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The Science of Skin Care: Retinol

Retinol Skin Care
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Research is constantly teaching us more about healthy skin’s functions on the cellular and sub-cellular levels and pointing us to advanced chemistry to find the solutions to the skin problems caused by aging and UV exposure. Yet, one of the most effective anti-aging compounds entered the skincare scene over 40 years ago: retinol.

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A, which is essential for vision (especially in low light), teeth remineralization (cavity defense), bone growth and skin health—and by skin health we mean diminished wrinkles and fewer acne breakouts.

The Many Forms of Vitamin A

Vitamin A has many derivatives and precursors called retinoids. Plant-based retinoids are precursors to Vitamin A (also called pro-Vitamin A) called carotenoids, pigments responsible for yellow and orange coloring (think carrots). Carotenoids are converted to Vitamin A in the body as needed.

Animal-based retinoids, however, are derivatives of Vitamin A—there’s no conversion to make it Vitamin A; it just exists in different forms, and those forms determine where and how in the body it will function. Two derivatives in particular, retinoic acid (Ret-A) and retinol, are essential to skin health.

Retinoic Acid and Retinol

Retinol is a precursor to Ret-A and is very sensitive to light and oxygen. Because of its chemical instability, Ret-A has been the preferred retinoid for skin care applications for years. The Ret-A molecule is very small and can penetrate all layers of skin. As it does so, it stimulates cell turnover and natural exfoliation, which brings many visible skin benefits:

  • Smoother skin
  • Even skin tone
  • Clearer skin

However, there is too much of a good thing. Ret-A sometimes works too well, causing dryness, irritation, redness and occasionally photosensitivity. For these reasons, Ret-A is only available by prescription.

Retinol Refined

For years, people seeking the benefits of Vitamin A had to deal with the sometimes overly powerful Ret-A or take their chances with a retinol cream or serum that might not deliver on its promises of fewer wrinkles because of the rapid degradation of the retinol molecule. Advances in skin care research, however, are ushering in a new generation of Vitamin-A-infused skin care.

First, recent research has shown that retinol is delivered to your skin topically in an inert form. Your skin cells store it until they need it, and when they do, your skin cells convert retinol into the more potent Ret-A molecule. That means that applying retinol allows your skin to determine when and how much Ret-A it needs for rejuvenation, so the irritating side effects of topically applied Ret-A are eliminated. That makes retinol the ideal compound for OTC skin care applications.

Second, scientists have developed ways to encapsulate each retinol molecule to protect it from degradation by light and oxygen. The polymers that protect each retinol molecule are compromised through the mechanical act of applying the product to your skin and chemically by your skin, freeing the retinol to work naturally with your skin to convert to Ret-A as needed.

Hale Cosmeceuticals also protects Retinol from degradation during the compounding process by using cold water processing.

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