Vitamin A Side Effects

The most used anti-aging compounds, topical Vitamin A and its natural and synthetic analogs called retinoids help to improve the skin's texture, smoothness and firmness, acting as a keratinization regulator. Benefits of Vitamin A and its metabolites on skin are a known and well-documented but there are side effects you have to know. Learn here about Vitamin A side effects and precautions to avoid it.

Vitamin A thins out the top layers of skin, thus effectively reducing its ability to withstand sunlight. It is, therefore, imperative to use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF values of 30 or higher to ensure that your skin is protected. Ideally, do not use Vitamin A in the mornings as it can increase skin sensitivity, cause irritation and increase your risk of skin cancer.

There is evidence to suggest that Vitamin A can be downright toxic in the presence of sunlight. It is the safe choice to restrict the use of Vitamin A to evenings only, or at least only indoors while completely protected from any ambient sunlight.

In an attempt to test the presence of retinyl palmitate in sunscreens, a study conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in the United States found that mice exposed to retinyl palmitate exhibited a higher risk of developing skin tumors. Critics of the study have pointed out that the study was conducted in the absence of any actual sunscreen, and that the groups of mice without any vitamin A showed more skin lesions.

While there is no conclusive proof that sunscreen containing retinyl palmitate exposes users to a higher risk of skin cancer, there is no harm in just being careful. The Environmental Working Group (EWP) claims that retinyl palmitate could be found in approximately 41% of sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher.

Always check ingredients on the sunscreen jar and do not buy it if you will find there any vitamin A derivatives. Do not apply products (day creams, serums or sunscreen) with high concentrations of retinyl palmitate or any other forms of Vitamin A in the mornings; it could potentially keep you safer.

Another important point to remember is that excess Vitamin A can cause toxicity in the body. The skin is our largest organ, absorbing many products we apply and passes them into our bodies. It can cause symptoms such as liver damage, osteoporosis, and brittle nails among others. It is highly important to not use too many products containing this wonder vitamin and to not use it at concentrations that are too high.

Overall, it can be safely stated that the benefits of using Vitamin A far outweigh the possible repercussions, in the presence of some caution. It is advisable to ease into the use of Vitamin A by first starting with a bi-weekly use and slowly increasing it as the skin acclimatizes. Do not apply a double layer of serum or cream. It is imperative to use adequate sun protection and avoid morning usage. These precautions are in no way a high price to pay for the amazing skin that Vitamin A promises to deliver!


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Do retinoids really reduce wrinkles? Harvard Health Publishing
Regulation of keratin expression by retinoids. 2011. NCBI.

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