How Retinol Works and Its Benefits in Anti-aging Skin Care

How Retinol Works and Its Benefits in Anti-aging Skin Care

Retinol, or vitamin A Palmitate, is vitamin A in its most pure and active form. The increased skin exfoliation activity of vitamin A helps unclog pores, a common cause of acne. Vitamin A is arguably the most important vitamin for enhancing the appearance of your skin. Retinol is well-recognized for its potent anti-aging skin care capabilities and is one of the more frequently used ingredients in higher quality skin care products.  

Because of its small molecule size, retinol is able to penetrate deeply below the skin surface, where it has the most beneficial effects.  Lines and wrinkles are diminished, elasticity is improved, and moisture is increased.  By repairing damage to your skin cells, your skin looks healthier and younger.

Retinol can stimulate production of new collagen cells, which is vital in the effort against aging skin. As a result, experts agree that retinol is an important ingredient in better quality skin care products. Retinols can increase collagen, which is needed to provide foundation support to the skin. Hyaluronic acid production is also stimulated.  Hyaluronic acid helps moisturize skin. Retinol is also has antioxidant properties and therefore diminishes scavenging free radicals, which can damage skin cells.

Retinol has several breakdown products including retinoic acid; both belong to a category of compounds known as retinoids.  These compounds are among the few molecules that have a sufficiently small size to penetrate the top layers of the skin and repair damage to the lower layers - this where collagen and elastin are located.

Retinol does not have a direct effect on the skin, unlike many other vitamins. It therefore has to be converted into retinoic acid in order to manifest a direct benefit on skin cells.  While this is a phenomenon that occurs naturally on the surface of the skin, users should differentiate between retinol, available over the counter, and retinoic acid, which can only be purchased with a prescription.

Although retinoic acid provides superior wrinkle fighting benefits because it has to be converted from retinol, it can often result in unacceptable levels of skin irritation and has other unwanted side effects.  These problems restrict its use, particularly in people with sensitive skin.  Therefore, while pure retinoic acid is quite effective, it is excessively irritating for most people's skin.  Studies demonstrate that retinoic acid applied to the skin is unsuitable for older individuals because it irritates their skin more readily. However, the studies show that retinol is safe.

Appropriately designed products with retinol provide an alternative to retinoic acid that costs less and is not as irritating.  Consequently, you should consider purchasing retinol over the counter, but only if it contains enough of the active ingredient and is carefully formulated.

Two metabolic steps are required to convert retinol to retinoic acid. The conversion rate to retinoic acid is relatively low. Thus, a higher concentration of retinol must be applied to the skin to increase the concentration of retinoic acid and yield observable results. A high number of products contain insufficient retinol to have any noticeable effect. Products that do not show the retinol concentration may not contain enough to provide any significant benefit.  Therefore, it is not good enough to include retinol in the list of ingredients.  Any such product should contain one million International Units per ounce (about 1.0% retinol).

Nevertheless, products with high concentrations of retinol could cause skin irritation, particularly in those with sensitive skin.  As a result, only products that reduce irritation by using ingredients such as soothing oils and include a moisturizer such as hyaluronic acid should be purchased.

Because even adequately formulated retinol creams might irritate skin at the beginning of use, mild rashes or redness or might be observed. Some skin may flake off as dead or damaged cells are shed and replaced by fresh cells. This is to be expected and most skin adjusts to the retinol and positive benefits are soon seen.

Retinol does cause skin to be more sensitive to sunlight, so it is important to apply a quality sunblock to guard against sunburn.  Retinols should not be used during pregnancy or nursing due to potentially harmful effects.

Retinol assists in the communication among skin cells and ensure that they function properly.  With advancing age, this communication capability diminishes.  In younger persons, skin cells contain receptors which easily recognize retinoic acid. This communication capability enables cells to function properly and regenerate on a regular basis.  In older skin, this communication process is diminished and retinoic acid is not recognized as efficiently. As a result, the cell renewal rate is decreased and skin begins to show aging signs.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have completed a study showing that routine use of sufficiently potent levels of retinol will diminish fine lines and wrinkles and other effects of age. Older skin loses its thickness and becomes less flexible and will bruise more readily.  The study mentions that aging and fragile skin is becoming a major health problem as the general population gets older.

The research incorporated 36 subjects, all 81 years of age or older.  A formulation with 0.4% retinol was used on one upper arm of each patient and a cream without any retinol was applied to their other arm, up to 3 times weekly for six months.

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