Retinoids are a class of bioactive compounds, which derive from Vitamin A both naturally (first generation retinoids) and synthetically (second to fourth generation retinoids).
They have been used for over 30 years and were first and mainly used against acne. This is because:
- Retinoids showed significant anti-inflammatory effect
- They normalize abnormal growth and desquamation of the keratinocytes (the main type of cells of which the skin is made up of)
- They reverse the thickening of the stratum corneum (the external layer of the skin, made up by dead keratinocytes)
- They reverse and reduce comedogenesis (the clogging of pores through blackhead formation).
Patients started to report, besides the improvement of acne, many anecdotal positive effects such as feeling a smoother and less wrinkled skin.
Subsequently some clinical trials were set up to investigate these claims and demonstrated that retinoids topical application leads to a reduction of fine lines and coarse wrinkles, better skin texture, reduction of roughness and pigmentation with an overall better complexion and improvement of global appearance.
Furthermore, it was demonstrated that this class of compounds acts by directly influencing the metabolism of the skin to a cellular level (to make it simple they enter the skin cell and activate and regulate genes and gene expression).
- First generation retinoids include Retinol, Retinaldehyde, Tretinoin, Isotretinoin and Alitretinoin.
- Second generation retinoids include Etretinate and Acitretin.
- Third generation retinoids include Adapalene, Tazarotene and Arotinoid
- Fourth generation retinoid include Seletinoid G
They are available both as prescription formulas and as OTC creams or even marketed as cosmetics. The difference is in the concentration of the active ingredient, but even OTC and cosmetics yield great results.
Stronger concentration does not mean it will be better: some people, especially those with a sensitive skin, hardly tolerate high concentration retinoid creams as they can cause excess redness, irritation, dryness and flaking. Start slowly by using it every third night for a start and if you do not experience any bad effect go for every other night. After a couple of weeks if still no irritation arises, you can go for it every night.
First improvements can be seen after just one month of application, by experiencing a smoother skin. After 2-4 months you should see a better complexion with a lighter skin and progress against hyperpigmentation. After 4 months the lines and wrinkles should look better too.
Moreover, after 6-9 months you can reduce the frequency of the application to three times a week as studies showed it will not compromise the efficacy of the product.
Vitamin A and its derivates belong to the anti-aging substances whose clinical efficacy has been scientifically well studied and proven; there is no doubt it will yield results both for prevention and for the treatment of the already photo-damaged skin, so give it a try!
Last update: 18/05/2018