Anti-Aging Ingredients: Retinol & Retinoic Acid

by Kate Dee, MD

Retinol and Retinoic Acid are both forms of Vitamin A, the most important and effective of the anti-aging ingredients. Retinol is a topical Vitamin A that must be taken into the cell and converted to the active form retinoic acid inside the cell to have its effect. Retinoic Acid (Retin-A/Tretinoin) is the active form of the vitamin. Retinols are beneficial cell-communicating ingredients and antioxidants, helping skin cells become healthier by increasing the amount of skin support substances. Retinols increase the skin’s collagen production and slow its breakdown, resulting in firmer skin with an improved texture and enhanced barrier function. Retinol also lightens brown spots caused by sun exposure. Retinols also trigger more rapid epidermal cell turnover and exfoliation, making way for new cell growth beneath the surface.

Retinols are available in over-the-counter topicals in the forms of retinol, retinyl palmitate, and retinaldehyde. Retin-A is available by prescription only. It should be strongly considered by those who desire to keep their skin in top shape through the years.

The labeling of Retinol products is not regulated-- stay away from the retinol products at the beauty counter at the department stores-- they can label the product as containing retinol when there is only a trace ineffective dose. Retinol should be at least 1% concentration to be absorbed by your skin cells-- don't waste your money!

Retinols often cause redness and flaking, especially in the beginning of use. Some may need to start at a lower dose or less frequent application and advance to daily use over time.

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