Retinol Now Comes In Pill Form, But Does It Help Your Skin The Same Way?

When we think of skincare, our minds usually gravitate toward topical treatments, from gel or cream moisturizers to snail mucin serums. However, there are many ways to encourage a beautiful complexion from the inside out. Beyond staying hydrated and eating healthily, there are countless vitamin and mineral formulas designed to support skin health through oral supplementation. Those with cystic or hormonal acne can see dramatic improvements from introducing medications like birth control, Accutane, or spironolactone to their routines. Furthermore, it's no secret that collagen supplements have become something akin to a beauty potion over the past few years.

By now, many of us have heard about the dynamic benefits of using retinol or retinoids on our skin. When it comes to treating acne, fine lines, and uneven texture, few ingredients in the realm of skincare can compare. What's more, the support for retinol extends beyond anecdotal success stories — its effects have been heavily researched and acknowledged by experts across the globe. In fact, even low doses of topical retinol can help minimize the appearance of fine lines and skin discoloration, according to research published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.

But did you know that retinol can be taken in pill form? That's right — retinol supplements are the latest skincare fix causing a stir in the beauty scene. Ahead, we'll review everything you need to know about retinol supplements and their purported benefits.

What is a retinol supplement?

If you've heard of taking Accutane for treating acne, then you're already familiar with the concept of taking retinol internally. The prescription drug Accutane is essentially a synthetic form of vitamin A, the same ingredient used in topical retinol formulations. Not to be confused with Accutane, the latest wave of retinol supplements aren't quite as novel as they sound. Truth be told, 'retinol supplements' refer to nothing more than over-the-counter vitamin A, a vitamin shop staple that's been kicking around for decades. Some wellness enthusiasts take vitamin A supplements on their own, while others turn to beauty-promoting vitamins that contain additional skin-soothing ingredients like herbs or trace minerals.

That said, experts caution consumers to be wary about taking supplemental vitamin A to enhance skin health. "I do not recommend ingesting retinol," Dr. Heidi Waldorf told The Cut. Unlike water-soluble vitamins such as vitamins B and C, vitamin A is categorized as fat-soluble. Typically, excess quantities of water-soluble vitamins are passed through waste, but fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate in the body's fat stores and liver over time. And while you can experience side effects from overdoing any type of supplement, taking too much of a fat-soluble vitamin like vitamin A can have serious health consequences. Too much vitamin A in the body, known as vitamin A toxicity, can result in unpleasant side effects like brittle hair and dry skin, according to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Are retinol supplements right for you?

Curious about whether retinol supplements really work? According to findings published in The Journal of Drugs In Dermatology, over-the-counter vitamin A supplements may help to manage acne breakouts, similar to Accutane. And while it's true that retinol supplements could potentially treat conditions like acne, they must be taken under medical supervision due to the risk of vitamin A toxicity. It can't be overstated — always consult with your doctor before starting any vitamin or supplement regimen, particularly if you're considering taking fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is relatively rare, and concentrated doses of vitamin A could lead to more harm than good.

In place of vitamin A supplementation, there are several ways to get the glowing, healthy skin of your dreams. For starters, experts suggest quitting smoking if you haven't already, as nicotine is associated with numerous skin ailments and poor wound healing. From there, staying consistent with a good skincare routine is vital, emphasizing daily sunscreen use and double cleansing at night. Of course, you can also incorporate foods high in vitamin A to naturally up your intake of the nutrient, from liver and seafood to leafy greens. And though you may be tired of hearing it, there's a reason they call it beauty sleep – proper rest is essential to keeping your skin looking its best. Above all, whether you're looking to soften the signs of aging or manage breakouts, self-care is one of the core components of a radiant complexion.