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Vitamin A – what is what?

Vitamin A products are seen to be the must-have product in the beauty world, but what can they actually do for your skin? Vitamin A has been around for years in skincare, however it’s only recently that we’re seeing them widely available for retail.

The world of Vitamin A can be a mind-field! There are lots of different types, and different strengths. It can be daunting to even begin to try to find a product that is suitable for you. Here is a breakdown of the Vitamin A products available on our site, we hope that you’re able to decipher what type of product is suitable for you. 

So what is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A brings many benefits to the skin. Vitamin A products will help to slough off the dead layer of your skin, and encourage skin cells to regenerate. This can be beneficial for concerns like acne and pigmentation, however hugely helpful towards anti-ageing. Vitamin A is scientifically proven to reverse signs of ageing, as well as preventing them.

Due to the nature of Vitamin A, it should only be used at night. We recommend using after cleansing, onto dry skin. You should always use an SPF of at least 30 during the day whilst using a vitamin A product. Whilst using, you are more susceptible to sun damage.

There are many different types of Vitamin A products, their results capacity is largely dependant on what type it is. Every type of Vitamin A product needs to covert into an active form of retinoic acid, in order for it to be effective on skin. Each type of vitamin A requires a different amount of conversions into retinoic acid. 

A breakdown of types 

TRETINOIN

First we have Tretinoin, this is a prescription only form of Vitamin A. Tretinoin is an active form of retinoic acid, this means that unlike over the counter forms of Vitamin A, it does not need to convert. Skin irritation can be quite high whilst using Tretinoin, hence why it is only available under prescription. Tretinoin can be extremely effective in the treatment of acne, it is typically prescribed in different strengths, 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.1% subject to prior skin analysis. 


Here at Snap, we prescribe Tretinoin with our Obagi Nu Derm kits, please book in a consultation with our medical prescribers for a suitability assessment. You can read about Obagi Nu-Derm here

Ideal for:

– Severe acne suffers, those who have seen little/no results with high-street products.

RETINALDEHYDE/ RETINAL

This form of Vitamin A is the strongest, over-the-counter form of Vitamin A you’re able to buy. Retinaldehyde (retinal for short) is a closer form to retinoic acid, meaning it requires a one-step conversion to retinoic acid. It works up to 11 times faster than any other form of over-the-counter form of retinol, without the irritation. Retinals unique anti-bacterial properties make it ideal for the treatment of acne.

Retinal can be found in Medik8’s Crystal Retinal. Crystal Retinal comes in different strengths, 1, 3, 6 and 10. If you’re a Vitamin A newby, start off with Crystal Retinal 1, and use twice per week, slowly building from there. Generally, you’ll be ready to move up a strength after finishing a bottle. 

Ideal for:

  • Sensitive skin
  • Mild Acne Sufferers 

You can view our Crystal Retinal collection here. 

Medik8 Crystal Retinal

RETINOL

Retinol, like the other forms of Vitamin A products are available in varying strengths. This form of Vitamin A is ideal to start off with. Whilst it takes longer than Retinal to convert to Retinoic acid (two conversions), you will still see results and a change in your overall skin texture. We recommend starting at the bottom of Medik8’s Intelligent Retinol Ladder, with a 0.3% retinol – their Retinol 3tr


Retinol can be seen to be an irritant, especially in stronger forms. It is completely normal to experience slight irritation in the form of redness and dryness, however if your irritation is to the point that you’re feeling sunburnt or repeated flakiness around the eyes or nostrils, it may be that you’re using a form of Vitamin A that is too much for you. We always recommend starting with low percentages, and introducing to your nightly skin routine slowly. 

Remember that Crystal Retinal is ideal for those with sensitive skin.

Ideal for: 

  • Those wanting to start their Vitamin A journey.

We sell Medik8 Retinol products in our online shop.

Medik8 Retinal 3tr

RETINYL PALIMATE

Retinyl Palimate takes 3 steps to convert to retinoic acid, meaning it is the slowest of the vitamin A family. Products including these may be best for those wit particularly sensitive skin, or those in their early twenties who are keen to start their Vitamin A journey. 

When should I start to see results?

Results will all depend on your age and which type of Vitamin A serum you go for! The over 40’s will tend to see results quicker, whilst those in their twenties tend to use Vitamin A products as a preventative measure, and will therefore see results slower. We always say prevention is better than cure, so your mid-late twenties is an ideal time to start with Vitamin A. 

We hope that helps in deciding which Vitamin A products are best for you! Please email us here for further recommendation.