Retinol versus Retin A

Why use Retinol rather than Retin A topically?

Over 20 years ago Kligman and Voorhees showed that retinoic acid (Retin A, a deriviative of vitamin A) topically applied to skin produced stimulation of both the epidermis and dermal collagen. As a result, the use of topical Retin A became the “gold standard” in skin care.

Initially, Retin A applied topically was not user friendly. Many people experienced a red rash (hypervitaminosis A), which subsequently discouraged patient continuation. In an effort to minimize the initial rash, the concentration was reduced and alternate forms (retinol) were tried.

When retinol is absorbed into the skin, it is converted to retin A. But it takes 20 times the concentration of retinol to reach the necessary concentration of Retin A to be effective. Retinol wasn’t strong enough to achieve clinical benefit.

Recent advances in carrier vehicles (liposomes) have allowed the delivery of increased concentrations of retinol into the skin. As a result, the same effect of topical Retin A can now be achieved without the bothersome rash.

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