Is retinol the key to younger looking skin? Here’s what you need to know.
It seems we’re constantly being bombarded with skin ads and claims that a product will reduce the appearance of wrinkles and rejuvenate aging skin. It can be difficult to sort through the hype and determine what really does work for improving the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. One skin care product that’s frequently touted as a treatment for aging skin is retinol. Retinol is a purified form of Vitamin A which purportedly has a rejuvenating effect on tired, sun damaged skin. Are the benefits of retinol for the skin real?
Retinol when applied to the skin is thought to work both by stimulating new collagen formation as well as preventing the breakdown of existing collagen. It appears to have a stimulatory effect on the fibroblasts that produce collagen as well as an inhibitory effect on enzymes that break down the collagen support structure. What makes retinol unique is that its molecular structure is small enough to allow it to penetrate the skin which is a limiting factor for some skin care ingredients. If a substance can’t penetrate the epidermis and gain access to the dermis, it’s not going to have any real effect on skin aging. Thus, one major benefit of retinol that distinguishes it from other skin care ingredients is its ability to reach the areas of the skin where it can actually have an effect on collagen production and breakdown.
Another benefit of retinol is it has the ability to increase the thickness of the outer surface of the skin, the epidermis. The result is a smoother, finer texture to the skin as well as an improvement in the appearance of superficial creases and wrinkles. Retinol also appears to have the ability to counteract some of the solar damage inflicted by the sun, although retinol shouldn’t be used if you spend time in the sun since it can increase sun sensitivity.
A study done on thirty-subjects where 0.4% retinol was applied to their arm and a placebo to the other showed improvement in fine wrinkling on the treated area of the arm as well as a reduction in skin roughness. Skin biopsies performed after using retinol showed an increase in the precursors of collagen synthesis. This would seem to support the benefit of retinol for skin rejuvenation.
Although retinol is available in a prescription form which has a higher concentration of the active ingredient, this stronger concentration of retinol may be too irritating for some skin types. If you have sensitive skin, it may be best to try a lower strength nonprescription formulation first and if benefits aren’t seen within several months, visit your dermatologist and discuss the possibility of using prescription strength retinol.
The good news is that it appears that the benefits of retinol are real. For some people, they may be the key to younger looking skin. Why not give them a try?