Ah, Vitamin A. When it comes to defense against fine lines and maintaining a healthy glow, there’s no ingredient in skincare more lauded. The irony? Even though the revolutionary youth-enhancing active is a mainstay of drugstores, department store counters, and dermatologist offices alike, it still manages to mystify. And thus, is often misused or underutilized.

Vitamin A, when used in skincare, also takes the form of retinol (milder form), retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate (a derivative of vitamin A) or retinoids (prescription- based). To simplify matters, it’s easiest to think of them all in the same category, essentially delivering the same type of benefits (though there are some important differences—more on those in a minute).

Vitamin A in the topical form is one of the body’s key nutrients for boosting cell turnover. “It’s added to topical skincare products to promote skin renewal, brighten skin tone, reduce acne, and boost the collagen production,” explains Dr Low Chai Ling, founder of SW1 Clinic and creator of two cosmeceutical lines CHAI and SW1  “It also functions like an antioxidant to help address free radical damage, which leads to visible signs of aging.”

Sounds like a godsend? It actually is. If you don’t have this ingredient in your vanity cabinet, here are 5 reasons why you should start asap..

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#1 Kickstarts collagen production

Vitamin A’s anti-wrinkle action stems from its ability to restart collagen production by stimulating your fibroblasts. Fibroblasts, which provide support to the epidermis, secrete collagen, which in turn gives the skin its shape, and keeps it supple and resistant. Among other things, collagen ensures that your skin is dense and plump. It’s important to note that collagen production starts to decrease when you hit age 25. The best form of vitamin A to use would be one that is slightly hydrating such as Age Defy for maximal anti-aging benefits. Another great option would be Dr Dennis Gross ferulic acid + retinol moisturizer. A cream based formulation is specially suited for anti-aging needs and negates any peeling or flaking from topical vitamin A use.

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#2 Protects against oxidative stress

Vitamin A is an undisputed antioxidant. Topical Vitamin A, in any form, protects the skin from external aggressors, oxidative stress, aging effects due to the sun, pollution, and other factors that could affect the health of the cells that keep you looking youthful. This is an especially useful ingredient for the neck area which can show signs of aging surreptitiously over time. For the neck region which is devoid of its own moisture ‘factories’ (aka sebaceous glands), the most ideal topical vitamin A would be one that is in an organic oil formulation such as Gold Retinol Oil. Not only does the vitamin a deliver its antioxidant benefits, the organic oils serve as a great skin moisturiser as well as skin barrier restorer.

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#3 Anti-wrinkle effect

On top of giving collagen a hand, retinol also stimulates the elastin in your skin, which increases its elasticity. The best example of its power? When you pinch your skin, elastin helps it regain its initial shape. Because it is lacking in elastin, mature skin has a tendency to wrinkle, crease, and mark more easily and for longer. Around the eyes, the formultion of vitamin A needs to be tapered to suit the delicate periorbital skin. An eye cream that contains retinyl palmitate and other antioxidant powerhouses such as Coenzyme Q10 will deliver anti-wrinkle benefits without the side effects of irritation and downtime. Try Dream Cream, one of the few vitamin A eye creams around.

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#4 Lightens unwanted pigmentation

The current enemy: dark spots, hands down. A true log of your days spent in the sun, the appearance of brown spots can nevertheless be reduced by using vitamin A. As a matter of fact, vitamin A can help promote the degradation and regulation of melanin, which causes the spots. When it comes to lightening pigmentation, vitamin A’s lightening prowess is multiplied when combined with other key ingredients such as mequinol and arbutin as found in Special Effects. The key thing to remember is the use of sunscreen or BB  cream with SPF when using vitamin A to treat pigmentation. This ensures your skin is well protected against further UV damage.

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#5 Keeps skin clear

In the very beginning, the medical aesthetics industry used vitamin A as a treatment for acne. The molecule has the property of improving cellular regeneration. At the same time, it clears and reduces the appearance of large pores, as well as smooths the skin. In fact, vitamin A works so well in this regard that it has also been employed by many as a form of acne and comedone preventor. For this, serum based formulations that penetrate quicky into the pores where it does its magic best instead of sitting on the skin surface is ideal. Enter Super Helper, a wizard at closing pores and clarifying acneic skins in a jiffy. Another OTC product troubled skins may want to reach for is MURAD Skin Perfecting Lotion for blemish prone or oily skin.

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