Retinols need an explanation all to themselves as they can be the most confusing and expensive ingredients to look for.
Vitamin A derivatives- Retinols are in fact powerful antioxidants all of which are derivatives of Vitamin A. The issue with Retinol is identifying exactly which type is the most effective in skin care as well as understanding the harshness involved with using them. Let’s break them down by name while expanding on the pros and cons of each one and then summarizing exactly which one we want to look for in a product and at what strength. As opposed to many other vitamins, vitamin A does not have much of a direct biological effect. It works via its active metabolite (biochemical derivative) called retinoic acid.
Only retinoic acid and its analogs collectively called retinoids have direct effect on skin cells and can adjust their physiology toward a more youthful state. Now some derivatives are more easily converted to retinoic acid which increases their ability to actual change our living cells.
Vitamin A derivatives are the cause of “retinol sensitivities and allergies” if you have never used Vitamin A or retinol please apply it to a test area. The test area ideally can be the crease of your elbow as it is delicate and is exposed to the sun. Retinols and the sun combined will give you a red rash that will peel. Not fun and I learned that a few years ago because I foolishly thought I was more invincible at that age.
The following will easily summarize the type of Vitamin A and the steps it must go through to ultimately be effective.
Retinyl palmitate to Retinol then to Retinaldehyde ending with Retinoic acid
Retinol to Retinaldehyde ending with Retinoic acid
Retinaldehyde ending with Retinoic acid
So in summary:
Retinyl Palmitate under ideal conditions may ultimately turn into Retinoic Acid ..this is a long shot because our skin is not a controlled petri dish and the amount of Retinyl Palmitate need to actually synergize is actually toxic to our skin. Forget Retinyl Palmitate it is a waste of money and healthy skin cells.
Retinol is the term that is used so loosely that it is imperative you look at the FDA mandated label to ensure that it is actually Retinol rather than Retinyl Palmitate. Your label of ingredients should say Retinol (Vitamin A) as Retinol is the entire Vitamin A molecule. You also do not want this to be the last item on the list of ingredients as it will not have the correct concentration needed to convert into Retinaldehyde and ultimately to Retinoic Acid. The Retinol content should be at least 1% in order for it to end with a .1% conversion in Retinoic Acid. A reputable product will advertise exactly what Vitamin A derivative and at what percentage.
Retinaldehyde is becoming more and more commonly found in products which is starting to help bring the actual price per use lower than it originally was. This is the closest over the counter ingredient you will find prior to pure Retinoic Acid. Retinaldehyde is somewhat more easily tolerated as you need less of it to achieve the cell activity desired yet you should never use more than 1% as our skin just cannot tolerate it without peeling and becoming ultra sensitive to the sun and heat. When shopping for a product your label should say Retinaldehyde and it should not be listed as the last ingredient.
Retinoic Acid is available by prescription only and is also used to treat acne under a doctor’s care. We all wonder how we can get our hands on some and maybe have even swiped some for our teenagers. The use of Retinoic Acid works from the ointment slowly peeling away the dead thorny layers of our skin. This smooths the appearance, minimizes pores and reveals new and fragile “baby skin.” Retinoic Acid belongs on the market by rx only as if used without direction can wreak a catastrophe of rapidly peeling skin that may bleed, sun poisoning and in a few cases scarring. Please be goddess smart and keep it under the care of your MD.