ingredient science vegan skincare

Ingredient Profile: Vitamin A (Retinol)

Name: Vitamin A is a term for a group of related compounds including retinol, retinal and retinoic acid, also known as retinoids.

For: Normal to oily (and even acne-prone) skin types (especially those looking to target and slow signs of ageing- specifically photoaging).

Why: Retinoids are necessary for a wide range of biological processes, such as inflammation, growth and proliferation. Discussed in detail in the 2006 Clinical Interventions in Ageing Journal article, “Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety” ,”Retinoids are very well known to influence a variety of cellular processes, such as cellular growth and differentiation, cell surface alterations, and immune modulation…retinoids improve photoaging by modifying cellular differentiation programs – initiating the increase of epidermal proliferation leading to epidermal thickening…and biosynthesis and deposition of the glycosaminoglycans.”

Glycosaminogylcans (GAGs) exist naturally in our skin, and a commonly known GAG is hyaluronic acid, focused on in our previous ingredient spotlight. Vitamin A is proven to form more resilient skin, hence why it has become a popular ingredient across skin care products worldwide.

With continued use, retinol will also promote increased collagen production. When testing tretinoin (a form of retinol) within a study, it was noted: “After 12 months, formation of new collagen fibers as well as reduction in nodularly degenerated microfibrillar material was observed in the tretinoin-treated group.”

As an over-the-counter standard, you’ll find 1% retinol products being the maximum percentage approved for sale at a cosmetic level, and a great place to start if you’re a beginner to retinol products.

For acne-prone skins, look for a type of retinoid called adapalene: “It targets abnormal desquamation of the skin, modulates cellular differentiation, and possesses anti-inflammatory properties and…due to its receptor selectivity, it causes less skin irritation.(Desquamation here refers to the shedding of the top layers of the skin).

For first time users, you can expect some redness & peeling as the product gets to work, and it is more essential than ever to protect your skin with sunscreen every day while using retinoid products (and ideally only apply at night). Products like tretinoin often cause,  “a certain number of adverse effects (pruritus, burning sensation, erythema, and desquamation) currently known as “retinoid reaction”. 

Tretinoin as a form of vitamin A, has the most evidence to its name – always opt for synthetic tretinoin and other retinoid products available, and look for those that do not have other animal or animal-derived products included. For a more gentle, off-the-shelf options, look for retinol listed as the active ingredient.

Have you experimented with retinoids, and did you find them effective in changing the appearance and integrity of your skin? Let us know in the comments.




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