Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that contributes to the formation of healthy skin cells. Synthetic preparations of this vitamin may be used with a doctor’s prescription to treat the tiny inflammatory pustules that can appear with rosacea. Rosacea causes chronic facial flushing and increased sensitivity to many topical products. Consult your doctor before taking oral or topical vitamin A to treat rosacea or other skin conditions.
Vitamin A plays a vital role in maintaining the health of the cells that cover the surfaces of your body. Your skin and the mucous membranes that line your digestive and respiratory tracts rely on vitamin A for production and regeneration. Retinol, a form of vitamin A, has been used to treat certain symptoms of rosacea, a disorder that causes persistent inflammation of your cheeks, nose and forehead. Rosacea may advance through stages, beginning with erythema, or persistent facial flushing and telangiectasis, or broken blood vessels across the nose and cheeks. As rosacea progresses, inflamed papules form on the nose and cheeks, and the eyes may be affected. In latter stages, rosacea may affect the scalp, neck and chest.
Your body produces vitamin A from plant-based pigments called carotenoids, including beta-carotene, found in orange, yellow and dark green vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and spinach. As retinyl palmitate, vitamin A is found in animal-based foods like beef and chicken liver, fish liver oil, milk and other dairy products. Dietary vitamin A is essential for maintaining the integrity of your skin and enabling wounds to heal. Pharmaceutical preparations of retinol, a form of vitamin A, may resolve certain symptoms of rosacea, psoriasis and other chronic skin disorders. A topical retinoid gel has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the treatment of acne vulgaris. More research is required to determine whether retinoid products can resolve rosacea symptoms safely.
Oral and topical antibiotics have been used to treat papulopustular rosacea, a stage of the condition characterized by outbreaks of small, inflamed bumps -- known as papules or pustules -- on your cheeks and nose. Topical antibiotic creams may also help resolve the redness and enlarged blood vessels. According to Drs. B. Wayne Blount and Allen L. Pelletier, topical retinoid therapy may be most effective at treating papular and pustular lesions that have not responded to antibiotic therapy. Facial redness and broken blood vessels may actually be aggravated by topical retinoid treatment, Drs. Blount and Pelletier note.
In topical or oral form, retinol can cause severe health complications if taken incorrectly without a doctor’s supervision. Vitamin A can be toxic at high doses, leading to liver failure. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, taking oral vitamin A supplements in conjunction with topical preparations of vitamin A should be avoided to prevent an overdose. To prevent severe skin irritation and promote effective treatment, do not combine prescription or over-the-counter skin products without your doctor’s approval.
- “American Family Physician”; Rosacea: A Common, Yet Commonly Overlooked, Condition; B. Wayne Blount, M.D., M.P.H. and Allen L. Pelletier, M.D; August 1, 2002
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin A (Retinol); Stevne D. Ehrlich, N.M.D.; June 1, 2009
- Drugs.com: Retin-A Official FDA Information, Side Effects and Uses; April 4, 2011