damage, produce collagen, and restore firmness and a youthful glow. But if you look at the back of your moisturizer, you probably won’t find “vitamin A” in the list of ingredients. That’s because the term does not refer to a single vitamin, but rather to a group of related chemicals. Different forms of it are found under a variety of long, difficult-to-pronounce names in many common skincare products.
The two most basic forms of vitamin A (carotenoids and retinoids) are readily available in food. Let’s start by talking about carotenoids. These have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and they are readily available in many plants. In order to get your skin the carotenoids it needs, you can eat fruits and vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, apricots, parsley, broccoli, winter squash, and pumpkin have high levels of them) or apply products containing a form of carotene (alpha, beta, or gamma) directly to your skin. Beta-carotene, the most common in skincare, is found in carrot seed, rosehip, pomegranate seed, sea buckthorn, and buriti oils.
Once in your body (or the body of other animals), carotenoids are converted into other forms of vitamin A, known as retinoids. The process begins when the body uses oxygen to metabolize beta-carotene into retinal (also known as retinaldehyde or vitamin A aldehyde). Vitamin A is stored as retinol, a milder version of vitamin A that can be converted back to retinal when necessary. When it comes time for your skin to actually use vitamin A, retinal is converted to retinoic acid (also referred to as tretinoin), the form recognized and utilized by skin cells. Many common anti-acne or anti-aging products contain some version of retinoids, whether they are natural or synthetic. Your skin can transform almost any retinoid to usable retinoic acid, but the strongest and most effective ones are the ones that are furthest along in the process of becoming retinoic acid, as some potency is lost in each step of conversion. Thus, retinoic acid (found in products like Retin-A) is more powerful than retinal, which is more powerful than retinol, which is more powerful than plant carotenoids.
But then, why do we find all stages of vitamin A in market skincare products? Why don’t we all just apply retinoic acid directly to our face? The answer is simple: the most potent forms of vitamin A can be quite harsh on the skin, potentially causing redness, irritation, dryness, peeling, or heightened sensitivity to sunlight. Even mild forms of vitamin A are sensitive to light, losing their potency if exposed to too much sunlight, so it is best to use products containing vitamin A at night, when your skin is resting and repairing itself, and there is no risk of exposure to ultraviolet light.
Here at Essentique, we believe that carotenoids are the safest and most responsible way of delivering vitamin A to the skin, and many of our skincare products already contain them. Lumin8, Elevate, Line-Break, Pumpkin Peel, Clean Clay, Luminescence, and Supple are all made with carotenoid-rich ingredients. For those looking for a stronger (although not vegan) version of the vitamin, we suggest applying Fermented Cod Liver Oil to the skin.
But that’s not all. You can also find plenty of carotenoids in R3, Essentique’s new facial serum! This serum contains three kinds of oils derived from the rose plant — rose enfleurage essential oil, rosehip whole fruit oil, and rosehip seed CO2 extract oil. Together, these vitamin-A-rich oils improve the skin’s elasticity and the appearance of scars, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines, making R3 the perfect product for under your eyes or for spot treatments for scars or stretch marks.
Inject some vitamin A into your life with R3 or one of our many other carotenoid-rich skincare products!