Why is Vitamin A and Retinol used in skincare

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been focusing on so-called wonder ingredients in skincare, and asking the experts why they’re so lauded in the beauty industry.

Next up is vitamin A, or retinol as it’s also often referred to. Vitamin A and retinol were originally used to treat acne, but further research showed that it could actually be used to treat skincare conditions such as conjestion, pigmentation, sun damage and ageing.

Vitamin A is usually used in low dosage treatments or mixed with other ingredients in serums and night creams. It’s important to mention that you shouldn’t even think about using retinol products without advice from a skincare expert or dermatologist. It should also ALWAYS be used in conjunction with a broad spectrum SPF 50+ suncream as it makes the skin very vulnerable to harmful UVA rays (the rays that don’t burn but damage the skin and speed up the ageing process).

To get the facts, I spoke to Cherry Woods, my amazing facialist, to find out more about this powerful natural vitamin.

cherry woods
Cherry Woods, anti-ageing skincare expert

What is Vitamin A and why is it used in anti-ageing skincare?

 Vitamin A is produced naturally by the body, and influences thousands of our genes while controlling growth, differentiation and maturation of our cells. It normalizes the behavior of cell growth and can repair DNA damage and rejuvenate the skin.

How can we introduce it to our skincare routine?

Brands like Environ have a step-up programme (available only from dermatologists and facialists) that guide the customer in how to use vitamin A. This helps them get the maximum results of non-invasive skin rejuvenation without causing sensitivity.

What are the results and who should use it?

I have seen visible results on clients using vitamin A products within as little as six weeks. It obviously depends on the condition of the skin as it can be used to treat a range of skin conditions such as scarring, photo damage, pigmentation, and wrinkles. The most challenging and severe of sun damage may need between 12 to 18 months to show real change.

What should we look for on skincare packaging?

Vitamin A can either be measured in IU (international units per gram) or percentage – 2%, 3% etc – so you must seek advice from the therapist or beauty adviser. Each brand will measure its amounts slightly differently and may not be comparable with previous vitamin A products you have tried.


What you should know before buying a Vitamin A product?

  • Vitamin A is sensitive to heat light and air so you need to make sure your cream/product comes in an opaque (non-see through) airless pump. Not in a jar for example


  • Think about your skin sensitivity level. Start with the most gentle cream formulation (or oil) as these will naturally penetrate slower into the skin. Oil acts as a buffer for absorption but choose the lowest IU or % you can buy, and also consider only applying the product every other day before bed, or mixing it with your regular non-active moisturizer to minimize or dilute the strength.


  • Make sure the rest of your skin care routine is suitably soothing and non-active – don’t use with any other Vitamin A products as it will be too harsh. You should also avoid AHAs or other types of chemical exfoliation or mechanical exfoliation such as brush cleansing.


  • If you begin using any form of Vitamin A product you must combine it with a daily broad-spectrum, anti-oxidant rich sun protection. Not only does UV exposure un-do all the good work that vitamin A does on your skin, but UVB depletes Vitamin A in your skin too and can makes it unstable.


  • Consult your health care provider if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant before using vitamin A products. Although non-prescription (non active) vitamin A is perfectly safe to apply during pregnancy, you will now find that all (or almost all) of skincare companies will advise not using it if you’re pregnant due to legal reasons.

My favourite Vitamin A products from NaturaBisse and Avéne. What are yours?


Cherry Woods is a skincare expert specialising in anti-ageing treatments based in Richmond London. Stay tuned for more specialist posts on wonder ingredients.






Cat is the beauty-obsessed founder of the London Beauty Insider. She is a London=based writer and editor and also regularly contributes to the Telegraph, Metro, L'oreal, MATCHESFASHION.COM and Grazia Arabia.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>