If we had to choose which one skin care product we just couldn’t live without, we would almost certainly have to say that it would be Vitamin A cream.
In fact, apart from sunscreen, (which everyone without exception should be applying every day) we generally recommend that Vitamin A cream be used by almost all of our clients. Not only can Vitamin A cream be used by people of all skin types and colours, it has beneficial effects on a wide variety of skin conditions including acne, uneven tone and pigmentation, rosacea and fine lines and wrinkles.
Not only that, it’s also one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your skin, as you only need to use a tiny amount every night!
If you’d like more information about Vitamin A cream, the one essential home skin-care product, you’ve come to the right place. Soon you too may be using this cream as your anti-ageing secret skin-care weapon.
What is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is fat-soluble vitamin that is found in many foods and is vital for maintaining the normal function of vision, the immune system and reproduction, amongst numerous other functions.
Vitamin A can come in many different forms with many different and confusing names including tretinoin, retinol and retinoic acid amongst others.
For our purposes we don’t need to get hung up on the details, but if you are interested our prescription creams contain Vitamin A in the tretinoin form, usually starting at a strength of a quarter of one percent.
What does Vitamin A do for the skin?
Vitamin A cream has so many beneficial effects on the skin that it’s amazing that more people aren’t using it. The effect that you may be most familiar with is that Vitamin A increases cell turnover in the basal layer of the epidermis.
What this means in practice is that the cells in your skin are stimulated to divide more rapidly. These new cells push their way to the top layer of the skin and push off the older layer of dead cells which accumulate and give the skin a dull, lifeless appearance.
Not only does this layer of dead skin cells accumulate and make your skin appear more tired, they also clog up pores leading to blackheads and whiteheads, and act as source of food for the bacteria that live in the pores and cause acne.
Vitamin A causes the pores themselves to shed from the inside, giving your skin a deep clean and reducing clogged pores, congestion and acne. If acne is your major problem, Vitamin A cream can also be combined with an antibiotic to really get rid of those acne-causing bacteria.
As if that wasn’t good enough, Vitamin A cream also stimulates the production of new collagen in the dermis, the second layer of the skin.
Collagen is the protein in the skin that keeps it firm. As we age we naturally loss collagen, and the skin loses elasticity and leads to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
Regular use of Vitamin A cream will therefore not only exfoliate the skin but will also help slow down the process of ageing and minimise the appearance of fine lines.
So those are the two major benefits of Vitamin A cream, but they don’t end there.
It also helps improve the blood flow to the skin, which can improve the appearance and symptoms of rosacea; improves the appearance of scars, especially acne scars, by enhancing collagen synthesis; and also minimises the appearance of uneven pigmentation and pigmented lesions leading to a more even skin tone by inhibiting melanogenesis (the production of melanin, the dark pigment in the skin).
How often should I use Vitamin A cream?
If you’ve never used Vitamin A cream before, the key is to start off low and build up slowly. The last thing we want is for you to have an exaggerated response to the cream and then become convinced that you are allergic to it and stop using it.
Vitamin A is going to make our skin slightly red, dry and flaky to begin with. We can’t stress enough that this is NOT a “bad reaction” to Vitamin A: this is just Vitamin A doing what it should do! It’s called a “retinoid reaction”, and it’s exactly what we want to happen.
Your skin will quickly become accustomed to it, the reaction will settle down and your skin will thank you for it.
That’s why we initially recommend using your Vitamin A cream only every second night to begin with, until your skin gets used to it. If you find the retinoid reaction too intense, or your skin is too red, you may even want to pull back to using the cream every third night until you start to build up more of a tolerance.
After a few weeks of using the cream every second night, you may want to increase to every night.
Over the Counter vs. Prescription Vitamin A Creams
There are a number of Vitamin Creams of varying strengths which can be bought over the counter in beauty or department stores, and you may have used these in the past.
There’s nothing wrong with these creams, but the concentration of active ingredient which is actually having an effect on your skin can vary greatly. These creams often smell lovely and probably come in much nicer looking packaging than the prescription creams, but don’t let that fool you. Skin health isn’t improved by nice smells and fancy packaging!
A prescription cream can be specifically formulated to contain a known concentration of Vitamin A, so you can start with a lower dose and then gradually build up as your skin tolerance improves.
The benefit is that you know exactly what and how much you are getting. All you’ll need to do is have a quick consultation with our doctor to ensure that there’s no reasons why you shouldn’t be using vitamin A.
Your dermal therapist and doctor may also recommend that extra ingredients be added to your Vitamin A cream to tailor it your personal needs.
Your doctor may suggest, for example, that certain antibiotics or Vitamin B3 be added to your Vitamin A cream to maximise your treatment effect.
Vitamin B3, also known as niacinamide, is a pigment inhibitor that is also very hydrating and is a perfect mix with Vitamin A which can otherwise make the skin somewhat dry. Vitamin B3 may also improve rosacea.
Antibiotics may assist in clearing up troublesome acne, and other ingredients can minimise the appearance of pigmented lesions or uneven pigmentation.
Your prescription-only cream will be made up in a compounding pharmacy and should be ready for pick-up, or postage to your home, after a few business days.
How do I use my Vitamin A cream?
Vitamin A cream should be applied at the end of the day, and slept in. At the end of your day simply remove all of your day-time product as you normally would.
Squeeze a pea-sized amount of Vitamin A cream onto your finger-tips, and then apply it to your face evenly and making sure that you avoid your eyes and lips. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards to remove any cream.
After waiting about twenty to thirty minutes, you can then apply your regular night-time moisturiser. In the morning simply remove your products as you normally would.
Is There Anything Else I Should do with My Vitamin A Cream?
Vitamin A, whether in cream or tablet form or even in a peel, makes the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light, which is why we recommend using it at night rather than during the day time.
It is always recommended that everyone wear an SPF30+ sunscreen to protect their skin, but when you are using Vitamin A it becomes even more important. The UV found in sunlight is one of the most easily preventable causes of skin ageing, and that’s before we even say anything about the risk of skin cancers from sun exposure.
Apart from sunscreen, you may find that your skin becomes slightly drier using Vitamin A, and a good quality moisturiser is therefore highly recommended.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
It is absolutely vital that pregnant and breastfeeding women, and those seeking to get pregnant, should not use Vitamin A cream.
Vitamin A has an effect on rapidly dividing cells, for example the cells found in the deep layer of the epidermis, and a foetus or a small baby is also a bundle of rapidly dividing cells.
Can Vitamin A Cream be used on all skin types?
One of the great things about Vitamin A cream, as well as Vitamin A Peels, is that they can be used on all skin types and colours.
Can Vitamin A Creams be combined with other treatments and creams? Is it okay in combination with laser treatments? Anti-wrinkle Injections? Fillers?
Not only does Vitamin A cream improve your skin in and of itself, it works fantastically well in combination with other skin treatments including a microdermabrasion and various forms of laser treatments (Laser Genesis being one of our favourites).
Especially for skin concerns such as acne and rosacea, treatments in the clinic are all well and good, but without the appropriate skin acre regime at home you’re really missing out on the maximum benefit that you can achieve (and potentially doing your skin harm if you are using the wrong type of product for your skin type).
Vitamin A cream can be used safely in combination with anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers.
What kinds of skin concerns can be improved with Vitamin A Cream?
Vitamin A ream has a number of beneficial effects on the skin and can help improve general skin tone and texture, pigmentation, rosacea, acne, and fine lines and wrinkles.
Okay, I love my Vitamin A Cream, but I want more!
For those of us who can’t get enough Vitamin A onto their skin, you may wish to consider having a treatment with a Vitamin A peel.
Vitamin A creams generally come in low strengths, say a quarter of one percent to half on one percent, which can be tolerated by the skin on a daily or semi-daily basis.
But what about if we tried putting on a much larger dose of Vitamin A? That’s exactly what a Vitamin A peel consists of. Strengths of thirty to forty precent Vitamin A can be applied, and trust me, you’ll really get a good shedding effect with a glowing skin afterwards!
First the skin is given a clean and exfoliation to remove dead cells and to open up those pores so the peel can really penetrate deeply. The yellow Vitamin A peel is applied and left on for anywhere from half an hour to overnight.
In fact, if you really want the maximum benefit of your peel, we generally recommend that you go home in the peel and sleep in it. Sure, you might get a few funny looks on the train with a yellow face that makes you look like Homer Simpson, but it’ll be worth it.
The peels don’t sting at all. You’ll start feeling a bit red the next day, almost like you have a mild sunburn, and then on day two the real fun begins. Your skin will start shedding until you’ll think it can’t shed anymore.
It’s really quite confronting, and you’ll need to be prepared for it. Like most treatments though, whether it be lasers or needling with Dermapen, the best results come from the deepest treatments, which also tend to have the most “downtime”.
To put it simply, the longer you leave the peel on for, the more shedding you’ll get. And the more shedding you get, the better your result will be. This intense shedding typically peaks on the second or third day, and then you’ll start to notice those fresh new cells appearing. After five to seven days your skin will be absolutely glowing.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Vitamin A Peels are one of our very favourite treatments.
If you’d like to find out if your skin is suitable for Vitamin A cream, or if you’d like to take the plunge and try a Vitamin A Peel, we’d love to hear from you. Your skin will thank you for it.