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Can the body absorb vitamins from topical products?

Posted Jul 22 2013 2:01am

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Christina’s question…Can the body absorb (beyond the skin) the vitamins from topically applied creams & oils? I have an eye condition called Stargardt’s, which basically means my eyes don’t process vitamin A the right way. There’s no treatment but my doctor recommends that I avoid vitamin A as much as possible. I’ve stopped using my retinol cream, but I would really like to be able to keep using a face oil made of (among other things) rosehip oil and apricot oil, which both contain vitamin A. I’m just wondering how much would really be absorbed from my skin and into my body, especially since I only use a few drops per day.

Alchemist answers:

Despite what you read on the Internet there’s little evidence of Vitamin A occurring in Rosehip Oil. I’ve only ever seen one paper that has found Vitamin A in Rosehip Oil and many research groups have tried to replicate the results but failed. What rosehip oil does contain is carotenes which can be converted to vitamin A. When taken orally carotene is converted to vitamin a and absorbed in the small intestine. Carotenes are quite big molecules (molecular weight of beta-carotene is 537) so would be unlikely to penetrate the skin. The level of carotenes in rosehip oil is quite low (usually only in the parts per million level) so compared to a retinol cream any vitamin A absorbed would be insignificant. I’ve never looked at Apricot oil in detail but suspect the same applies.

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