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What is Retinol?

Retinol is the whole vitamin A molecule, which can be broken down into thousands of smaller components, including “retinoic acid” (also called tretinoin, the active ingredient in Renova and Retin-A). Essentially retinol is just a fancy name for vitamin A; however, it is perhaps the most important vitamin for the appearance of the skin. It belongs to the family of chemical compounds known as retinoids and is one of the few substances with a small enough molecular structure to penetrate the outer layers of the skin and work to repair the lower layers where collagen and elastin reside. Retinol is vitamin A in its purest and most active form. It penetrates deep into the skin, where it becomes fully operative. Wrinkles and lines are gradually smoothed, moisture and elasticity increase, the complexion glows and damage is diminished.

The skin cells have a receptor site that is very accepting of retinoic acid. This relationship between retinoic acid and skin cells allows a type of communication in which the cell is encouraged to function normally and continue regular cell renewal— as opposed to the often misshapen and altered cells associated with the natural aging process. However, retinol cannot communicate with a cell until it has been broken down into retinoic acid. Over the past couple of years, new, even more stable forms of retinol have been formulated, along with solid studies regarding their efficacy.

It now seems clears that retinol is a beneficial cell-communicating ingredient, as well as an antioxidant. In other words, it assists in creating stronger, healthier skin cells and increases the amount of skin-support substances.

To some degree, retinol has also been used in the management of acne and keratosis pilaris in topical creams. The increased skin exfoliation of vitamin A helps unclog pores. Retinol has also been shown to stimulate new collagen production, which is critical in the battle against aging. Thus it has become clear that retinol is a vital component of high quality skincare products, providing visible, long-lasting results.