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Does Taking Vitamin A Help Acne?


The use of orally administered vitamin A for acne treatment has become a hot topic of debate among researchers and dermatologists, and while most research indicates that retinol, the derivative of vitamin A, is not effective as a treatment for acne, one research team found a way to turn the tables.

The Case for Vitamin A

At least one study that looked at the efficacy of orally administered vitamin A for the treatment of acne vulgaris reported success. A study published in the International Journal of Dermatology concluded that previous studies on the efficacy of vitamin A as an acne treatment failed due to the doses administered.  The study’s authors reported that mega doses of oral vitamin A over a short period, were effective at bringing severely inflammatory acne vulgaris under control.

The study authors initially prescribed doses of 50,000 and 100,000 international units (IU) and concluded that they were ineffective.  The oral vitamin A became highly effective once the dosages were increased to 300,000 IU for women and 500,000 IU for men.  The treatment was continued for three to four months, until the acne was under control, at which point the vitamin A treatment was gradually decreased until discontinued. At that point, other acne treatments were resumed to keep the disease in remission.

Though doses over 25,000 IU’s are considered toxic, the authors defend their treatment arguing that the danger of hypervitaminosis A in this dosage range is exaggerated.  [Sibulesky, 656] While the study leaders did report some symptoms of chronic vitamin A toxicity among the study’s participants, they were minor including abnormal dryness of the skin and mucus membranes,

The mega-dose solution was also short-term.  The treatment was effective within three to four months, gradually decreased, then discontinued. [Kligman, 278 ]



“Vitamin A (retinol): Evidence –” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2010.

Kligman, AM. “Oral vitamin A in acne vulgaris. Preliminary report.” International Journal of Dermatology 20.4 (1981): 278-85. Print.

Sibulesky , L, and et al. “Safety of <7500 RE (<25000 IU) vitamin A daily in adults with retinitis pigmentosa..” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 69.4 (1999): 656-63. Print.

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