Retinol: what it is, how it is used, benefits and precautions

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The chemical structure of retinol was discovered in 1931, and more than a decade later, in 1947, it was synthesized in a laboratory.

More than 60 years have passed since this breakthrough and it was never thought that retinol would be as in demand in the cosmetic field as it is now, but the truth is that it is now present in most anti-aging creams and other beauty treatments

With this article you will learn more about how retinol works, its benefits and the precautions to consider when using it

retinol formula

What is retinol?

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, which helps in cell regeneration. It is one of the most potent anti-aging molecules known along with other retinoids such as retinal and retinoic acid

Retinol is considered to be the cosmetic for skin application with the highest number of medical and scientific studies. This research supports its results in promoting exfoliation, renewing the epidermis, stimulating the synthesis of collagen and elastin and homogenizing the skin

As the body finds it more difficult to carry out cell regeneration over time, retinol has become an indispensable ingredient in anti-aging beauty treatments.

How does retinol work?

It has the incredible potential to stimulate the natural production of collagen and hyaluronic acid, something that diminishes over the years, leading to the appearance of the dreaded wrinkles, as well as blemishes and other symptoms of photoaging.

By providing the skin with retinol, it helps to counteract the signs of aging. Its power lies in its penetration capacity, because it manages to reach the deepest layers of the dermis, thus achieving cell renewal from the inside.

Properties of retinol

  • Promotes collagen synthesis.
  • Smoothes skin texture and wrinkles.
  • Increases skin hydration.
  • Helps cell renewal.
  • Has antioxidant effect.
  • Has the ability to tighten pores.
  • Regulates oil production.

Benefits of retinol

Since retinol can penetrate the first layer of skin and reach the dermis, where new skin is synthesized, it is able to enter the cell and, once there, it is transformed into trans-retinoic acid, binding to its receptors to stimulate skin regeneration.

This action results in renewed skin, capable of retaining more water and better organized cells. Retinol is an excellent anti-aging agent, allowing wrinkles to fade, skin firmness and elasticity to be restored and blemishes to fade.

Numerous studies on human skin have shown that retinol is able to:

  • Stimulate skin cell renewal.
  • Increase the density of the blood vessel network.
  • Promote the synthesis of collagen, fibronectin and elastin, proteins responsible for providing structure and support to skin cells.
  • Inhibit the synthesis of metalloproteases, enzymes related to collagen degradation.
  • Regulating the expression of the pigment melanin.
  • Control the production of fats.
  • Contribute to the elimination of dead cells and the reduction of pore size.
  • Treat acne

How to use retinol?

Retinol is used as a cosmetic treatment to treat problems such as acne, clogged pores, hyperpigmentation, photoaging, blemishes, melasma and keratosis.

Depending on the concentration of this vitamin in the cosmetic in question, a medical prescription from a dermatologist or the advice of a pharmacist may be required

It isadvisable to gradually accustom the skin to the use of retinol, starting with cosmetics with low concentrations. Often low concentrations are more than enough to achieve the desired anti-aging effect, in addition to minimizing the possibility of irritation

Although thanks to liposomal molecules through nanotechnology it is now possible to use cosmetic products with retinoids in summer, sunscreen should be used.

How do you know which concentration of retinol to use?

The concentration of the active ingredient is the key when choosing cosmetic products containing this vitamin

Multiple studies have shown that low concentrations such as 0.01% can be very effective. A percentage of around 0.5% is considered average and results are usually obtained more quickly.

There are products on the market that reach 1%, but although they attack wrinkles quickly, they can also affect the skin.

It is also advisable that, as the concentration is increased, the application time should be diluted. This means, start its administration once a week and intersperse the days progressively if the skin tolerates it.

In addition to the concentration, it is important to determine the other ingredients in the product. In this way, a low concentration of retinol can be compensated with other antioxidants such as vitamin C, green tea or grape seed.

It should be noted that the maximum concentration allowed in Europe is 0.3%.

Precautions when using retinol

In view of the fact that it can be irritating, a number of precautions should be taken when using cosmetics containing retinol:

  • Start with low concentrations. Start with cosmetics with the lowest dosage and then gradually increase it, according to the advice of esthetics professionals and skin tolerance.
  • Be cautious with the interaction between the products used. When products with irritating properties such as retinol, alpha hydroxy acids, physical exfoliants and cosmetics with sensitizing perfumes are combined, they may cause skin irritation.
  • Use moisturizer with sunscreen during the day. As retinol makes the skin more sensitive to the sun, it is vital to combine the use of retinol at night with sun protection during the day. As it is a photosensitive compound, it is recommended to use it at night to avoid sun exposure.
  • It is not indicated for pregnant or breastfeeding women. This is because this substance can penetrate through the skin and reach the fetus.

In the interest of preserving beauty and prolonging youth, people all over the world see retinol as a perfect ally.

Amparo Miralles Lobato
Amparo Miralles Lobato
M.D. from Stanford Medicine, M.D. from the University of Cambridge. Ph.D. from The University of Warwick. Committed to Human Health. ISI: 0000000503892961

Aunque pueda contener afirmaciones, datos o apuntes procedentes de instituciones o profesionales sanitarios y la información contenida en PharmaSalud esté redactada por profesionales en medicina, recomendamos al lector que cualquier duda relacionada con la salud sea consultada con un profesional del ámbito sanitario.

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