• 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.