• Dr. Diana Howard on the Benefits of Retinol

    Dr. Diana HowardI am forever asked what I think is the best ingredient for fighting the signs of aging skin. With so many high-tech ingredients such as peptides and the many vitamins available to the cosmetic formulator, I have to say the one ingredient that comes to mind with the most scientific evidence in support of its efficacy is indeed pure vitamin A. Known as the normalizing vitamin, it is a real work-horse when it comes to reversing the signs of aging in skin. Vitamin A, more accurately called Retinol, has been shown to reverse the signs of natural or chronological aging (intrinsic) and environmentally induced (extrinsic) photoaging.

    According to Dr. Voorhees and his research team at the University of Michigan, lotions containing Retinol were demonstrated to improve the appearance of skin that had wrinkled through the normal aging process, not just skin that has been damaged by exposure to the sun. Researchers tested lotions containing retinol on the skin of elderly patients. Lotion containing 0.4% Retinol was used on one arm of each participant, while a lotion without Retinol was applied to the other arm. Wrinkles, roughness and overall aging were all significantly reduced in the Retinol-treated arm compared with the control arm, according to the study, which appears in the Archives of Dermatology.

    The scientists are quick to note that the production of collagen, due to the Retinol treatment, not only improves the skin’s appearance, but is an important means of protecting skin as it becomes more fragile with age. The study showed that the reduction of wrinkles was due to increased collagen production (that strengthens the skin) and a significant induction of glycosaminoglycans, which are known to retain large quantities of water keeping tissues well hydrated and supple.

    This research serves as an important step forward in the understanding of how aging skin can be improved, researchers say. In the past, everyone believed that retinoids would treat only photoaging, or damage from exposure to sun. These latest findings show that “it improves any kind of aging – photoaging as well as natural aging,” says co-author John J. Voorhees, M.D., chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School. “You can rub it anywhere, and it will help to treat the signs of aging.” So while we may all be thinking only in terms of our appearance, these findings are significant for maintaining the health of an aging global population. Call me vain but I’m off to find my Retinol.

  • A New Generation of Retinoids

    While it is common knowledge today that Retinoids, including Retinol (pure Vitamin A), Retinyl Palmitate and Retinoic Acid, are amongst the most powerful topically applied ingredients to address the signs of aging, perhaps less known is the fact that of all the Retinoids only Retinoic Acid, has a direct biological effect on the skin. One certainly has the option of applying Retinoic Acid to the skin; however, it is only available as a prescription drug cream in most parts of the world. In fact, Retinoic Acid (Tretinoin) is the active ingredient in Retin-A TM (TM Ortho Dermatological) and Renova,TM (TM Ortho Dermatological) two of the best-known prescription anti-wrinkle/anti-acne creams. Unfortunately, topical Retinoic Acid often causes skin irritation including excessive peeling, redness and photosensitivity which limits its use.

    If Retinoic Acid is the only biologically active form of Retinoid that has a direct effect on the skin, why is it that the cosmetic companies still use Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate to fight aging? Fortunately for us, our skin has naturally occurring enzymes that convert Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate into the active form, Retinoic Acid. While it may take two and three steps to convert Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate to Retinoic Acid, they can deliver the well-established skin benefits of Retinoic Acid while producing fewer side effects.

    At The International Dermal Institute we have discovered a new patented molecule, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (abbreviated HPR), that is an ester of Retinoic Acid and works similar to Tretinoin (Retin–A) but without the irritation. Unlike Retinoic Acid, results of the standard RIPT (Repeat Insult Patch Test) skin irritation test showed no irritation after 21 days of continual use. And because it is not a drug it can be used in cosmetic products. Results of a two week study showed that a 0.1% concentration of HPR applied topically gave a 50% improvement in skin roughness and a 40% improvement in skin surface scaling, an indicator of dryness. No irritation was evident in any of the test subjects. And unlike Retinol and other derivatives that must be converted to the biologically active form of Retinoic Acid, HPR binds directly with Retinoid receptors to initiate a response (i.e. cell proliferation and differentiation) in the skin. Think of receptor binding as turning on or off a light switch. When the Retinoic Acid binds to the receptor the light switch turns on, initiating a cellular response. By the same token, HPR is also capable of turning on the light switch, whereas, Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate must first be converted to Retinoic Acid.

    Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate represents a new generation of Retinoids that will no doubt be continually researched for their positive impact on the skin especially in addressing skin aging.

    For more information on the research behind Retinol, refer to this blog entry: