Can Vitamin A Treat Acne

For over four decades, vitamin A has earned medical attention for its anti-acne traits. Because of this vitamin’s versatility and efficacy at treating acne, there are now over three generations of vitamin A derived medicines used to combat acne. So what is the secret to vitamin A’s zit-fighting action?

The varied functions of vitamin A

The nutrient vitamin A serves a key role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. In addition, vitamin A enhances immune strength by helping produce white blood cells that attack bacteria and viruses.

Vitamin A and acne control

According to an investigation in Cutis, vitamin A can control or modify the steps involved in creating acne lesions. One of those steps involves improper shedding of skin cells. Vitamin A can improve how the pores remove dead skin cells and this lowers the chances of developing clogged pores that provoke surplus growth of the acne activating bacteria Propionibactium acnes.

Moreover, a report in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society have found that a vitamin A deficiency can induce inflammation and escalate existing inflammatory states.

Clinical research supported this finding. For example, report in Clinical & Experimental Dermatology detected a direct link between blood levels of vitamin A and acne. In this investigation, researchers compared the blood levels of vitamins A in 100 newly diagnosed, yet untreated acne patients to 100 age-matched, healthy volunteers without acne. Overall, the healthy, acne free group had higher amounts of vitamin A in their circulatory system than the acne sufferer group.

Based on these findings, investigators concluded that low vitamin A blood levels could cause or worsen an acne outbreak. Years earlier, an investigation in the British Journal of Dermatology found that low vitamin A blood levels corresponded to heightened levels of severe, cystic acne in male volunteers.

How much Vitamin A to take

The daily value for vitamin A for an adults is 5,000 IU (international units). The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin A is 900 miligrams per day or 3,000 IU per day. The tolerable upper level of vitamin A for adults is 10,000 IU per day. Excess dosages of vitamin A can cause liver toxicity, birth defects and/or nausea.

Where to get vitamin A

Vitamin A found in animal-based foods is called “preformed” vitamin A. Animal-based vitamin A is absorbed in the form of retinol. The body can then convert this retinol into other active forms of vitamin A like retinal and retinoic acid.

Food sources of vitamin A include beef liver, chicken liver, fortified milk, cheese and eggs. According to the Mayo Clinic, the best source of needed nutrients is a balanced diet. However, for individuals whose health conditions, lifestyle choices or medications hamper their bodies’ ability to receive or absorb proper amounts of vitamin A from foods, a supplement is in order.

In short, clinical research has definitely recognized vitamin A as an acne preventative. Thus, adequate consumption of vitamin A should be considered a integral part of treating acne.


Ayres, S Jr & R Mihan. Acne vulgaris: Therapy directed at pathophysiologic defects. Cutis; 1981, vol 28, no 1, pp 41-42.

El-akawi, Z; N Abdel-Latif & K Abdul-Razzak. Does the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition? Clinical & Experimental Dermatology; May 2006, vol 31, no 3, pp 430-434.

Mayo Clinic. Answers to Common Questions About Multivitamins. April 4, 2007.

Michaëlsson, Gerd; Anders Vahlquist & Lennart Juhlin. Serum zinc and retinol-binding protein in acne. British Journal of Dermatology; March 1977, vol 96, no 3, pp 283–286.

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary supplement fact sheet: Vitamin A and carotenoids. April 23, 2006.

Reifen R. Vitamin A as an inflammation controlling agent. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society; August 2002, vol 61, pp 397-400.

Copyright (c) 2007 Naweko Nicole Dial