While the occasional pimple is no big deal, ongoing acne can cause emotional turmoil and negatively affect your self-esteem. While no one remedy will work for everyone, vitamin A is a well-researched acne fighter. Eating vitamin A-rich foods is perfectly safe, but taking high doses of vitamin A supplements can be dangerous, so you should consult with your health care practitioner before self-medicating with this vitamin.
Vitamin A Basics
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for proper skin functioning and the health of skin cells. Vitamin A is found naturally in foods and also sold as a supplement in tablet, liquid or capsule form. The vitamin has been used for the treatment of acne and may also help with psoriasis, cold sores and eczema.
Vitamin A and Skin Health
Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant that helps fight free radicals. The oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the skin can alter the environment in your sebaceous skin glands, making the glands more hospitable to acne-causing bacteria. Vitamin A also helps prevent acne by reducing the production of pore-clogging sebum in your skin. Its ability to reduce sebum production makes vitamin A particularly beneficial for people who have both acne and oily skin. Additionally, vitamin A helps promote the growth of healthy new skin cells and strengthens skin tissue.
Vitamin A Deficiency and Acne
Although a serious vitamin A deficiency is uncommon in the developed world, researchers have discovered that many people with acne have significantly lower blood levels of vitamin A than their counterparts without acne. In fact, a study published in a 2010 edition of "Lipids in Health and Disease" found that participants with severe acne had 52 percent lower vitamin A levels than the clear-skinned control group. If you have acne, try incorporating more vitamin A-rich foods into your diet for a few weeks; if that doesn't work, ask your doctor to test your vitamin A blood levels. If they are still low, discuss the possible need for vitamin A supplements with your doctor.
Food Sources and Daily Intake
According to the Institute of Medicine, women should aim to take in about 2,300 international units and men should aim for 3,000 IU of vitamin A daily. Vitamin A is found in some fortified foods and in a variety of animal products, including eggs, butter, whole milk, yogurt, meat and oily fish. You can also get vitamin A by consuming beta carotene-rich foods since your body converts beta carotene into vitamin A. Beta carotene tends to be most highly concentrated in deep orange and dark green produce, including carrots, squash, mangoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, papayas, bell peppers and kale.
- MedlinePlus: Vitamin A
- Vitamin-Nutrition.Org: Vitamins for Acne
- Lipids in Health and Disease: Clinical Implications of Lipid Peroxidation in Acne Vulgaris: Old Wine in New Bottles
- Patient.co.uk: Topical (Rub-on) Treatments for Acne
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin A
- KidsHealth: Vitamins
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin A
J.J. Ashton is a registered holistic nutritionist. She has been writing since 2007, with work featured in various publications, and holds a B.A. in English. Ashton also runs her own holistic health company.