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Vitamin A: New Applications and Outcomes

By: Sam Dhatt
Posted: March 29, 2013, from the April 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Vitamin A continues to evolve, helping it remain one of the most potent ingredients in a skin care professional's arsenal.

Vitamin A continues to evolve, helping it remain one of the most potent ingredients in a skin care professional's arsenal.

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In the correct molecular size, retinoids can penetrate the lower layers of skin where collagen and elastin are produced, DNA repair functions occur and the cell cycle is regulated. Once a topical retinoid is applied, enzymes convert the retinoid into retinoic acid, which binds to the DNA via receptors and activates the skin’s genes to promote healthier cell growth.

The retinoid range

Retinoids range from natural to synthetic, and pharmaceutical to nonpharmaceutical derivatives. This article will focus on the three basic nonprescription retinoid derivatives: retinyl palmitate, retinol and retinaldehyde.

Think of retinoids existing on a continuum with the lipid-based retinyl palmitate on the far left side of the spectrum, and representing the most stable and least irritating—but also the least potent—version. This derivative must undergo the most number of steps to convert to retinoic acid, the bioavailable form used by the body. It must first convert to retinol and then to retinaldehyde before converting to retinoic acid. On the other end of the continuum, pharmaceutical retinoic acid is far less stable and potentially irritating, but also highly effective at treating acne and signs of aging.

Although many mass-marketed products feature retinyl palmitate, most anti-aging cosmeceuticals feature either retinalydehyde, which exists one step away from retinoic acid, or retinol, which sits between retinyl palmitate and retinaldehyde on the retinoid continuum. Both offer a readily available, nonprescription source of topical vitamin A that’s easily converted into retinoic acid.

A randomized double-blind controlled study, published last year in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, found little difference in efficacy between a 1.1% retinol-based gradual-release cream and a prescription tretinoin (retinoic acid) 0.025% cream in women with mild to moderate photodamage. Following a three-month treatment, both test products significantly improved photodamage, including fine and coarse wrinkles around the eye, skin firmness, tone and texture, pigmentation and general photodamage. The subjects reported more than 93% overall satisfaction with both products at the eighth and 12th weeks.1

The Skin Care Ingredient Handbook is so much more than an ingredient dictionary. You will learn about cellular functions and skin aging; skin care trends for ethnic skin, scalp and hair products, BB creams, suncreens; active versus functional ingredients, natural, organic, and synthetic ingredients; OTC drugs; INCI names, antioxidants and DNA and how to read labels. Did we mention the newest ingredients are listed?

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