Vitamin A for the Skin

I find myself talking about different skincare ingredients often, and I thought it was about time I round up a bunch of skincare ingredients and discuss them in depth! For your viewing pleasure, as well as mine, I will be discussing what the ingredient is, its benefits, any cons or things to look for/keep in mind, and products I’ve used with these ingredients. If I don’t have any products that come to mind I’ll put down my recommendation!

To kick off the skincare ingredients spotlight blog series I thought I’d start at the top of my list: vitamin A!

What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that supports the skin, eyes, reproductive health and imune function. However there are two types of vitamin A: retinoids and cartotenoids. Both are converted to retinol by the liver, and is either stored or transported by the lymphatic system to cells throughout the body.

Healthline notes the “skin is a retinoid-responsive organ, able to readily absorb vitamin A when applied topically.” Long story short, retinol basically stimulates production of new skin cells. Without retinol, our skin can become overly dry.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the AAD recommends using topical retinoids to treat acne in both adolescents and adults. Studies also show that retinol is effective in stimulating collagen production, all while reducing wrinkles, according a report from Toxicological Research.

Carotenoids are high in antioxidants, therefore a diet high in carotenoid, such as beta-carotene, can prevent cell damage, premature skin aging, and other skin diseases.

Vitamin A and your Diet

Having a vitamin A deficiency is uncommon in areas where healthy food is readily available. It’s commonly added into commercially fortified products like cereal and milk. Eating a diet that includes a wide range of foods high in vitamin A is a great way to support skin health. Alternatively, you can find Vitamin A supplements. Some combine retinoids with carotenoids.

Retinoids can be found in animal products, such as:

  • salmon
  • beef liver
  • dairy products (milk, butter, cheddar cheese)
  • eggs
  • fish
  • cod liver oil

Carotenoids can be found in plant products, such as:

  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • leafy green vegetables
  • fruits, such as mangoes, apricots, and plums

Applied Topically Vitamin A can be Beneficial for:

  • Acne: anti-inflammatory properties can help treat and control acne. They help regulate the skin cells, reducing hte occurence of clogged pores
  • Fine Lines: Since it stimulates collagen production, it makes it effective at reducing the appearnace of fine lines and wrinkles
  • To even out your skintone by fading age spots
  • Shrink the look of enlarged pores
  • Improve elasticity/firmness in the skin

WARNING: Use Vitamin A Safely

Eating or applying too much vitamin A can have side effects and may be harmful.

Some side effects associated with too much Vitamin A include:

  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness
  • liver damage
  • nausea
  • turn the skin yellow or orange (if consuming too much beta carotene) – not harmful, it will disappear over time
  • sensitivity of sunlight

TIP: You should slowly increase the amount you apply on your skin if you are new to applying retinol topically!

If you are new to applying retinol, applying too much within a few days can be irritating to the skin causing dryness and flaking. Begin by applying once a week for a few weeks, then working your way up to 2-3 times weekly!

How to choose a Vitamin A product

According to Paula’s Choice, packaging matters. Retinol is sensitive to air and light exposure, meaning the products will become ineffective if packaged in jars or clear containers.

Some Tips:

  1. Choose a skincare product based on your skin type. Creams are generally best for dry skin, lotions for normal to combination, and serums or gels for oily or congested skin.
  2. Find one that pairs well with other items in your routine. Find one that feels good on your skin, and delivers results. If a certain cream or serum doesn’t seem to work for you after using for a few weeks, try another.
  3. Keep in mind the other derivatives (something from another source) of Vitamin A such as retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, retinyl retinoate, and retinyl propionate. There are other forms that work as well!
  4. Know your limits. Find one with a lower concentration in maybe a serum or moisturizer. If you’ve used retinol in the past and achieved great results, consider moderate-strength serum.
  5. Exfoliate to help get rid of dead skin build up. Always alternate using retinol products to achieve the best results.


for best results, combine it with:

Other anti-aging, rejuvenating ingredients like antioxidants.
Visibly restorative ingredients like niacinamid and peptides.
Skin-replenishing ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid.

– Paula’s Choice

DO NOT Mix These Ingredients With Retinol

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin c protects the skin from environmental aggressors and retinol repairs and rebuilds skin. Vitamin C protects from oxidative free radical damage and works best in the morning.
    • Rather, mix Vitamin C with antioxidants such as Vitamin E,and SPF. Ideally layered under sunscreen because they compliment one another and will protect the skin.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide: benzoyl peroxide and retinol cancel each other out. BP is a drying ingredient. Use with caution, and be gentle, and use hydrating products.
    • Rather, BP with gentle hydrating ingredients, SPF and topical antibiotics.
  • AHA/BHA Acids such as Salicylic, Glycolic and Lactic Acids, which are all effective exfoliants that can improve skin texture, tone, and treat acne. All three of these can dehydrate and irritate the skin. If you use a product with AHA or BHA acids, follow up with hydrating products.
    • Rather, DO MIX AHA/BHAs with moisturizing ingredients and SPF.
    • Dr. Marchbein recommends us to “be careful combining various acids, or even physical and chemical exfoliants, as this can lead to irritation and even eczema.”

Vitamin A Products I’ve Used

Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum

Mad Hippie graciously gifted me this serum at the beginning of this year, and because of them I was able to introduce retinol into my skincare. One of the greatest decisions I have ever made! I previously did a full product review on this, so if you want to head over there and check it out, I’ll link it below.

Below are the ingredient highlights in this product as noted from their website.

HPR: Revolutionary new form of vitamin A that is bioavailable in its current state without the need of any inefficient metabolic steps (retinol requires 2). Works to dramatically reduce the appearance of wrinkles & discoloration, revealing beautiful, youthful skin. 

Phytoceramide: Aids in moisture retention, leading to more plumped up, hydrated skin.

Sodium Hyaluronate: The salt of hyaluronic acid (HA), sodium hyaluronate, has been shown to have better skin penetrating capabilities than HA alone. Works to moisturize the skin while reducing the appearance of wrinkles.

Oat Beta Glucan:  Naturally hydrates and soothes the skin. Oat beta glucan has been shown reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

Aloe Vera – Works to nourish the skin while forming a thin protective layer.

Other ingredients include:

  • coconut oil
  • safflower seed oil

Fun fact: once you apply this serum, you’re actually supposed to leave it on for a few minutes before continuing the rest of your skin care. By doing this, you actually give your skin time to soak it in, receiving maximum benefits.

My Thoughts

Upon my first few uses, I did not know you are to apply the serum, and let it soak for a few minutes. This makes a huge difference! Since serums penetrate deeper into the layers of your skin, you can really feel it working. As usual, when you try new products, it takes at least 2-3 weeks of consistent use before you notice any difference or effects it takes on your skin. Any allergic reactions or sensitivity will be almost immediate. I had to work my way up to frequent uses of this product, as previously recommended. After a long period of use, i noticed my skin looking healthier. It is more hydrated and the acne scarring pigmentation has decreased due to the cell turnover. The only thing I have to keep in mind is to USE SUNSCREEN! PROTECT YOUR FACE!

For the full Mad Hippie Product Review, Click Here.

Retails for $32.99 USD (Mad Hippie website)


Indeed Laboratories Bakuchiol Reface Pads

The Bakuchiol Reface pads are a natural and gentle alternative to retinol that can be used day and night. Bakuchiol is a high-performance plant-based alternative to retinol. Similarly, it works to increase cell turnover, restore skin elasticity and is proven to be effective in reducing acne. Formulated to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone and texture, while improving barrier function and protecting against water loss, leaving you with firmer, smoother skin.These pads are also formulated with niacinamide which works to regulate the skin’s sebum content while providing additional anti-acne care with its anti-inflammatory properties. The pads are also formulated with additional anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and soothing actives.

They are suitable for all skin types including sensitive and acne-prone and are ideal for those with skin concerns such as wrinkles, fine lines, UV damage, uneven surface texture, acne, and acne scarring. These pads are 100% cotton and biodegradable.

Key Ingredients

  • BAKUCHIOL: reduce wrinkles, hyper pigmentation without causing irritation. This retinol alternative is safe to use during day, and is clinically proven to reduce signs of aging, reduce roughness, dryness, fine lines, wrinkles. Skin tone, hydration, elasticity, firmness, radiance and skin brightness are also improved.
  • SYMSAVE H: This nature-identical compound, Hydroxyacetophenone, found in cloudberries, provides antioxidant and soothing properties.
  • ALLANTOIN: The natural moisture production from allantoin prevents itchy or flaky skin and allows skin to hold in more moisture. In addition to being extremely moisturizing, allantoin is an effective anti-irritant and provides skin calming benefits.
  • NIACINAMIDE: Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide can brighten complexion, reduce wrinkles, reduce water loss, improve elasticity and fight inflammation while improving barrier function. Discolouration is diminished and skin tone and texture is revived. Niacinamide also helps regulate the sebum content of the skin and the anti-inflammatory activity, both of which are essential for anti-acne care.

To view the full ingredient list, or check their website. Click here.

My Thoughts

I used this alternative after trying the Mad Hippie serum, and it was great. I like the idea of a plant-based alternative to retinol. This means it’s less harsh on your skin, will not increase photosensitivity and is safe for daily use. So, it can be used in conjunction with retinol products if you so choose. This also means that you can mix your products without having to worry about them cancelling each other out, or increasing the bad effects! I did not see any difference after finishing this tub of 30 pads, but that’s a good thing! It is on par with the previous retinol product I used. Plus, bonus that I can layer my products because we all know that i love to layer my products!

Overall I would 100% recommend. If you are new to retinol, maybe try this gentle alternative first! You will still achieve the same benefits as retinol anyway! At such an affordable price, you can’t go wrong. Using these pads helped maintain my blemish-prone skin. I only break out during my period now, so the rest of the month means I have to spend time working on the acne scarring.

Retails for $17.99 CAD


Indeed Laboratories Retinol Reface

This Retinol Reface is a 3-in-1 formula that has not only retinol, but bakuchiol, and a retinol-like peptide to deliver softer, smoother, and visibly younger-looking skin. This concentrated night cream effectively targets any signs of aging such as reducing appearance of fine lines, wrinkles , and minimizes redness. This gentle formula is great for all skin types, and enhances skin tone, hydration, elasticity, firmness, radiance, and brightness.

As noted on their website the Key Ingredients include:

Key Ingredients

  • Retinol Microspheres: A soft, pure retinol encapsulated in plant microspheres that slowly releases into the skin. This optimizes the effectiveness of the active, allowing it to work throughout the day after having applied it at night with low irritation potential and maintained long-term effectiveness.
  • Bakuchiol: The first natural alternative to retinol that is clinically proven to significantly reduce multiple signs of aging, reduce roughness, dryness, fine lines, and wrinkles. Skin tone, hydration, elasticity, firmness, radiance, and skin brightness are also improved.
  • Retinol-Like Peptide: Multi-faceted, anti-aging, retinol-like peptide technology that provides the same benefits as traditional retinol, while minimizing skin irritation or discomfort.

To view their full list, or check their website, click here.

My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this product. It keeps my skin looking healthy throughout the entire month. It has helped to speed up my cell turnover, while managing my acne. I broke out with a couple hormonal pimples, and this product has worked with my skin to control it. The hormonal breakouts I get sometimes are the MASSIVE ones that take days to reach the surface and hurts. Using this product has helped to control that. I continue to use retinol on a regular basis now to help keep my skin looking less rough, dry, to even out my skin tone, and boost overall radiance. I like that this product is not harsh on my skin. Would highly recommend this 3-in-1 product. Affordable options for those with a tighter budget.

Retails for $17.99 CAD

Other Retinol and Retinol Alternative Products

The Inkey List – Bakuchiol

Pixi Beauty Overnight Retinol Oil

Pixi Beauty Retinol Tonic

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

Muard Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream

Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream



That’s all folks!

Stay tuned for the next post where I tackle another skincare ingredient.

Note: The Mad Hippie product was gifted in collaboration with them (find product review blog post). The Indeed Laboratories products were purchased personally. All opinions are of my own. Information is gathered from various sources, and is sourced throughout.

With love,

Pris Wong


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