Classic Classic Vitamin A, our skin's personal bodyguard

We all know that vitamin A helps us see in the dark. We may not, however, realise the essential role it plays when it comes to our skin. Here's a closer look at this multi-functional vitamin.

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Vitamin A under the microscope

Vitamin A refers to a group of substances that all have similar structures and properties, with retinol being one of the most commonly known. Vitamin A is responsible for helping your immune system work properly, helping you to see in low light and keeping skin healthy. There are two forms - vitamin A itself is found in dairy products, eggs, fish livers and meat. The second is beta-carotene, a molecule that the body converts into vitamin A. Also known as pro-vitamin A, it's mainly found in fruits and vegetables, particularly carrots, tomatoes, apricots, spinach, lamb's lettuce and peppers.  
 
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Vitamin A's anti-ageing action

Retinol, as with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, is an effective wrinkle-buster that also combats sagging skin. Vitamin A acts on the surface of the skin via an exfoliating action: it both smoothes and brightens skin. It also works on a deeper level by stimulating the production of elastin and the synthesis of collagen, which acts as skin's interior scaffolding, plumping and firming from the inside. It therefore boosts skin-cell growth. It also normalises blood flow, so is effective in helping to treat conditions such as rosacea. Vitamin A has an extraordinary ability to balance how cells function, making them behave in a younger way, and therefore contributing to skin looking more youthful.  
 
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Vitamin A's anti-oxidant action

Not all beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body, and that which remains is an effective antioxidant, increasing skin's tolerance to sunlight and combating oxidative stress caused by free radicals that accelerate skin ageing. This is why it's often included in food supplements designed to prepare skin for sunbathing. Vitamin A also helps regulate the production of melanocytes, the melanin-producing cells in the bottom layer of the skin's epidermis. This helps to diminish the intensity of any liver spots that may appear as you get older.