Vitamin A was “discovered” approximately 100 years ago by an American physician known for his major contribution to dermatology. He proposed that, because the vitamin A molecule was so sensitive to light, a localised vitamin A deficiency might be responsible for wrinkled skin, which is seen only on areas exposed to sunlight.
Every time we go out into light we start destroying the vitamin A in our skin, so we lose vitamin A from our skin every day. In the upper layers of the skin, just below the horny layer, vitamin A is concentrated and acts as a functional natural sunscreen that protects us from UVA as well as UVB.
It is in more or less the same area of the epidermis where vitamin D is manufactured, but the interesting thing about vitamin A is that while it is a sunscreen, it does not interfere with the UVB rays that manufacture vitamin D.
In addition, vitamin A is also found in the deeper parts of the skin where our collagen and elastin are found. This area can only be reached by UVA rays. Vitamin A also absorbs the energy of UVA rays in the deeper dermis. Standard sunscreens do not give sufficient UVA protection so the addition of vitamin A gives added UVA protection.
Unfortunately, the absorption of UVA and UVB rays has a downside: the stores of vitamin A are fairly rapidly depleted and that has important metabolic consequences – it leads to a loss of vitamin A effects in the nucleus and DNA of the cell where it is utterly important for 1,000 genes. You can get some idea of the importance of vitamin A if you understand that there are 20,000 genes in your body. Vitamin A controls five per cent of our body’s genes.
Interestingly, vitamin D works intensively with vitamin A and controls about 4,000 genes so these two vitamins have a massive influence on the healthy function of the gene pool in our bodies.
How to ensure our skin remains rich in vitamin A
We need a safe and secure way to store vitamin A because the body needs it every second of the day. If we get more sun than usual, or if the skin is injured, then we need more vitamin A than normal.
There is no substitute for vitamin A. No alternative chemical can keep our skin cells safe and healthy. We need to ensure adequate doses of vitamin A all of the time, starting from when we are developing in the uterus until the end of our lives.
Nature planned for us to keep lots of vitamin A in our skin cells, but the sun easily destroys these stores. That then causes photo-ageing, pigmentation, wrinkles and sallow skin. Topical vitamin A supplementation is the safest, fastest way to allow us to promote the effects of vitamin A in the natural way but in the beginning this might irritate the skin when people have long-standing vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin A myths -
1. Topical vitamin A irritates and dries out the skin
2. Vitamin A makes the skin thinner
3.Topical vitamin A is dangerous in pregnancy
4. We must give our skins a break from vitamin A
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I think it is important to use vitamin A again in the evening because at night cells go into repair phase and vitamin A becomes essential. I will never stop using vitamin A every single day for the rest of my life. The need for vitamin A is woven into the fabric of our DNA and this has been true for millions of years and will never change.