Truth to tell it is retinoic acid that should be winning all the plaudits – retinol probably comes in a rather poor second.
Retinoic acid – in the form of tretinoin and other retinoids – has long been used by dermatologists to treat skin problems like acne and later to improve some of the symptoms of aging skin. Retinoic acid has been shown to trigger many reactions within and between skin cells and has an effect on – among other things – sebum production (hence its use in acne formulations) and collagen production.
Scientists discovered that tretinoin applied topically directly inhibits the enzymes that stop or slow down collagen formation as we age. The slowing down of collagen and elastin production is one of the major factors in speeding up skin wrinkling and sagging.
Tretinoin and retinoids in general are among a very few select select group of agents that can be added to topical creams and result in a noticeable anti aging effect.
That sounds like great news but the difficulty is if you want a topical cream with a retinoid in it – you have to get it under prescription from a dermatologist.
Common brands include Retin A (the original formulation for treating acne), Renova (with added moisturizers) and some recently introduced micro-encapsulated formulations.
The reason such products are prescription only is because they can have bad side effects if not managed professionally – skin irritation, redness, soreness, over sensitivity and inflammation.
Retinols were developed partly to overcome sensitivity issues whilst still offering some improvement in skin aging. The fact is that these commonly available over the counter retinol-based products are often sold to us as if it they have the same effectiveness as retinoids (retinoic acid) when the simple truth is – they don’t.
I must say I am guilty of this myself – the science is complex and it is easy for a non-scientist to miss the detail that is all-important.
What matters is that if you think you need retinol in your skin cream or serum – you should know exactly what you are getting and how effective it is likely to be as an anti aging ingredient.
Tretinoin is the acid form of vitamin A (retinoic acid) and is one of a group of retinoids with proven effectiveness against common signs of photoaging. Retinol is a precursor of retinoic acid which can be converted into retinoic acid by the body in a process that requires several metabolic steps. Retinoids require no such conversion and are immediately effective on transfer to the skin.
Retinyl palmitate which you may also see on the back of your skin care packaging is even further away from the effectiveness of a retinoid – requiring additional steps to convert and produce the anti wrinkle effect you are seeking.
As renowned skin care expert Dr Todorov comments at Smartskincare.com:“a relatively large amount of retinol and even larger amount of retinyl palmitate needs to be delivered into a cell to boost retinoic acid levels and produce clinically meaningful effects”
In other words you are going to need large amounts in a skin care product to achieve rejuvenating results.
There are several hurdles you need to overcome if you are going to be happy with the effects you get with a retinol product:
All the above point of course apply many times over if you choose a retinyl palmitate product – although you are less likely to get an adverse reaction.
So – think carefully about what you want from your retinol based cream or serum and if you do decide to buy – don’t expect it to perform like a retinoid!
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