Retinol and tretinoin are both chemical compounds derived from vitamin A. Tretinoin is a pharmaceutical form of retinoic acid available only by prescription. It is frequently prescribed for acne, but also helps improve fine lines, wrinkles, and skin discoloration. Though highly effective, this topical treatment can cause unwanted side effects including redness, peeling, and dryness.1 Topical retinol, on the other hand, is available for purchase without a prescription as an over the counter (OTC) retinol cream. While it functions similarly to tretinoin, research has shown that it is potentially less irritating.2
While it’s true there is no magic bullet when it comes to perfecting skin, one ingredient comes pretty close—retinol. “Prescription Retin-A and Tretinoin and over the counter retinols increase skin cell turnover and stimulate collagen synthesis,” explains Jennifer Chwalek, MD of Union Square Laser Dermatology. “With consistent use of a topical retinol or retin-A you can see improvement of fine lines, dark spots, texture, and tone.” While an OTC retinol (0.5%-2% concentration) isn’t quite as effective or speedy as prescription-strength, it’s less likely to cause irritation, redness, and peeling so better for anyone with sensitive or drier skin. There are also naturally derived retinol alternatives like rose hip seed oil, chicory root oligosaccharides, and tara tree gum, but Chwalek cautions that there are no studies to prove efficacy. Want to add retinol to your routine? Here are the latest options to stock up on.
“Retinol increases collagen production, helping to plump up the skin,” says New York City dermatologist Julie Russak, MD, FAAS. “It also speeds cell turn over, smoothing out your complexion and essentially renewing your skin cells daily.”
Mature collagen in skin undergoes continuous turnover, which is required for optimal connective tissue function. The unique molecular structure of collagen renders it largely resistant to nonspecific proteolytic attack. The matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a group of enzymes responsible for degradation of collagen. The MMPs are members of a large subfamily of proteinases with certain common structural features. The human family of MMPs is composed of at least 16 members who can be classified into 4 different subfamilies: 1) collagenases, 2) gelatinases, 3) stromelysins, and 4) membrane MMPs. The first three can cleave native, undenatured interstitial helical collagens found in the skin within the triple-helical domain. The cleavage site is specific in type I collagen generating three-quarter and one-quarter length fragments. Following this initial unequal split by collagenase, the resultant denatured collagen called gelatin is further degraded by gelatinases and stromelysins (Kang, Fisher, et al 2001).
The Bellafab Skincare Retinol Serum not only contains a high percentage of Retinol, but also hyaluronic acid another effective ingredient for your skin. The company suggests that their product is suitable for all types of skin, including sensitive. Some of the features of Bellafab serum are:
Although you can use any retinol face cream under your eyes, a formula especially made for this delicate area helps prevent sensitivities or reactions. There are retinol eye creams made for use during the day or at night, sensitive skin versions that contain soothing emollients, and time-release formulas that slowly release retinol to help prevent inflammation or redness. Over-the-counter face creams may contain up to 2 percent retinol, the highest percentage permitted by the FDA, although most retinol eye creams contain much less, usually around .5 percent. Look for retinol creams with complementary active ingredients such as caffeine, which constricts blood vessels, reducing puffiness and the appearance of dark circles; hyaluronic acid, which helps moisturize and plump skin, reducing the look of lines and dark circles; and vitamin C, a popular antioxidant that can firm and brighten skin.
Those who have fairly significant issues with wrinkling may want to consider RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum (Est. $20 for 1 oz.). Over time, it can really work to smooth wrinkles in places where they tend to be deeper, such as frown lines, crow’s feet, or where your skin creases as you sleep. It’s very popular with users, who say they saw significant improvement even in deeper wrinkles and creases.
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Han and colleagues (2003) have developed various retinol derivatives to improve the photostability of retinol while retaining its anti-aging activity. They found that N-formyl aspartame derivative of retinol has a good potential (Figure (Figure2)2) to act as anti-aging agent since it exhibited very good photostability. Moreover, it was very well tolerated by human fibroblasts and it suppressed collagenase expression (indication of anti-aging activity) as effectively as retinol. However, elaborate studies are still missing to demonstrate its in vivo efficacy.
Think of this as the equivalent of a power smoothie for your eyes. Free-radical-fighting black-tea extract is blended with the juice of noni fruit, a Japanese super fruit loaded with antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid, which helps the skin retain moisture. A little bit goes a long way since it spreads easily and melts right into skin.
Don’t let the superlow price tag fool you — this stuff fights hard against fine lines. The 0.2 percent formula is a great starting point for retinol newbies, but the brand also offers three higher concentrations if you need a lil extra strength — or if you want to eventually work your way up as your tolerance increases. We’d be remiss not to mention the minimalist-chic packaging, which gives a cool vibe to any medicine cabinet.
Here, we rounded up nine of our favorite retinol eye creams — from cheapie drugstore finds to high-end Sephora favorites. Choose the one that’s best for you, and in no time at all (well, eight to 12 weeks), your eye area will be noticeably younger looking sans redness and irritation — we promise.
There are some skin concerns associated with the ingredient that you should be aware of. “Based on the chemistry of the ingredients, which cause a drying effect of the oil glands, even over the counter retinols can lead to redness and flaking,” explains Dr. Gross. “UV sensitivity is another side-effect that is based on increased uptake of the sun’s rays. The redder the skin, the more the skin absorbs sun’s rays. Skin is already inflamed with baseline sun sensitivity, the sun’s rays can heighten this reaction.”