For Teens Only: Acne Zapping Power of Vitamin A

teen acneTeen nutrition is a high priority for us, which is why we are always on the lookout for the latest scientific information to share with teens to help improve mind, body and spirit. In fact, you may have noticed that lately our blog topics have been zeroing in on nutrients that promote healthy, glowing skin. After all, few things can deflate a teen’s spirit more than skin that’s not up to snuff.

In this post, I’m turning the spotlight on vitamin A and new research showing how this essential nutrient may also hold promise for a skin benefit that is sure to make a teenager smile: zapping acne.

Acne basics

Acne vulgaris is the most common skin disorder. The name sounds bad, but it just means “of the common type.” Acne forms when a follicle (or pore) becomes blocked, and sebum becomes trapped. Sebum is an oily substance that naturally lubricates your skin and hair. But when it clogs a pore, it makes an ideal home for Proprionbacterium acnes, a type of bacteria that feeds upon sebum. Recently, researchers at UCLA have identified different strains of P. acnes — some good and some bad. The bad strains can shift your immune system into overdrive causing the inflammation and redness associated with acne.

Vitamin A and its skin benefits

So how do you keep the bad P. acnes bug away from your pores? Vitamin A may help. It’s long been known as the anti-infective vitamin and for its benefits to skin health. If you don’t consume enough vitamin A, your skin becomes dry and follicles become plugged up (technically known as keratosis pilaris). This gives skin, particularly on your upper arms and legs, a goose bump appearance. In fact, tretinoin, a topical acne medication available under Retin-A® and other brand names is a form of vitamin A that works by helping the skin renew itself.

In short, vitamin A promotes cell turnover, which may help prevent the development of blackheads and white heads. Plus, with its immune-supporting properties, vitamin A may help hold the inflammation of acne at bay.

Not enough vitamin A means more acne, study shows

In a recent Russian study involving 180 teens and young adults, aged 15-25 years, researchers compared what the subjects ate, based on a 24-hour dietary recall, with the severity of their acne. Results reveal that those who failed to consume enough vitamin A (both retinol and the provitamin A carotenoids) were significantly more likely to have more severe acne.

The bottom line

We’ve talked about how eating too much of specific types of foods is associated with acne. Now, emerging research reveals the consuming an optimal intake of vitamin A may help keep you acne-free.

Nutrition Nugget

It’s easy to add vitamin A to your diet plan for clear skin. Fill your daily plate with plenty of orange, yellow and green vegetables and fruits that contain beta-carotene and other provitamin A carotenoids. (We talked about how research shows passing on the juice and choosing whole varieties is your best option, especially for skin health.) Carrots, kale, spinach and sweet potatoes are good sources. In your body, these carotenoids can be converted into vitamin A (retinol). Animal-based foods such as beef and chicken liver, fish, eggs and dairy products are sources of vitamin A in the retinol form.

Let’s zAp that zit with the power of A!

Lorna Williams, MPH, RD
Co-author of Eating for A’s

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PS – Teens, we’re here to help you on your quest to be the best you. If you have any questions or need additional information, just join us on Facebook and drop us a note. Take it one day at a time. Soon you’ll reach your goal.  Work hard, play hard, study hard, and have fun! Good luck, the EatingFor Team is cheering you on!