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Vitamin A Derivatives That Improve Skin Texture, Tone, and Color

As is the case with many of the best discoveries, the use of vitamin A as a wrinkle control agent happened largely by accident. It all began in the laboratories of Dr. Albert Kligman in the 1960’s when the controversial dermatologist began to experiment on prisoners with a vitamin A derivative called tretinoin as an acne treatment. Imagine the delight of the incarcerated men to discover not only the disappearance of their acne, but a noticeable decrease in wrinkles and smoother skin tones!

Woman applying vitamin A on her skin

Vitamin A and its derivatives have often been referred to as the “gold standard of skin care,” a paragon of excellence against which all other skin care products can be measured. If you are thinking of incorporating some vitamin A into your routine, here are some things you may want to know.

Retinoids
Retinoids are also known as the generic term for tretinoin, retin-A, or differin, and are available only by prescription. They are absorbed directly into the skin cells which makes them highly effective against hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and acne.

The downside of this miracle cream is its likelihood to cause skin irritation. Retinoids are often associated with redness and peeling and require adjustment to the dosage to combat these side effects. The key with these products is keeping the applied amount to a minimum. A pea-sized amount should be enough for the whole face, and a larger quantity is unnecessary.

Retinol
Retinol is vitamin A in its pure form and is an over the counter alternative to harsher retinoids. While the conversion to retinoic acid will decrease the potency of the retinol, it should still be effective enough to bring noticeable results. Although retinol may trigger minor irritation, side effects should generally subside over time as the skin grows more accustomed to the treatment.

Retinyl Palmitate
This combination of retinol and palmitic acid is one of the less effective vitamin A derivatives. While it does convert to retinoic acid, the process often takes so long that by the time it is completed, the product has lost most of its ability to affect the DNA of the cell. As a result, you would need a very high concentration of retinal palmitate to have significant effect, and most cosmetic companies who use it as a source of vitamin A usually do not put enough of it in their serums and creams to make a difference.
The bottom line: If retinyl palmitate is not combined with other vitamin A derivatives, it is almost useless.

Retinaldehyde
Retinaldehyde is a potent over the counter form of vitamin A which is commonly perceived to be the closest to retinoic acid without the irritating side effects. However, it is important to take note of content in your product. In order to be effective, a retinaldehyde concentration of 0.05% to 0.1% needs to be present. This is the equivalent of a 0.025 tretinoin. The biggest side effect of retinaldehyde will be the lightening of your purse. Most skin care products containing substantial amounts of the ingredient will be on the high-end side in price, so be prepared to pay for quality.

Other Advice
Be aware that vitamin A is not stable and tends to lose potency when it interacts with sunlight. Creams and serums are therefore best applied at night. Do not use a cleanser with retinoids, as the retinoids depend on contact with skin to achieve full benefit and should not be washed away. When purchasing retinoids, look for packaging that minimizes exposure to air and light which can affect the stability of the vitamin.

Let us know your choice when it comes to choosing Vitamin A derivatives. Which ones work best for you?