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Vitamin A


To generate new skin cells whilst shedding old, acne-affected skin cells

Side Effects

Skin irritation, dryness and peeling, vomiting, diarrhoea, liver complications, hair loss and skin sensitivity to the sun. See product packaging and leaflet for full details


Cannot be used if you are pregnant. Causes skin sensitivity to the sun. See product packaging and leaflet for full details

The information on this website is intended for general educational purposes. You should talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist before you start using any kind of treatment.


What is vitamin A?

Vitamin A is one of the vitamins that can be used as an acne treatment and is available over the counter, without having to see a doctor or nurse. Vitamin A is available as oral tablets. If you are thinking of taking vitamin A supplements you should talk to your healthcare provider first to ensure that there aren’t any health risks.

Vitamin A in itself is generally not as effective as other vitamin A-based acne treatments, such as retinols and retinoids.

How does vitamin A work?

Vitamin A encourages the growth of new skin cells whilst breaking down dead skin cells. It can also regulate the amount of keratin being produced by your skin and prevent dead skin cells from sticking together and forming acne-causing blockages in hair follicles.

In addition, vitamin A can regulate skin tone and reduce the red, purple and brown colouring that acne can leave on the skin. It can also reduce the size and productivity of your oil glands, meaning that your skin produces less acne-causing oil.

What are some of the side effects of using vitamin A?

Vitamin A can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, meaning that a non-oily sunscreen should be used whilst treatment is ongoing. Further side effects of vitamin A include skin irritation, dryness and peeling, vomiting, diarrhoea, liver complications and hair loss. Please see your product details for full instructions and warnings.

General guidance on using vitamin A

As with most acne treatments, vitamin A takes time to work and you should allow for twelve weeks of use before determining whether or not the product has worked for you. It is also advised that you continue to use vitamin A (if it has proven effective) even after your acne symptoms have improved. The skin sheds its top layer every twenty-eight days and acne problems may reoccur if the treatment has been stopped.

Example of an acne treatment regime

Vitamin A can be used as part of a wider acne treatment regime. These regimes involve using acne treatments and sometimes other products in an organised way with the aim of maximising the treatment’s effectiveness. It is important to remember that not all acne treatments can be used safely together and that you should seek the advice of your pharmacist or healthcare provider before starting or combining any treatments. Click here for an example of an acne treatment regime.

Please note that over-the-counter treatments are unlikely to be effective against severe acne. That is acne that consists of many lesions covering an area, with cysts and nodules being present, and is often scarring. If you have acne that has lasted for several weeks and is getting worse, is leaving scars or is affecting your mental health then you should arrange to visit your GP.