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Three Questions on Vitamin A as an Antiaging Cream.

  • When you purchase a cream with Vitamin A and when you check the ingredient list you will not see Vitamin A instead you will see Retinol, Retinaldehyde Retinyl palmitate etc. So what are these ingredients?

They are a synthetic derivative of Vitamin A and are called as Retinoid.
Among Retinoids some are available over the counter which is the main ingredient in the cosmetic creams. But there are other Retinoids which are stronger than this but you cannot purchase it without the doctor’s prescription, is more potent than the retinol-containing products sold without a prescription. But the irritation of skin with dryness and flakiness will be more with these Retinoids than that of retinol. These days there are three prescription-strength Retinoids which are, Tretinoin, Tazarotene, and Adapalene. 

However, the vehicle used for retinol delivery would play a crucial role in eliciting its efficacy, as retinol is extremely unstable and easily gets degraded to biologically inactive forms on exposure to light and air. That means if you want to get the best possible results, only choose those packaged in opaque tubes, air-restrictive bottles, or pumps that help keep their ingredients stable once the product is in use.
Retinol derivatives like Retinyl acetate, Retinyl propionate, and Retinyl palmitate have been widely used in cosmetic products instead of retinol. Retinyl palmitate is about 20 percent less potent than retinol. If your skin is very sensitive, retinyl palmitate may be a better option for you.
For a new patient, it’s better to start with a Retinol and build up slowly to prescription strength. Generally, it takes about 3 to 6 months of daily use to notice a difference. With prescription Retinoids, a patient might notice smoother, more even-toned skin in as early as 6 to 8 weeks.
Retinoids minimize the appearance of wrinkles, improves skin's thickness and elasticity, slow the breakdown of collagen (which helps keep the skin firm), and lighten the brown spots caused by sun exposure.
  • So if this has such good effects why aren’t we orally taking Vitamin A or oral retinoids every day?

Taking more than the recommended daily allowance for several months can cause Vitamin A toxicity, liver damage, blurry vision or other visual changes, swelling of the bones, bone pain etc.
Topical Vitamin A derivatives can cause mild dryness and redness of the skin, because of this side effect there is a myth that retinoids will make the skin thinner which is not true. They typically cause peeling and redness in the first few weeks of use, but they actually thicken the skin.
Just remember to start slowly with the cream, and only apply every third night at first. Then, increase to every other night, then every night once you know your skin can tolerate it. Dryness and flaking are common side effects when starting to use a retinoid, but if you stick with it, you’ll see the skin improvement is well worth it.

  • So are Retinoids Safe?

Yes, But pregnant women should not be using these products because of its side effects. Excess vitamin A consumption during pregnancy is known to cause birth defects that may affect the eyes, skull, lungs, and heart of the baby, even when it is applied on to your skin it will get absorbed in your body and hence not advisable in pregnancy.