You’ve probably heard about retinol more than a hundred times from global beauty brand manufacturers. But what is this magical ingredient they are talking about? Is it a new chemical formula or a natural element that has long been under our radar? How can it help in our pursuit of beauty and what should we know before using it? So, let’s try to find out how does retinol work and why is it so important for our beauty and health.
More than 100 years ago, in 1913, two independent groups of scientists (McColluth-Davis and Osborne) came to the conclusion that without retinol the development and normal functioning of the body would not be possible. Retinol was the first of the vitamins discovered and therefore it has the alphabetical nomenclature designation as “A”. It is a fat-soluble vitamin and an antioxidant. In its pure composition, it is unstable and is found in both plant products and animal sources. How does retinol work? At the level of cellular interaction, it performs more than thirty functions. It is often called a hormone-like vitamin as it acts directly on the receptor apparatus of cells.
HOW DOES RETINOL WORK?
Retinol is an essential element for eyesight and bone growth, healthy skin, hair, and normal immune system function.
Retinol itself is very unstable. As soon as it comes into contact with air, it immediately oxidizes and loses all its properties. For this reason, delivering the useful properties of retinol in its pure form is a very complicated task. Manufacturers of cosmetics do some fancy work using various chemical tricks to make retinol less susceptible to environmental conditions in their products. As a result of this tireless work by scientists, a chemical group of elements called retinoids has emerged:
- Retinol – the most common, usually found in concentrations of 0.15-1%
- Vitamin A1 aldehyde or retinal. The substance is well studied and used effectively. Its particularity is in its reduced photosensitivity.
- Acid or tretinoin is the most powerful retinoid. In many countries, the use of tretinoin in beauty products is prohibited.
- Retinyl palmitate is the most human-friendly form of retinol.
Vitamine A palmitate is one of the most frequently used forms of retinol in cosmetics production. Stabilizing molecules are the main reason why this chemical compound is so popular. However, this feature has its disadvantages. The more stabilizing elements they use, the less active the vitamin A becomes.
Synthetic retinoic acid compositions are only used in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, aimed at treating severe pustules. This is the active form of retinol, which acts directly on the cells. The difference is that natural molecules go through a chain of reactions before turning into the very retinoic acid, while synthetic ones turn into it immediately.
THE EFFECTS OF RETINOL ON THE SKIN
The quality and production of collagen by the cells declines as we age. Skin elasticity directly depends on the retinol amount in our organism. Retinoids affect the skin on different levels. First, they promote rapid skin renewal and signal the cells to produce collagen. Retinoids accelerate cell division, resulting in a shorter cell cycle. As a result, the epidermis becomes thicker and the stratum corneum gets more compact.
In other words, retinol has a very deep effect on the skin and is a real miracle drug for cosmetologists. Due to its small molecular weight, retinol penetrates the skin easily at the cellular level and acts not only on the surface but also on the deeper layers of the epidermis.
LIST OF BENEFITS OF RETINOL
- makes the skin tone even
- accelerates the process of cell regeneration and cell division
- improves skin elasticity and firmness
- inhibits sebaceous glands activity
- prevents the formation of acne
- improves blood circulation
- hydrates skin and retains moisture in cells
- intensifies collagen and elastin production
- protects from negative environmental invasions
- powerful antioxidant
- smoothes out wrinkles
- lightens solar lentigo (age spots)
RETINOL AGAINST ACNE
The most commonly used remedy for acne in modern medicine and cosmetology is retinoids. Specialists use adapalene, a synthetic analog of retinoic acid, for mild to moderate cases. In case of severe acne, retinoids may turn out to be detrimental, so experts use alternative treatments. However, retinoids are indispensable as acne prophylactic remedies because of their function to inhibit the production of sebum and renew the epidermis.
WHAT YOU NEED TO CONSIDER TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT RETINOL CONTAINING PRODUCT
The most likely retinol-containing product you may find is a cream. Vitamin A is a very complex constituent of this cosmetic agent and there are a number of factors to consider when choosing it.
CHOOSING ACCORDING TO AGE
Generally, the age at which experts recommend including retinol in your skincare routine begins after your 30s. However, there are cases where age-related changes occur earlier. Anyway, for a start, you should choose products with a low concentration of the substance, gradually increasing the concentration if needed.
Retinol containing products categories by age: 35+, 45+, 55+, 60+
- 35+ (retinol concentration from 0.1%) – anti-age effect
- 45+ (0.4% to 1% concentration) smoothes out wrinkles
- 50+ (concentrations from 1%) are aimed at cell regeneration
Cosmetic products containing more than 1% retinol aim to force the synthesis of collagen and elastin which are produced less and less as a person gets older. It helps to smooth out deep wrinkles and creases.
CONCENTRATION OF RETINOL IN A PRODUCT
Age is not the only factor to consider when choosing such skincare products. As a rule, in the variety of creams, you may find that the concentration of retinol does not exceed 0.01-2%. Remember that all skin types react differently to vitamin A. The frequency of use depends on your individual reactions and the characteristics of the particular product. For instance, in the case of dry, sensitive skin with evident age-related signs, using retinol above 0.5% concentration every day may lead to couperoses and peeling. At the same time, for greasy skin with a tendency to rashes, this concentration on a daily basis will be optimal. In this case, depending on the individual peculiarities, it may even turn out to be necessary to increase the concentration of the substance.
Anyway, if you have never ever used retinol products before, you should not use them more than once or twice a week for a start. Try to take your time, observe your skin reaction and gradually increase the dosage if you feel a need for it.
COMBINATION OF RETINOL WITH OTHER INGREDIENTS
Vitamin A is a very complex element and requires special attention to accompanying ingredients in the production. Сreams that contain salicylic acid, as well as retinol, can cause redness. There are also products with benzoyl peroxide that is very effective against acne and at the same time negate the benefits of vitamin A.
Retinol-containing cosmetic products with natural oils, green tea extract, vitamin C, ceramides, peptides, and hyaluronic acid are recognized as the most effective remedies in transmitting and preserving the beneficial properties of vitamin A agents.
So, if you are new to this type of cosmetics take this information as advice and study the formulas carefully before applying.
As mentioned earlier, retinol is a very unstable substance. The main enemy of retinol in cosmetic products is sunlight. Pay attention to the packaging. Ideally, if the cream you buy is in an opaque tube it is thus well-protected from the sunlight rays.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
First of all, remember that retinoids increase the photosensitivity of the skin, increasing the risk of unwanted pigmentation. Oversaturation of the skin with vitamin A and an indigested increase in its dosage can lead to irritation, including dermatitis, hypersensitivity, and even couperose.
In view of the above, you should use retinol-containing skincare products during the months with the least amount of sun exposure. You may also use sunscreens to counteract the possible negative effects of light rays.
THE IMPORTANCE OF VITAMIN A FOR HUMAN HEALTH
Above all, retinol is essential for normal embryonic development. The necessary amount of vitamin A in the mother’s body nourishes the fetus and reduces the risk of pregnancy complications such as the low birth weight of the newborn.
Vitamin A is essential for the transformation of stem cells into specific cells in the liver and other organs. It is a vital element for the growth and development of the body, and for the strengthening of vision and immunity. In carrying out these functions, vitamin A often behaves like a hormone. In other words, it regulates gene activity, influencing the formation of the body.
VITAMINE A DEFICIENCY
The deficiency of this vitamin in the body can have a negative effect on vision. One of the active forms of vitamin A is retinal. This substance combines vitamin A with the protein opsin to form rhodopsin, which is necessary for color vision and the ability to see in low light.
Both vitamin A and β-carotene, being powerful antioxidants, are means of preventing and treating cancer. In particular cases, they prevent tumor recurrence after surgery.
Vitamin A is also important for male and female health. Its derivatives play a role in the development of sperm and oocyte. These chemicals are also involved in the development and preservation of fetal tissue.