Are you considering Vitamin A to treat acne? Discover When and How to Use This Ingredient Topically For The Treatment of Acne-Prone Skin.


Vitamin A & Acne.

— When and how to use this active ingredient topically for the treatment of acne-prone skin.



Tash Havos
Content Writer /
Product specialist


If you’re interested in Vitamin A, chances are you’ve gotten here because you’re suffering from acne, hyperpigmentation, or trying to reverse the signs of ageing. The skin condition I’m going to focus here on is acne – even though there has been incredible research on Vitamin A for the latter two. This is because I’ve noticed how much concern there is for acne-sufferers to try a highly active ingredient such as Retinol – particularly when such an inflammatory skin condition can cause sensitivities.

You may have tried and tested actives – AHAs, BHAs, Salicylic or Glycolic acid, or even treatments like microdermabrasion or needling. For some, they will work well, however for those that feel more irritated afterward, your skin may need a little more nurturing to get there. I’ve noticed that plenty of people that suffer from acne breakouts are trying to manage their oil control as their first and foremost priority. In doing this, they could be using incorrect products for their skin type, trying to dry it out as much as possible for their spots to heal.

What this does is affect your skin’s natural pH balance and thin out the skin, leaving it exposed to the elements even more so than before. I know, because I’m also speaking from experience. The best way to get the most out of these active products, particularly retinol, is to rebuild your acid mantle, and get your skin back to a healthy thickness. I know it sounds strange, but the more dried out and dehydrated your skin is (regardless of how it got there) means the skin will be more sensitive and won’t bounce back from the potency of the product.

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Some would argue that Retinol is great in rebuilding the thickness of skin because a lack of Vitamin A is what usually causes these skin conditions to begin with – however be prepared this may not be the case for you. It definitely wasn’t for me. I needed to pair my routine back to absolute essentials, minimal products for my skin type, and rebuild from there.

First Things First

My first bit of advice would be to find a routine that suits your skin despite the acne. Pick a cleanser that is based off your skin type. For example – dehydrated, dry, or irritated skin types could work well with cream cleansers, where combination or oily skin types may be better suited to a gel cleanser.

All skin types need adequate hydration products, whether these be water or oil based. You may have been told that water-based moisturisers are better to avoid clogging your pores, however a non-comedogenic oil (which don’t clog your pores) like Jojoba or Rosehip oil may help add extra nourishment if you’re feeling dry or dehydrated. A decent low-molecular-weighted hyaluronic acid wouldn’t go astray either (see here).

All products in your routine should contain anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial ingredients to calm and reduce redness. Whether it be Rose oil, Jojoba oil, Blue Tansy, Chamomile extract – find what works for you.


Along your journey to topical greatness, it’s essential to look at what types of foods you’re consuming. You may have already made huge changes to your diet, but unless you’re having a balanced diet with minimal interactions such as sugar and alcohol, you could be going round in circles.   

Vitamin A is found in plenty of foods like oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes, peaches as well as dark fruits and vegetables like beets, collards, kale and spinach. Other Vitamin A-rich foods are egg yolk and beef liver. Our bodies will convert the beta-carotene from these foods into retinoic acid. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning its best digested with a meal containing fats – particularly unsaturated fats.

A reminder to drink more water, too.

Topical Treatment

Now, down to Retinol.   

Once your skin’s inflammation or redness seems to be ‘under control’ – bear in mind this could take up to six weeks – you can start adding more active ingredients. By no means does your skin have to be clear from acne for you to start using Retinol, just not irritated, rashy or sensitive. As a topical treatment, Vitamin A comes in so many forms.

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The reason Vitamin A is a hero in treatment, is that it’s a cell-communicator. It attaches itself to skin cells and tells them to behave a younger, healthier versions of themselves. It’s one of the first lines of defence against acne and ageing, so the introduction of this ingredient will be able to prevent future outbreaks. If you’re looking for a more gentle but still active ingredient – look for Hydroxypinacolone retinoate. It’s a new generation retinoid, converting in the skin quickly and easily, as well as being less irritating than retinol. Win win if you ask me.

It’s most effective form will be in a serum, as these are used to target specific skin concerns. Typically lighter in weight and best layered under a moisturiser – whether your moisturiser is an oil, balm or cream.

*Please remember when using ANY form of Retinol, you have to wear SPF during the day. It increases your photosensitivity, which can lead to other skin concerns. Protect your skin.  

Here’s an easy reference to the common ingredients found in skincare:

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There’re benefits to taking low-dose of Vitamin A tablets over a period of three months, as a ‘natural’ alternative to Roacutanne. I would advise to see a practitioner if you’re considering this, as the warnings lie closely to that of Roacutanne. Vitamin A in high doses can be toxic if consumed incorrectly, and it’s best you are under the care of a practitioner during the course of it.   



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