Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Daddy Of All Anti-ageing Ingredients - Vitamin A


Retinol or another name for vitamin A is a tough one to explain and I’ve been putting off writing about it for ages, but I knew I had to do it as it plays such a major part in our bodies.

The oxidised form of retinol is called retinoic acid (reinoids)– it’s made from vitamin A either in our bodies or in a laboratory. It’s especially present in formation of an embryo as it helps cells grow and develop.
When created in a lab it’s used to treat some forms of cancer and less importantly in the general scheme of things, is used to treat acne.

What’s acne treatment got to do with ageing, you may ask? Well, it was discovered that while treating acne, the wrinkles and sun spots on the skin also improved. It was thought that the way it worked was by making the skin peel and renew, but the way it works is a bit more complicated.

So how does it actually work?

It's a bit of a mystery but in a nutshell retinoic acid increases the thickness of epidermis and stimulates new collagen production. It also shrinks sebaceous glands and unclogs pores. It's like a skin cell builder. Imagine if retinoids can help build an embryo what they can do for our skin? It actually works for majority of people as countless scientific studies have proven.

You see, retinoic acid is actually classified as a prescription medicine and you can only get it from your doctor in form of gel (for treating acne – isotretinoin  Retin A) or emollient cream (for sun damage – Renova).

It can irritate the skin big time, the skin can peel, dry out and it can become very sensitive to UVA rays. If you’re prone to spots, using Renova cream can enlarge your pores and make you break out. It's not because of the retinoids, but the emollient base might be too rich for oilier skins.

You may actually ask why I’m writing about something that you can’t go out and buy freely in a shop? I’ll tell you why.

Almost every single cosmetic company has a cream with some sort of vitamin A that promises this or that. A lot of those creams did nothing for us.

Retinoic acid has to be present in certain concentration for it to work – prescription creams are sold either in 0.05% or 0.025% for more sensitive skins, so the bog standard vitamin A cream you buy in shops also has to contain a percentage of an active ingredient for it to make any difference. And most of the time it doesn’t. 

As a rule, retinols are about half as effective as retinoids (retinoic acid), so if you get a cream with low concentration of retinol you are wasting your money. 
Also, it's a tough job for skin to convert your normal vitamin A into its effective form - retinoic acid, it doesn't just happen like that. The effective cream with retinol has to also contain some other helpful ingredients - for example, peptides have been shown to be quite effective.

Things to bear in mind before you buy any vitamin A cream:
The most common ingredients to look out in the creams are retinaldehyde, retinlyl acetate and retinyl palmitate. Make sure that on the list of ingredients the retinol is not listed as one of the last ingredients – or just before the preservatives. Somewhere in the middle of a list would be the best place for it.

Both retinols and retinoids can irritate the skin and make it sensitive to sunlight so make sure you wear an adequate SPF of at least 30.

Your skin might not like it all. If you start getting redness and peeling too much use the cream every alternate day. If the symptoms don't go away with time you need to stop using it.

Retinol is sensitive to sunlight so use the cream at night only. Retinoic acid (prescription stuff) is never sold in jars, but in tubes as it's also sensitive to exposure to air.

Remember that even prescription stuff takes six months of continuous use to show any significant results, so if a cosmetic company claims that you'll see visible results in just three weeks, they are full of it. Yes your skin might "appear" smoother and firmer, but that won't be due to its effective retinols, but more due to moisturisers that temporarily plump out the skin.

Retinols are NOT expensive. If you buy a cream containing retinols and pay loads of money for it, you are either paying for the name or the packaging. The prescription retinoids are not expensive either! 

I like vitamin A. If used wisely with an adequate sun protection it can make a lot of difference to our skin. By all means go and see a dermatologist and get some advice, especially if your suffer from sun damage (pigmentation with premature wrinkles). 
If you're just trying to stop the clock, retinols are probably enough. 

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