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Retinol, retinoic acid, retinyl ester, retin-A…… why so many retinoids?

Retinoids a.k.a. Vitamin A, and that’s why retinoids are an important part of nutrition, for our whole body including our skin.  Vitamin A has been recognized as such since 1920, and it is required for vision, skin health, immune function, bone metabolism and, notably. embryonic development (that’s why excess vitamin A can affect embryonic development).  The carotenes alpha, beta, and gamma can be transformed into vitamin A within our body.

Why so many? For retinoids to work they must bind to the retinoid receptor in the nuclear membrane. Slightly different molecules can do that and all will have Vitamin A activity. But not all retinoids are the same. Some chemicals may have vitamin A activity, like tretinoin, but they may also cause side effects. My suggestion?  Choose your retinoid from among those with good activity and without the bad side effects!

Good effects on the skin

Will help control acne because it accelerates skin renewal and normalizes keratinization

Will help reverse the effects of sun damage on the skin, improving skin texture, smoothing wrinkles, and normalizing pigmentation

Bad effects on the skin

Hundreds of different chemicals share some of the activities of vitamin A, but their different structures also mean that side effects will be different. When it comes to synthetic derivatives, like isotretinoin, part of the effects may be due to its partial conversion in the body into retinoic acid. However, there is more to the mechanism of action, and this part of the story is still a matter of investigation (in other words, we have no idea how it works).

Skin irritation, peeling, redness, sensitive skin

Types of retinol and what is right for you

First of all, WHY do you have to use retinoids? Because retinoids will help you with very common problems that everybody will have at one time or another: acne and skin aging (wrinkles, etc.).

Many people can’t use topical tretinoin because of its side effects, which include skin irritation. We know that this is not a problem with retinyl esters, like retinyl acetate, because they work just as well or better, because they don’t have serious side effects and don’t require medical supervision. The take home lesson is that it is simply not worthwhile to suffer the side effects of tretinoin and other synthetic forms of vitamin A. We have two ready-made products, Vitamin A Cream and Vitamin A Serum to deliver the benefits of retinyl acetate safely.

What to avoid if you are using a vitamin A product.

  1. The sun. and wear sunscreen
  2. Exfoliation, physical or chemical. Vitamin A is already working at skin renewal, if you add ascorbic acid or other alpha hydroxy acids you should expect trouble.
  3. Drying products, anything containing alcohol (like ethanol)

What retinoids tell us about our bodies

Even if we ingest vitamins in our food and oral supplements, our bodies may not be directing enough of them to our skin (and hair). In the priority list of our body, heart, kidneys etc. are priorities, skin and hair anr not.

More is not always better. In general, retinoids tend to normalize cellular proliferation and differentiation. In the human epidermis, low concentrations of retinoids generally increase keratinocyte proliferation, but high concentrations can be inhibitory. This effect is used in the treatment of psoriasis.

Chemical structure matters, not all retinoids are the same.  You don’t need tretinoin to make your skin younger (retinyl acetate will do) but tretinoin will upset your skin in many ways. Many people can’t use topical tretinoin because of its side effects, which include skin irritation. We know that this is not a problem with retinyl esters, like retinyl acetate, because they work just as well or better, because they don’t have serious side effects and don’t require medical supervision. The take home lesson is that it is simply not worthwhile to suffer the side effects of tretinoin and other synthetic forms of vitamin A. We have two ready made products, Vitamin A Cream and Vitamin A Serum to deliver the benefits of retinyl acetate safely.

No need to go for “fake” Vitamin A like bakuchiol, retinoids are the chemical of choice for retinoid-like effects.

Reference: J.J.J. Fu, G.G. Hillebrand, P. Raleigh, J. Li, M.J. Marmor, V. Bertucci,_P.E. Grimes, S.H. Mandy, M.I. Perez, S.H. Weinkle and J.R. Kaczvinsky (2010). A randomized, controlled comparative study of the wrinkle reduction benefits of a cosmetic niacinamide⁄peptide⁄retinyl propionate product regimen vs. a prescription 0.02% tretinoin product regimen. British J. Dermatology, 162: 647–654

DISCLAIMER: These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease.

 

 

See also the following blog posts:

Plants and the chemicals they make. Retinoids can be both gentle and effective.

Plants and the chemicals they make. Bakuchiol: you’ll have to convince me

Vitamin A in Skin Care

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