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Vitamin A: The Nutrient That Helps Your Skin To Function

When it comes to skin concerns of any kind, such as congestion (whether blackheads or cysts), dullness, skin dehydration, wrinkles and lines, pigmentation, flaking or excessive oiliness, it is utterly tempting to attack it on the outside with all you’ve got.

However, in reality, the skin is an organ and for the most part, it’s structure and processes are still going to be defined by what’s going on inside you too. To look after your skin with topical skincare but to not address the nutrition and fuel you’re feeding your skin is like painting over a crack in your wall. Short term, the wall definitely looks better and thus you feel better about it. But long term, you may not have figured out what the crack in the wall was caused by, meaning more cracks may start appearing and there’s only so much painting you can do.

Your skin is built by your body and, as we know, your body needs key nutrients to do it. We’re going to talk about vitamin A and how this holy grail nutrient determines more about your skin than you’d often be led to believe.

We don’t make vitamin A

As hoomans, vitamin A is not something we make ourselves. This means that we are entirely reliant on our diet to ensure we get any at all. You’ll see why this is important when we bring up what vitamin A does with regard to your skin.  

Without vitamin A, we wouldn’t have fresh skin cells

Vitamin A is essential in our skin’s conveyor belt of skin cells and if we are deficient in it, we see sluggish cell division. Now, in hooman terms, this pretty much means that we’re not creating new skin as often as we should be and because of this, we’re holding on to old, “deader” skin cells for longer. This means skin that is dryer, more easily dehydrated, dull and simply not functioning normally or healthily.  

Light depletes our stores of vitamin A

UV rays, meaning the rays emitted from the sun, can actually deplete the vitamin A within our body, leading to deficiency even if we are eating a diet with vitamin A in it. Because of this, we need to be extra vigilant about how we’re getting our vitamin A in and protecting ourselves from the sun.

The right amount of vitamin A means healthy skin in general

Our skin carries out a whole host of processes on the regular, including healing, regeneration, exfoliation and protecting itself. Vitamin A is needed to carry these out effectively. If these processes aren’t being carried out as they should be, we often see skin concerns such as pigmentation, a loss of skin elasticity, lax pores, hyperpigmentation and congestion.

There are different forms of vitamin A that you can get through your diet

When it comes to getting vitamin A into your diet, you may not be happy to learn that some of the most ample sources are eel and liver… Now, we don’t know about you, but we’re not often adding either to our superfood salad. Eel and liver contain direct vitamin A that doesn’t need to be converted by the body.

There are more palatable sources of vitamin A, being food that contains beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A. You’ll find beta-carotene in sweet potato, pumpkin, squash, carrots, kale and apricot. However, there is a catch! Beta-carotene must be converted into vitamin A in the body and of course we lose some of the vitamin A through that conversion.

You can’t survive of vitamin A alone - remember that you need a balanced diet for your general health and your skin health, including protein, fats and carbohydrates and a broad array of vitamins and minerals too!

Vitamin A supplementation and why it’s useful

A food-first approach is always key, in that you should be getting as many nutrients in through food as you can. However, as you know if you have a busy life, supplementation is handy for those days or weeks where you’re not cooking all your meals for yourself - raise your hand, we’ve all had a full week of beans on toast.

On top of that, we actually can’t guarantee that the food we eat has the exact same amount of vitamin A in it everytime. It comes down to the growing conditions, the soil quality, how long it has been out of the ground for and even how long you cook it for. When it comes to vitamin A, over-cooking is a skin sin so no super mushy squash!

When not to take vitamin A supplements

  • Vitamin A levels have to be measured carefully during pregnancy (and breast-feeding)
  • Speak to your GP if you’re taking anticoagulant medication
  • It is not recommended to take vitamin A supplements if you’re using RoAccutane or a similar oral vitamin A based medication
  • Speak to your GP if you’re using hepatotoxic drugs, as high amounts of vitamin A can harm the liver

One of our favourite vitamin A supplements in Nerd HQ is Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Vit A+, featured in this month’s Nerd Network exclusive special, Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Complete Supersize (€78.00) alongside ANP Skin Antioxidant, which contains betacarotene, turmeric and lycopene (an antioxidant from tomatoes).   

In this exclusive bumper bundle, you save a mahoosive €26.00 so stock up and get normalising your skin!

Want to learn more about the nutrients and supplements that will help your skin specifically? Book in for your follow-up consultation!