Many cosmetics classified as “anti-aging” contain the substance retinol. What is retinol?  Retinol is vitamin A. Through food we get it from foods of animal origin (especially dairy products, egg yolk and liver, as well as from the substance beta-carotene found in some vegetables (carrots, cabbage, lettuce). Beta-carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A.

Retinol in cosmetics

Vitamin A is one of the few substances with a molecule small enough to penetrate the outer layer of the skin and affect the repair of the inner layers,  Like the dermis layer – which contains collagen and elastin. Retinol is vitamin A, and by a chemical reaction – which includes oxidation – it is converted in cells into retinoic acid. Skin cells have a special receptor for retinoic acid. When the acid binds to the receptor, the cell is commanded to function normally, as opposed to the function of a damaged cell (from sun damage, for example) or an “old” cell. Cells have a certain ability to carry out this command, which is to function similar to young, healthy cells . Retinol cannot interact with a cell until it is converted to retinoic acid.

Over the years there have been differences of opinion among researchers in relation to questions concerning retinol: how stable is it in cosmetics? Can it turn into retinoic acid after it is absorbed into the skin? How much retinol is required for the retinoic acid to reach the cell? Today we know that retinol can be stabilized in cosmetics, in such a way that it brings about a visible renewal in the appearance of the skin and delays the appearance of signs of age. At the same time, effective preparations containing retinol have been developed that give good results.

Today it is clear that retinol is a powerful anti-aging agent: it helps create healthy skin cells, youthful in shape and function. It increases the amount of molecules that support the skin and give it moisture (collagen, hyaluronic acid, glycosaminoglycans) and in addition to these it is also a good antioxidant. Retinol causes an acceleration in the rate of skin cell turnover – it encourages peeling and shedding of dead skin cells and allows healthy and fresh skin cells to appear. The treated skin looks smooth, the pores are smaller and less prominent. There is also an improvement in fine wrinkles and spots.  The accelerated turnover of cells also specifically helps in the treatment of acne. Exfoliating the skin opens pores, and helps improve acne scars. Retinol also balances the rate of sebum secretion.

An effective product will always contain more than retinol. A combination of additional substances that complement the restoration of the skin and optimize it is necessary, such as: alpha and beta hydroxy acids (which help exfoliate dead and sun-damaged skin cells), antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and ingredients that restore the stratum corneum.

In cosmetics we sometimes find the derivative of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate. This is a more stable version, however, because the skin has to continue to break down the retinyl palmitate further, higher concentrations are required to provide the benefits of the vitamin..

Skip to content