With all the different anti-ageing skincare products available, have you ever wondered which ingredient you should not miss?
Retinol is one of the most widely studied (for more than 30 years!) and proven skincare compounds to reduce and prevent signs of ageing.
What is retinol?
Retinol is a form of vitamin A, which is found in foods such as carrots, cheese, liver, and eggs. Apart from its effects on skin, it is also essential for a wide range of bodily processes ranging from vision, growth, reproduction, and foetal growth.
How does it work?
As we age, our skin’s natural rejuvenation process slows down – regeneration of skin cells is reduced, and skin layers become thin and flattened. Environmental factors – UV light, pollution, smoking, etc. – damage collagen and elastin fibres, and skin cell layers lose their orderly arrangement. These changes result in dull, dry, and thin skin, pigmented spots, and wrinkles.
Retinol reverses some of these ageing processes by regulating gene functions for skin cell turnover and differentiation, and repair of damaged skin. Under the microscope, there is increased skin thickness, uniformity, and essential compounds like collagen and glycosaminoglycans in the dermis after retinol use. This translates into firmer, more hydrated skin with less wrinkles.
Is retinol really effective in reducing signs of ageing?
There are hundreds of trials studying the effects of retinol, in particular tretinoin, on skin ageing. It has short and long term benefits, with significant improvements in wrinkles, skin thickness, and new collagen formation. These effects can be seen in just 4-6 weeks.
Tretinoin also reduces melanin levels – reducing pigmentation and age spots – while imparting a rosy “glow”.
Retinol, retinyl, retinoic acid, tretinoin… are they all the same?
Retinol is the naturally occuring compound. There are several natural and synthetic derivatives which differ slightly in their chemical structures, thus are named differently.
Tretinoin, the active form of retinol, is the most widely studied. It is much more potent, and is only available by prescription.
Retinol and its related compounds are less potent than tretinoin, thus results would be more modest. Retinol is also chemically unstable, and is easily degraded to inactive forms on exposure to light and air.
Any Side Effects?
The most common side effect is known as “retinization” – redness, burning or itching sensation, and/or flaky skin. This happens in the first few weeks after starting a retinol cream. It generally resolves after the first 2 weeks, as your skin adapts and becomes tolerant to the retinol.
It is also advised to use sun protection, and avoid excessive sun exposure to minimise irritation. If you experience retinization, do speak with your doctor on methods to reduce discomfort. If you stop the retinol cream completely, this retinization period will recur once you start using the cream again.
Retinol should be discontinued in pregnancy or if planning to conceive, as oral retinoin medication is known to cause foetal malformations.
At Healthsprings, we have specially formulated our Blemish cream and Pigmentation cream, which contain retinoin plus other compounds for added efficacy to achieve glowing, blemish-free, younger-looking skin.
Keen to know how to include this star ingredient to up your skincare game? Speak to our doctors to find out more.