Vitamin A was the first fat-soluble compound discovered in 1913 by researchers at Yale University. It is absolutely necessary for healthy skin. If your levels are in the normal range, you’re probably experiencing radiant, glowing skin. However, if your skin isn’t looking so great and/or is dry, you just might be suffering from vitamin A deficiency. Let’s talk about skin.
The epidermis and the dermis are the two primary skin layers that vitamin A impacts to give you beautiful, radiant skin.
- The Epidermis (Outer Layer)- is made mostly of epithelial cells. The most important function of the epidermis is to protect our internal areas from harmful agents found in the environment by serving as a protective barrier. On the other hand, superficially, it’s also the layer that gives you a general idea of how well your skin is being maintained because you can actually see the epidermis skin layer. That’s a lot of social pressure for one organ. Yes-the skin is actually an organ. The epidermis works very hard to make you look good. At the very bottom of the epidermis, new skin cells are constantly forming. When the new cells are ready, they move up to the top of the epidermis and the old skin cells die, which is why you should exfoliate your skin about twice a week. The process of new cells forming and moving up to the surface layer of your skin and old cells dying takes about two weeks to one month. But having said that, the epidermis thrives or fails based on how well the dermis perform.
- The Dermis (middle Layer)- is made mostly of thick connective tissue and proteins such as collagen, which gives your skin structure. The dermis also has many blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to your skin cells and it’s home to the sebaceous glands, which gives your skin its natural oil. It’s basically the manufacturing hub for all new skin and as you can imagine, it’s in constant turnover –creating new beautiful skin cells that will eventually move up and become the epidermis. But don’t get too excited, those news cells will only be beautiful if the dermis is functioning properly, and the dermis can only function properly if your body has the adequate amount of the retinoic acid form of vitamin A.
All about Vitamin A
As stated above, vitamin A is a necessary vitamin for healthy skin and it comes in two forms: Preformed and Provitamin A.
- Preformed Vitamin A (Retinoids)- include retinal, retinol, and the lifeline of our skin-retinoic acid. Retinol vitamin A is a fat-soluble compound and is absorbed in the body when you consume animal based foods such as egg yolk, milk, cheese, butter and liver from chicken, beef, and fish liver oils). We need the retinol form of vitamin A because it is the form of vitamin A that is converted into retinoic acid in the body.
- Provitamin A (Carotenoids)-includes beta-carotene and is found in plants such as fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, winter squash, carrots, spinach, and orange cantaloupe. The beta-carotene form of vitamin A is also converted into retinoic acid but it must goes through several conversions in the body to become retinol and eventually, retinoic acid.
You can also take retinol as a supplement, but be very careful because supplementing with retinol can lead to vitamin A toxicity.
Why is Vitamin A Essential for Healthy Skin?
One of the ways to achieve beautiful healthy skin is through the synthesis of the retinoid acid form of vitamin A in the body. Optimum levels of the retinoid acid are needed to promote the healthy function of epithelial cells-the cells that your skin is made of. Both retinol and retinal converts into retinoid acid so consuming vitamin A through an animal source or a plant-based source will provide you with this critical cell growth, producing nutrient.
How Does Retinoic Acid Work?
All of our cells are programmed to have specific functions within the body, and this includes your skin cells. Retinoic acid is a major player in ensuring that cells are programmed properly and therefore, are a must during the programming phase of new cell development. If there isn’t enough vitamin A, the “code” is copied incorrectly and the cell does not perform properly. Retinoic acid also influences the structure and function of epithelial cells. So if you don’t have enough of it, your skin can become structurally compromised as well appear dull, blemished, and flaky. Needless to say, if you’re looking to maintain beautiful, healthy looking skin, you definitely will want to make sure your vitamin A levels in are adequate.
What is the Optimal Amount of Vitamin A
Because vitamin A is fat- soluble, it should be consumed with food. In addition, if you are supplementing with retinol, you should make sure you are adequately monitoring your levels so that you do not develop vitamin A toxicity. Furthermore, avoid all forms of synthetic vitamin A such as retinyl palmitate, which is found in many anti-aging and sunscreen personal care products. Research has shown that retinyl palmitate is linked to skin lesions and tumors. Below, is a list of what the FDA recommends safely.
- Infants birth – 6 months: 400 mcg
- Infants 7 – 12 months: 500 mcg
- Children 1 – 3 years: 300 mcg
- Children 4 – 8 years: 400 mcg
- Children 9 – 13 years: 600 mcg
- Boys 14 – 18 years: 900 mcg
- Girls 14 – 18 years: 700 mcg
- Men 19 years and older: 900 mcg
- Women 19 years and older: 700 mcg
- Pregnant women 14 – 18 years: 750 mcg
- Pregnant women 19 years and older: 770 mcg
- Breastfeeding women 14 – 18 years: 1,200 mcg
- Breastfeeding women 19 years and older: 1,300 mcg
So the next time your skin appears to be blah-try consuming more vitamin A based foods before shelling out money to your dermatologist.