Tuesday, October 3, 2023

How does vitamin A deficiency cause acne?

Vitamin A deficiency can cause acne by triggering excess production of keratin in the skin, which blocks the clearance of dead skin cells and sebum.

Acne is a common condition amongst adolescents and young adults.

In the mild form, its symptoms are skin inflammation, red skin bumps, and spots called blackheads and whiteheads on the face and neck. When one develops severe acne, one gets pus-filled pimples, which are painful and can leave behind scars.

How Does Acne Develop?

Science still does not fully know how acne develops. But broadly speaking, this is what happens:

Our skin has tiny hair, which have their roots embedded inside the skin layer. Nearby, there are oil glands that secrete a greasy substance called sebum. Normally, the dead cells at the roots of the hair as well as the secreted sebum come out of the skin pores. If washed properly, these waste products are removed and the skin stays clear and healthy.

In teenagers and young adults, the hormones become hyperactive. That stimulates oil glands to secrete excessive oil, which can clog the skin pores. These blocked pores prevent dead skin cells and sebum from coming out of the skin, giving rise to blackheads. This is acne.

The skin can get further inflamed and the blockages can get infected by bacteria. Such pus-filled cysts can make the condition more severe. So in summary:

  • Acne is a condition of hormonal imbalance. Anything that can cause excess hormone production can trigger or worsen acne. In teenagers, sex hormones become hyperactive, increasing the production of sebum.
  • Stress causes the release of hormones such as cortisol, which can also worsen acne. But stress is not found to cause acne in the first place.
  • Acne is a condition of skin inflammation. Why and how the skin inflammation is triggered is not known fully.
  • Washing your face multiple times won’t prevent acne since it is not caused by dirt accumulating on the skin. However, not washing the face at all can make it difficult to control it because the plugged pores need to be kept clear.
  • Applying greasy facial creams and lotions will keep the skin pores covered and can worsen acne.
  • High humidity and air pollution can cause or worsen acne.
  • If you have to wear a full-face helmet for riding a scooter, acne can worsen.
  • Eating spicy and sugary foods can worsen acne.

In short, acne is mostly a hormonal problem, worsened by environmental factors. However, acne can also be caused due to a deficiency of vitamin A.

Vitamin A Deficiency and Acne

The deficiency of vitamin A leads to excessive production of a protein called keratin in the skin around the roots of the hair. The accumulated keratin prevents dead skin cells and sebum from coming out of the pores. This causes skin inflammation and then, acne.

Management of Acne

While there are many ways to manage acne, doctors prescribe a medicine called isotretinoin for very severe acne. It is a version of vitamin A and is to be taken orally.

Isotretinoin reduces the size of oil glands, helping control excess sebum production. But it can also cause side effects such as skin dryness, depression, and a condition called ulcerative colitis. So it should only be used with your doctor’s prescription. I am mentioning it just to point out another linkage of acne with vitamin A deficiency.

For detailed information on vitamin A, its role in our health, its daily requirement, and the best ways to get it, read on this website: Vitamin A: A complete guide.

For Further Reading

First published on: 27th June 2022
Image credit: Perfect skin photo created by cookie_studio – www.freepik.com


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