Over the last decade or so, retinol has become an increasingly popular ingredient in skin care creams for both turning back the clock on one’s skin as well as for helping to control and reduce acne vulgaris. It is practically advertised as a miracle ingredient for anti- aging as well as a way to ease teenage frustration from out of control acne. And it is not all hype, retinol which is actually a derivative of vitamin A can really help to reduce the fine lines and winkles on the skin as well as removing age spots, stretch marks as well as control acne. Still, there are a few cautions one should know about before going out and purchasing the latest retinol enhanced face cream.
As mentioned retinol is a derivative of vitamin A. Vitamin A is known to be good for both the skin as well as one’s eyesight. When it is converted to retinal it becomes an essential ingredient to help and affect vision. When it is converted to a retinoic acid(such as retinol) it is essential for skin health, teeth remineralisation and bone growth. These chemical compounds are known as retinoids and they posses similar structural compounds to all trans retinols. Vitamin A was first discovered in the early 20th century but the original work to it’s discovery dates back to as early as 1816 when Francois Magendi noticed the high mortality rate in dogs that were deprived of certain nutrients. After more research and studies the term “Vitamin A” was officially declared in 1920. However, it was first synthesized in 1947 by two Dutch chemists: David Adreaan Van Dorp and Jozef Ferdanand Arens. Scientists at the time actually learned more about the function of Vitamin A by observing what happened to the body when it was deficient of Vitamin A. Retoinic acids which effect the non visual elements of Vitamin A, such as skin, bones and teeth also play an important role in immunological function and reproduction-particularly in the embryonic development. In a nut shell, what scientists discovered was that the amount of Vitamin A in one’s body can have an extreme effect on the development of the embryo during pregnancy. If one is deficient in Vitamin A then the child or baby may develop birth defects, and if the if there is too much Vitamin A stored up in the body than one may also suffer from birth defects. This is one reason why vitamin A is never taken as a supplement, as it is better to eat good sources of Vitamin A(in order not to overdose on Vitamin A) or to take carotene supplements which is the vegetable form of vitamin A which is not stored in the liver. Carotene can be found in many orange, yellow and green vegetables, and other non vegetable sources of vitamin A(retinol sources) include: eggs, butter, margarine, cheese and milk.
Many forms of retinoid are used in cosmetic creams today. However, if you are pregnant it is best to avoid a retinol(retinoic acid) based creams as it may affect the development of your baby or embryo. Most individuals living in the Western world or in first world countries have sufficient amounts of Vitamin A stored up in their bodies and in their fat cells, so too much can be harmful. While many women from third world countries do not have enough vitamin A in their system, and often suffer more from birth defects due to the lack of vitamin A. In these countries Vitamin A is a practical way to help the development of the embryo.
One of the first forms of retinols prescribed for the skin and still used is: Tretinoin. Tretinoin is a retinoic acid and it is also known as all-trans retinoic acid or ATRA. It’s name literally comes from: trans and retinoic. It was first developed in 1969 by two dermatologists: James Futton and Albert Kingman, who still hold the pharmaceutical license for the derivative of vitamin A today. It was first sold and used as an acne treatment and it was the first retinoid that was used topically on the skin. It is now often used to help with photoaging (aging caused by sun exposure-such as age spots). It has also been used to slow the aging process and remove wrinkles as well as the appearance of stretch marks. It has had other non skin related benefits as well, such as preventing hair loss and treating leukemia. It is the most studied retinoid on the market.
Although the benefits of using Tretinoin or other retinol derived ingredients are said to be great for the skin there are a few side effects and cautions when using these products. Mainly it can cause the skin to become dry, red and itching and also to make it more sensitive to the sun or more vulnerable to burning. Therefore, it is best not to use it when you are planning to spend a lot of time in the sun. For this reason, anti-aging creams containing retinol are probably best when they are used at night in a night cream as opposed to a day cream. The other caution is it is best not used during pregnancy. This again is to avoid vitamin A overdose and the side effect of birth defects.
Tretinoin often comes in several strengths which are: 0.025to 0.05%. Occasionally they will also come with a 1% strength level. Trentinoin can also be sold under a number of names including the following: Aberela, A-Ret, Altralin, Avita, Rectacnyl, Retissa, Renova, Retin-A, Retino A, Re Trieve and Stevia-A to name a few.
So go ahead and try that new retinol anti-aging creams, but just try to avoid the sun after using it and also avoid retinol based creams while pregnant. For most people these cautions will be explained to you if you receive a retinol cream from a physician or dermatologist, but is rarely openly advertised in department stores or pharmacies.