We have all heard something or two about the benefits of vitamin A. Deficiency in vitamin A in our diet can cause problems like skin dryness, night blindness and even fertility issues. When it is used topically, it can reap heaps of benefits for the skin, such as regenerating new skin cells, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, boosting collagen production, minimising pigmentation and acne.
To begin with, we need to know that there are three levels of retinoids: pure retinoic acid, which is the strongest and prescription-only; retinol, which is sold over the counter and is weaker and less irritating than the pure stuff; and retinol derivatives, which are also sold over the counter and are more gentle than retinol.
Vitamin A alcohol or all-trans retinol belongs to the family of endogenous natural retinoids and is a precursor for synthesis of endogenous retinal and retinoic acid. When applied to human skin, it penetrates and is sequentially oxidized to retinoic acid, causing retinoic acid–like effects. However, compared with retinoic acid, retinol causes less irritation to the skin. It has been used in cosmetic products since 1984 and there are numerous evidence that shows that it induces epidermal thickening, collagen synthesis hence reducing wrinkles/folds. (Siddharth M. et al.)
Note* It is important to avoid exposing retinol to sunlight and air as it is extremely unstable and easily gets degraded to biologically inactive forms.