Vitamin A: Bring your skin’s A-Game

Happy May Day! I have no idea where April went and all of my plans to sort my shiz out have fallen by the wayside: #AprilFool.

Greetings from a sunny bank holiday Monday in Dublin!

My American peers report that today (May 1st) is Melanoma Awareness Day, so lash on your SPF wherever you are. It’s fabulously sunny here today in Dublin which makes the bank holiday Monday that bit more moreish. But I’ll leave the melanoma discussion to the dermatologists. The British Association of Dermatologists offers excellent patient information leaflets: have a gander over to

I’ll focus on overall skin health. Today I’m going to have a look at vitamin A, a nutrient your skin really needs to remain healthy, firm and ever-glowing. Multi-tasking vitamin A also plays a blinder in supporting the immune system, normal vision as well as the health of all of our vital organs.

‘Vitamin A’ is actually a group of compounds. Some are active: retinal, retinol and retinoic acid. While others are inactive: provitamin A carotenoids, most importantly beta-carotene. We obtain the latter from plant foods such as carrots, sweet potato, apricots, kale, spinach and broccoli. Most orange and yellow fruits and dark leafy (as well as orange and yellow!) vegetables are rich sources. The inactive forms are converted to their active counterparts after ingestion. The preformed/active forms are derived from animal foods such as dairy products, fish and meat (particularly liver).

Vitamin A stimulates and bolsters the skin’s dermis (the ‘middle layer’ of the skin where collagen, elastin and blood vessels hang out), increasing blood flow to the skin’s surface, improving overall hydration and diminishing fine lines/wrinkles. Yay! It:

  1. Boosts collagen deposition, thereby slowing the normal age-related breakdown of collagen and elastin: #winning
  2. Balances blood flow which relieves the symptoms of rosacea
  3. Reduces sebum (oil) production, thereby improving acne
  4. Expedites wound healing
  5. Exfoliates the skin, rendering it baby’s backsidesque smooth and even-toned
  6. It repairs the epidermis (the skin’s top layer), thereby optimising protection from destructive UV rays
  7. It reduces clustering of melanin, thereby preventing the formation of age spots and areas of hyperpigmentation
  8. It helps expunge pre-cancerous skin spots


(image via Pinterest)


Guidelines suggest a recommended daily allowance of 700-900 micrograms for men and 600-700 micrograms for women. To give you an idea, a medium whole baked sweet potato contains 1400 micrograms, while a half cup of boiled spinach contains roughly 550 micrograms. 3 ounces of pan-fried beef liver contains a whopping 6500 micrograms!

Vitamin A is fat-soluble so it can accumulate if you ingest it in excess. If you’re considering a supplement, I’d advise you to first consider upping your dietary intake. Failing that, I’d advise you to seek out a supplement derived from provitamin A (like beta-carotene) to reduce the risk of toxicity. Toxicity-related issues rear their heads after ingestion of over 3000 micrograms or thereabouts daily. Hypervitaminosis A is the imaginative title of the syndrome!

A word for women of the ‘childbearing years’ variety: avoid vitamin A-containing supplements. If you eat a varied diet containing the above fruit and vegetables, you will not run short of vitamin A. It is teratogenic, meaning it causes developmental malformations in the embryo, even at low doses.

Topical retinol is the proverbial ‘active ingredient’ in many of the most effective anti-ageing skin care ranges. The dose is potent enough to exert the desired effect, while weak enough to avoid irritating most skin types in non-prescription creams. Brands like RoC and La Roche-Posay are always a good shout.

So bring your skin’s A-Game this May!

If you’d like to read more, please visit



My name is Michelle and I’m a Dublin-based GP (family doctor). Life is short: take the minimalist approach to maximise your health!

You may also like

1 Comment

  • Marie
    May 11, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Another nice reminder, thanks Michelle! I always rely on healthy eating and therefore I believe that I get most of my minerals and vitamins from food intake but … I’m conscious that one doesn’t absorb it all. I never know really whether to take supplements or not. Ones that I stick to are omega 3 tablets and my folic acid/B12 for you know what..! Or what does the doctor say?


Instagram Feed

Something is wrong.
Instagram token error.
Load More

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.