RETINOL - Vitamin A

An Anti-Aging Superhero


  • Protects against UV damage and slows signs of aging
  • Encourages healthy skin cell production
  • Protects against infection
  • Smoothes wrinkles and fine lines
  • Evens out skin tone and gives a youthful glow
  • Minimises the appearance of pores
  • Available in Retinoid formulation for less irritation

Vitamins are essential for maintaining optimal levels of skin health, appearance and function, and none more so than Retinol (Vitamin A). Eating nutrient-dense foods, taking vitamin supplements, and using topical products containing vitamins can all be beneficial. In addition to helping skin look its best, vitamins can also be used to manage a variety of skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis, and the effects of photo-aging.

When it comes to skin care, Vitamin A is needed in the form of retinol. It’s a potent antioxidant that will help support the health, elasticity, and aging of the skin. If you suffer from a deficiency, it’s highly likely that your skin specialist will recommend skin care products containing the active ingredient prescription form called retinoid.

Types of Retinol

There are two types of Vitamin A: retinoids (pre-formed vitamin A – it’s found in animal products like dairy, fish, and meat) and carotenoids (pro-formed vitamin A – is found in plants and includes beta-carotene and alpha-carotene. Surprise, you’ll find those in carrots!). Both types are converted to Retinoic Acid by the liver. There, it’s either stored or transported by the lymphatic system to cells throughout the body.

When looking at skin care products, it’s important to remember that “retinoid” is an umbrella term and doesn’t specify the type of retinoid compound in the formula. The term “Retinoid” describes a family of ingredients that includes both Retin-A and Retinol. Retinoids are a class of ingredients chemically related to Vitamin A.

The only type of retinoid that your skin is able to process immediately is retinoic acid. All other forms of retinoids have to be converted by skin enzymes into retinoic acid before the skin is able to use it.

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a specific form of vitamin A that is naturally produced in your body. When it’s applied topically, enzymes in your skin convert retinol into retinaldehyde and then into retinoic acid. Because of the two-step conversion that it has to undergo before the skin can use it, retinol is naturally gentle; this means that while the results are slower, it has fewer side effects. The conversion into retinoic acid can take at least a few weeks, which is why you should use retinol products consistently for a few months before expecting to see results. 

In addition to “Vitamin A,” retinol products go under many different names on product labels, including retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, retinaldehyde, tazarotene, retinol and retinoic acid, isotretinoin or tretinoin.

What is Retin-A?

Retin-A is a prescription-only tretinoin cream. Tretinoin is another name for retinoic acid. Because it is a form of retinoic acid, Retin-A does not need to be broken down by the enzymes in your skin before it can be used. Retin-A products can be up to 100 times stronger than the average retinol cream. This strength comes with amazing and speedy results such as diminished blemishes, reduction in wrinkles, boosted skin elasticity — but also has major side effects. Due to its strength, Retin-A can cause itching, scaling, burning, peeling, and extreme redness when you first begin using the medication. Traditionally, Retin-A has only been prescribed by physicians for severe acne (example – Roaccutane).

Vitamin A compounds and their derivatives are most common in “anti-aging” products, but also appear in moisturisers, anti-acne products, and foundation.

Vitamin A is essential for collagen production. Collagen is deep into the layers of the skin and helps to ensure the elasticity and youthful look to the skin. When you have good amounts of collagen, the skin will act like a rubber band. It stretches but will then draw back into its usual shape. When there isn’t enough collagen, the skin acts like an overstretched rubber band. It will stretch to the point of breaking, leaving tears and scarring in the middle and lower layers of your skin.

Skin is a retinoid-responsive organ, able to readily absorb vitamin A when applied topically.

Who should be using Retinol?

It’s important to get retinol as soon as possible. Start using it in your 20’s and build up the use throughout your 30’s. These are the decades where you need to work on preventing aging. Not enough retinol will mean you’re more likely to get wrinkles and fine lines. Start with lower concentrations of retinol if you’ve never used them. Your skin can suffer more breakouts and imbalances if you suddenly add them into your skin in large amounts. Build up your tolerance.

Retinol is also good for those with oily skin. By getting plenty of this vitamin, you can reduce the size of your pores and remove dead skin. It’s possible to reduce the number of natural oils your skin produces, leaving you with a natural and healthier glow. Because of this, those with excessively dry skin are often advised to limit the amount of retinol they add to their skin.

There is also an immune system benefit. If you have bacterial or fungal issues on your skin, you can help to clear them up through the addition of more Vitamin A.

Topical retinoids are not a permanent remedy for any type of skin condition. Their positive effects stop when you discontinue their use.

Pregnancy – Retinoids should be avoided by pregnant and/or lactating women

retinol - vitamin-a-skin-care
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