How vitamin A (retinol) prevents premature skin ageing, and which type to look for in a serum
April 29, 2016 | By:
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for healthy skin as we grow older. We decode the confusing difference between retinoic acid, retinol, retinyl palmitate and retinaldahyde
Beauty over 50. Retinoids and retinol. Vitamin A in skincare

Healthy, happy skin: topically applied vitamin A helps cell turnover to stop skin getting dull and dehydrated

Dermatologist Dr Albert Kligman discovered Retinoid (vitamin A) as an effective anti-ageing treatment in the 1960s when he was using it to cure acne. He noticed that his patients were experiencing noticeable improvements in other conditions such as wrinkles, blotchy pigmentation and uneven skin tone. Vitamin A remains one of the most effective treatments for premature ageing of the skin.

How retinoids work

  1.  When applied topically, retinoids communicate with your skin’s cells to improve cell proliferation.  This recalibrates the skin to behave more youthfully, providing it with a powerful antioxidant network to slow down free radical damage and maintain normal levels of vitamin A in the skin.    This active stimulation will brighten and rehydrate the skin and greatly contribute to reversing the damage to your skin’s DNA by over-exposure to the sun.

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Which type of Vitamin A should I use?

1.  Prescription retinoic acid: for fast results

A prescription of retinoic acid, obtained from your GP or cosmetic doctor, is a fast, inexpensive and effective way of reducing wrinkles, pigmentation and poor skin tone. However, it can be very irritating to the skin and can cause redness, irritation and peeling. Prescription retinoid acid needs to be balanced by other antioxidants like vitamins C, E and B3 but with time and adjustments to the dose the irritating side effects usually settle down.

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2.  Retinol: the most popular form

Retinol is a pure form of vitamin A in many skincare products.  You need to look for concentration of at least one per cent in a serum or cream for optimum results.

3.  Retinyl Palmitate: best for overall skin health

Retinyl Palmitate is a combination of retinol and palmitic acid, which is a gentler way of putting vitamin A on your skin and best for overall skin health.  Use a product with retinyl palmitate combined with a nightly retinol serum for long-term and dramatic results.

4.  Retinaldahyde: potent but expensive

This is a potent form of vitamin A, close to retinoid acid but requiring minimal conversion so it causes very little, if any, irritation. Because it’s expensive, it’s not widely used in skincare preparations. Look for formulations packaged in airtight containers with minimal exposure to light and air, to preserve the potency of the formula and don’t be fooled into over-using it as a pea-sized amount used regularly  is more than enough to yield long-term results.


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