Name for the entire vitamin A molecule. Retinol has value for skin on several fronts: It’s a cell-communicating ingredient and an antioxidant. Skin cells have a receptor site that’s very accepting of retinoic acid, which is a component of retinol. This relationship between retinoic acid and skin cells allows for a type of communication in which the cell is told to function normally (that is, not like a damaged or older cell), and it can, to some extent, conform to that request. That’s one of the reasons retinol is an exciting anti-aging ingredient. Retinol cannot communicate with a cell until the retinol is broken down into retinoic acid. [1,2,3]
Retinol helps skin cells create better, healthier skin cells, provides antioxidant support, and increases the amount of substances that enhance skin’s structural elements. Packaging is still a key issue, so any container that lets in air (like jar packaging) or sunlight (clear containers) just won’t cut it, which applies to most state-of-the-art skincare ingredients. Lots of retinol products come in unacceptable packaging; these should be avoided because the retinol will most likely be (or quickly become) ineffective. [1,2,3]
Many consumers are concerned about the percentage of retinol in anti-aging products such as serums or moisturizers. Although the percentage can make a difference (especially if it’s too low), it is not helpful in understanding how a retinol product will benefit your skin. Far more important is the delivery system, packaging, and the other ingredients present with the retinol. Using a product with a range of anti-aging ingredients plus retinol is far more valuable for skin than using a product with only a supposedly high percentage of retinol. Skin is the largest organ of the body and needs far more than any one ingredient can provide. It doesn’t make sense to fixate on the percentage of retinol when so many other elements are also important. [1,2,3]
Because retinol is one of the ingredients known to help improve skin structure, it has some value in anti-cellulite products. Of all the ingredients to look for in a cellulite product, this should be at the top of the list. However, most cellulite products contain only teeny amounts of retinol (at best) and they are often in packaging that won’t keep this air-sensitive ingredient stable.
- Rossetti D, Kielmanowicz M, Vigodman S, Hu Y, Chen N, Nkengne AOT, Fischer D, Seiberg M, Lin C. A novel anti-ageing mechanism for retinol: induction of dermal elastin synthesis and elastin fibre formation. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2011;33(1):62-9.
- Ganceviciene R, Liakou A, Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E ZC. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):308-319.
- Baumann L. Skin ageing and its treatment. J Pathol. 2007;211(2):241-51.