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Vitamin A itself does not have a direct effect on skin, but is only effective after specialized enzymes in the skin cells convert Vitamin A into retinoic acid (tretinoin). Retinoic acid facilitates communication between cells, encouraging aging cells to continue their renewal process, and regenerate collagen and elastin to prevent the appearance of aging skin, wrinkles and fine lines. It is also effective at producing new, healthy skin cells to replace skin previously damaged by acne. However, retinol cannot communicate with a cell until it has been broken down into Retinoic Acid. Once this breakdown has occurred, communication begins and the cells’ turnover rate increases, increasing the production of collagen at a higher rate.
Arcona Vitamin A Complex Repair ($68 in the shop). Arcona has reformulated its retinol serum, streamlining it to an unadulterated dose of the key actives. There is retinol, a vitamin A derivative that exfoliates the skin and helps to diminish wrinkles, plus retinyl palmitate, which is easily absorbed by the skin and once it is there is converted into Retinol. Retinyl palmitate is gentler for sensitive skins than retinol, making this a good combination. The exfoliating force of these retinoids is given a further boost by glycolic acid. Fructooligosaccharides is a favorite ingredient of Arcona and it helps build collagen and retain moisture. Glucosamine HCI assists in maintaining the elasticity and integrity of the connective tissue and is an anti-inflammatory.
BRAD Biophotonic Ultra Elastin Lift ($210 in the shop). If you want retinol as part of a comprehensive anti-aging serum, then look no further than this high-quality multitasker. BRAD believes in keeping beauty routines simple and this complex formula does it all. Ultra Elastin Lift firms the skin while improving skin tone. Retinyl palmitate gives a boost to glycolic acid and lactic acid. Borage and flax will tone down redness and a ton of hydrating ingredients counteract dryness, such as avocado, sodium hyaluronate, cocoa butter and tamanu. Read the full review.
Osmosis Correct ($46). An excellent and effective product that fades wrinkles and smooths the skin whilst being relatively gentle. The secret is that niacinamide backs up the action of trans retinal. Plus there are anti-aging heavy hitters such as copper peptides and epidermal growth factor that repair wrinkles, as well as R-Lipoic acid. A great product at any price and very good value at less than 50 bucks. Read the full review.
Skinfinite Platinum PM Cream 1% Retinol ($63 in the shop). Truth In Aging reviewer, Mark, said: “I didn’t experience any redness, irritation or flaking (as I did initially with retin-A, even with cautious use) and I do attribute that to gradual use, and most likely the improvement in the delivery system of the product. It left my skin smooth and even toned. Interestingly, instead of drying my skin out, it actually hydrated it thanks to several moisturizing ingredients such as shea butter, almond oil, beta-glucan (D), and ceramide-2.” Skinfinite says its retinol is entrapped in molecular microsponges that enhances skin penetration in a time-release delivery system. Another reviewer, found it too strong to use more than once a week. Read the full review.
Prana Reverse A ($48 in the shop). An excellent retinol that does a great job of bringing down sun-damaged skin. If you have stubborn areas of aging skin or hyperpigmentation and want a relatively effective over-the-counter retinal, then Prana Reverse A is worth trying out. Reverse A gets my vote for its natural ingredients and slew of anti-agers. Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant and produces energy in cells and I especially like l-Carnosine, which flushes toxins from the body and may extend the Hayflick Limit (the number of times cells reproduce themselves). NaPCA crops up in a few of Prana’s products and sounds a little like hyaluronic acid (which is also here) in that it Na-PCA it pulls water out of the air to moisturize the skin. With botanical sage, horsetail and chamomile, Reverse A also has calming effects and may help with broken capillaries. The vitamin A is rounded out with Vitamin B5, E and C. Read the full review.
Don't overdo any retinol cream. Although it has many proven benefits, the Cosmetics Database rates retinol as a moderate hazard ingredient. It warns of potential side effects including cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, violations, restrictions and warnings, cellular level changes, and organ system toxicity. Retinol has been shown to produces excess reactive oxygen species that can interfere with cellular signaling, cause mutations, and lead to cell death. See our article Tretinoin and retinoids - toxicity and safety