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Vitamin A (retinoid) is considered the gold standard in skin care , but where do I start?

Vitamin A products belong to the retinoid family, which is considered the gold standard in the prevention and treatment of photo damaged/ageing skin.

What does it do?

Vitamin A increases skin cell turnover ( so less wrinkles/less pigmentation), stimulates collagen and blood vessels, builds healthier epidermis, treats acne and reduces pore sizes.

There are two main categories of retinoids:


  • Available over the counter .
  • Retinol must be converted in the skin to retenoic acid to be effective. Only a small percentage of retinol is converted to retinoic acid in the skin.
  • Retinol is available in various strengths

Retinoic acid

  • Requires a doctor’s prescription and is more potent and effective than retinol
  • Comes in different strengths and there are mainly three generations of retinoid acid (Tretinoin/Adapalene/Tazarotene)
  • Doctors scripts for stronger strengths range from 2-4% are also available.

Side effects

  • Irritation
  • Dryness
  • Redness

NOT recommended for

  • Breastfeeding/pregnancy
  • Very sensitive skin
  • Severe rosacea

Because Vitamin A can be irritating to the skin, it is recommended that a skin conditioning regime should be followed to increase tolerance.

Suggested home regime

  • Use at night after cleansing your skin.
  • Apply moisturiser first, half an hour beforehand.
  • Apply small amount (pea size) of retinol (over the counter, not prescription) uniformly to the face avoiding corners of mouth, nose folds/creases and eyelid margins.
  • Apply every second/third night.
  • If your skin is sensitive, you may want to use an even smaller amount of vitamin A with moisturiser and slowly increase the amount of vitamin A to your moisturiser ratio before increasing the frequency of vitamin A use.
  • Using Vitamin B (niacinamide) cream may help reduce irritation from Vitamin A.
  • When your skin can tolerate this, then start increasing the volume and strength of retinol and apply nightly.
  • Wash off in the morning, add moisturiser and sunscreen.
  • When you are ready after this step, see the Doctor for retinoid acid with a suitable concentration.