Vitamin A Derivatives – A Guide

Not all Vitamin A derivatives are created equal!!

Any skin care company promising to stamp out wrinkles, eliminate brown spots or pigmentation or even clear up acne, will (or should) have some form of Vitamin A contained within the regimen.
Choosing the right vitamin A derivative for your skin can be confusing as not all vitamin A derivatives for the skin are created equal. There’s a variety to choose from and skin care companies don’t always choose the most effective.

Where it all began.
It was the first of all the vitamins to be named, hence the very creative title of Vitamin A. The derivatives of vitamin A are known as retinoids (found in animal-based foods) and Carotenoids (found in plant-based foods). Vitamin A is essential for the health of, not just your skin (an important element of the production of enzymes that build your collagen), but also your vision, your immunity and is an important antioxidant.

Vitamin A does not discriminate.
Regardless of the skin issues or concerns you have, Vitamin A has a place in your skin care regimen. Acne, wrinkles, brown spots and hyper-pigmentation, can all be treated and with exceptional results. In fact, this clever nutrient can communicate with damaged cells to function normally again. This is often referred to as DNA repair.
Your skin will have far better cell turnover and your youth enzymes essential collagen synthesis will be switched on.
But, despite all this good news, choosing the best formulation can become a little tricky.

How do they work?
When it comes to Vitamin A derivatives there is a conversion that must take place if your skin cells are to accept Vitamin A into the cell. Once inside the cell, the retinoic acid will do what it is intended to do, repair the cell structure.

Vitamin A Derivatives.
With all this in mind, an effective anti-aging skincare product will contain some form of Vitamin A and there are a variety of derivatives that can be used and they are the esters such as retinyl palmitate or acetate, the alcohol form known as retinol and retinaldehyde. They differ in their strength and effectiveness but also in the way they are converted into Retinoic Acid which is the only form of Vitamin A your body recognizes and accepts into your cells via cell receptors. When this happens successfully all is well with the world. Happy skin cells!!

What to look for?
Retinoids – Also known as the generic term of tretinoin or by brand names such as Retin-A or Differin and only available with a medical prescription. When applied topically it’s accepted directly into the skin cell without any conversion, which makes it a highly effective ingredient for the treatment of lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and acne.

The downside = It can be SUPER IRRITATING to the skin. Redness, irritation, and peeling of the skin are often experienced. With time and adjustments to the dose, this usually settles down, but you will need to exercise caution and you must wear sunscreen.

When it comes to retinoids like tretinoin it could be said that many consider the following to be true: If a little is good, more must be better. Right? No, not really, a pea size amount for the whole face is all you need. If the skin continues to be irritated then you really should consider taking a break or switching to a less irritating form of Vitamin A.
Retinol – A form of vitamin A available over the counter. Many cosmeceutical skin care companies will opt for the use of retinol. The conversion to retinoic acid is a 2 step process which inhibits the effectiveness, but still packs enough of a punch although there may be some mild irritation initially, this usually subsides over time.

Retinyl Palmitate – A Vitamin A esterwhich although converts to retinoic acid, the path is long and by the time it has converted has lost much of its ability to make any difference to the DNA of the cell. You need a HIGH concentration of retinyl palmitate for it to be significantly effective and most skin care brands who use retinyl palmitate as their sole source of vitamin A RARELY PUT ENOUGH in the cream or serum.

It’s not enough to add a SPRINKLING of a derivative just so it can be ADDED to the ingredient list and MARKETED as an anti-aging solution!! Unless retinyl palmitate is combined with other derivatives of vitamin A, then just adding it to the list of ingredients is inadequate if it appears so far down the list as to render it almost useless.

Retinaldehyde – This is an important and potent form of Vitamin A as it requires minimal conversion and causes very little if any irritation to the skin. In fact, as you can see by the diagram above, it only requires a one-step conversion and is seen by many as the closest to retinoic acid without all the irritating side effects or need for a prescription.
But again, you will need to take note of where it appears in the ingredient list. For retinaldehyde to be effective it needs to be in a concentration of 0.05% to 0.1 %.
Unfortunately, retinaldehyde is an expensive ingredient so you’ll probably find most skin care formulations will be on the high-end in price (unless they’ve only included the tiniest amount) in which case it wouldn’t be as effective and could be a waste of money.

There is NO benefit to a cleanser with retinoids. To achieve the full benefit, and because of the protective properties retinoids provide, they need to remain on your skin, not washed away.
Look for packaging that protects the stability of the ingredients where there is minimal exposure to air and light.

Getting advice.
The place to start is with your skin care professional or esthetician who can recommend the best option for you. Sure, you could skip this and head to your local store or Sephora, but, it’s doubtful you’ll find any brand with enough of what you need to do anything more than (at best) provide you with antioxidant protection.

Staying out of the sun.
As with any skin care regimen where the goal is to minimize and fight the signs of aging, once retinoids are included in your routine you really should be considering a well-formulated Sunblock! No point going to all this effort just to ruin it with more sun damage. Right?

So that’s it for now. If vitamin A is not in your skin care routine then I highly recommend commencing soon, no matter what age, in fact when it comes to skin health and the prevention of dysfunctions like lines, wrinkles and pigmentation, and aging skin -the sooner the better.

Contact us if you need any additional help with your Vitamin A Skin Care Products.

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