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Vitamin A for Acne: Does It Really Help?

If you’re interested in skincare, you may have heard about the potential benefits of vitamin A for acne breakouts.

Acne vulgaris is a skin condition that’s difficult to treat. In addition to dealing with common acne symptoms like pustules, cysts, redness, itchiness, irritation, scarring, swelling, and pain, frequent acne breakouts may also have a negative effect on mental health. Some people may even isolate themselves during active breakouts and avoid interacting with others.

If you’re experiencing any of these adverse side effects, it’s important to find a treatment plan that keeps acne from interfering with your life. One of these treatment options may be vitamin A for acne. 

Does it really help? Let’s explore.


About Acne

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions. Most people will experience it at some point in their lives. While there is no immediate cure for acne, there are plenty of treatment options — but before you treat your acne, you must first understand how it works.

Acne breakouts occur on any area of the body that has hair follicles, which is everywhere except the soles of the feet and palms of the hands. Breakouts are most common on the face, neck, chest, arms, shoulders, and back. 

An acne breakout begins with a clogged hair follicle. These tiny spaces in your skin fill with dead skin cells, bacteria, dirt, and an oily substance called sebum. 

Your skin’s sebaceous glands produce sebum, and this substance is important for locking in moisture and protecting your skin from the sun and harmful pollutants. But too much sebum leads to clogged follicles. 

Once bacteria enters the mix, your body’s natural defense mechanism kicks in. Your immune system fights the bacteria, leading to inflammation, swelling, and redness. Sometimes, this immune response even causes pain.

The result of all this activity beneath the skin is an acne breakout. 

Vitamin A for Acne

There are two sources of vitamin A.

Retinoids contain vitamin A derived from animals, and carotenoids contain vitamin A derived from plants. Both retinoids and carotenoids may treat acne and other skin conditions.

Infographic: Vitamin A for Acne: Does It Really Help?

How Does Vitamin A Help the Skin?

Vitamin A has several healing properties that can be beneficial for your skin. 

First, vitamin A stimulates collagen production. Collagen is a protein that helps your skin appear firm and youthful. Through a boost in collagen, vitamin A helps promote elasticity and fights signs of premature aging.

Next, vitamin A helps repair damage to the skin from a variety of causes, including:

  • UV rays of the sun
  • Pollution
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Age spots
  • Psoriasis
  • Wounds

Finally, vitamin A is a great way to treat the skin-damaging effects of acne breakouts. Let’s take a closer look at vitamin A for acne. 

Is Vitamin A Effective for Acne?

Dermatologists have been studying vitamin A for acne for a long time. Case in point, this study from multiple decades ago concluded that high doses of vitamin A can effectively treat acne, especially inflammatory acne that has not responded to other treatment methods.  

Since then, multiple studies have further demonstrated that vitamin A is a viable treatment for acne. In fact, some researchers believe oral vitamin A may soon replace the prescription medication isotretinoin

Vitamin A’s natural exfoliating properties help eliminate excess dirt, debris, bacteria, dead skin cells, and sebum from your skin, which prevents these substances from clogging your pores. When the skin has no clogged pores, acne-causing bacteria never get trapped, your body’s immune response isn’t activated, and you’re free to enjoy a clear complexion. 

Plus, as vitamin A improves the skin’s elasticity and collagen production, you’ll notice smaller pores, less redness, and fewer acne scars from previous breakouts.


What Are the Possible Downsides of Vitamin A for Acne?

Even though vitamin A for acne is a clinically proven treatment option, it may not work for everyone.

Everyone’s skin is unique, and more research is needed to determine the most universally effective method of using vitamin A for acne. Because of this, you’ll likely need to experiment with a few different vitamin A products before you find the one that manages your symptoms most effectively. 

Before using any topical product, do an allergy test. Apply the product to a small patch of skin and ensure no redness, swelling, or pain occurs before applying the product anywhere else.

Quote: Vitamin A for Acne: Does It Really Help?

Vitamin A for Acne: Final Thoughts

Acne is an extremely difficult condition to live with. It’s unpredictable and can be physically painful. Thankfully, there are countless treatment options out there, one of which is vitamin A.

Severe acne breakouts that don’t respond well to over-the-counter treatment options may need medical intervention. If this is the case for you, discuss your options with your dermatologist.

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