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Vitamin A: New Applications and Outcomes

Vitamin A continues to evolve, helping it remain one of the most potent ingredients in a skin care professional's arsenal.

By: Sam Dhatt
Posted: March 29, 2013, from the April 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Editor’s note: As always, Skin Inc. magazine recommends that skin care professionals obtain the proper training before offering any new treatments in their skin care facilities.

Author’s note: Studies indicate that a daily dose of 50,000 IU provides safe protection against sun exposure and skin cancer, though it should be noted that excess doses of vitamin A can result in negative side effects, including hair loss, dry skin, nausea and liver damage, and pregnant women should not exceed more than 10,000 IU daily without a doctor’s supervision. Recommend that clients consult with their physicians before starting any supplement program.

Since Albert Kligman, MD, PhD, the late renowned dermatologist, patented the retinoic acid drug tretinoin in 1973, vitamin A is still recognized as the single most proven go-to ingredient for improving everything from acne, wrinkles and collagen synthesis to hyperpigmentation. Even today, following the advent of peptides, peels and stem cells, vitamin A and its retinoid-derivative family continue to reign as the unequivocal gold standard of skin care, particularly in treating photodamage. This tried-and-true ingredient continues to evolve with new applications and outcomes coming to light, helping it continue its reign as one of the most potent ingredients in the skin care professional’s arsenal.

How retinoids work

Years after Kligman started testing retinoic acid on acne patients in the 1960s, he began to notice patients were also exhibiting fewer wrinkles and a smoother skin tone. Additional research revealed that, by binding to specific receptors in the skin, retinoids encourage cell turnover on the top layers, producing a more even skin tone, while thickening the lower dermal layers, which has a smoothing effect on wrinkles.

Retinoids’ core competency—the organization, division and differentiation of skin cells—is at the very heart of addressing so many skin conditions, from acne and signs of aging to psoriasis. Indeed, many physiological responses of the skin, such as dermal aging, immune defense and wound-healing, are affected by vitamin A and its retinoids. This potent, water-soluble antioxidant not only encourages proper cell desquamation, but also helps maintain the skin’s structure by inhibiting the DNA damage that breaks down collagen.

The Skin Care Ingredient Handbook is so much more than an ingredient dictionary. You will learn about cellular functions and skin aging; skin care trends for ethnic skin, scalp and hair products, BB creams, suncreens; active versus functional ingredients, natural, organic, and synthetic ingredients; OTC drugs; INCI names, antioxidants and DNA and how to read labels. Did we mention the newest ingredients are listed?

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