We bow to the Retinoid Royal Family of Skincare, but what is the hierarchy and which family member deserves our adulation most? Retinol, retinoids, retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate are known to be super-effective topically applied anti-ageing ingredients, but this family can be confusing for anyone seeking the best non-prescription retinol product to incorporate into their daily skincare routine. Read on if you seek clarification!
First things first. Retinol is the pure form of Vitamin A. As a skincare ingredient, Retinol is converted via multi-step biochemical processes to Retinoic Acid, and Retinoic Acid is the end-product which the skin uses to anti-age itself. Retinoic acid is an excellent cell-communicating ingredient. It has the ability to connect to almost any skin cell receptor site and tell it to behave like a healthy, younger skin cell. It also functions like an antioxidant that can interrupt the free-radical damage process that causes wrinkling and other signs of ageing. Retinoic Acid has also been shown to increase collagen production and help fade discolorations from sun damage.
So, so far, we have established that Retinoic Acid is the King of the Family. But, most over the counter Retinol products contain Vitamin A derivatives in ester forms – such as retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate and retinyl linoleate. These ester derivatives have to go through many conversions at cellular level before they become the King. The more conversions required, the weaker and slower acting the end active will be, and this is why people with pressing skin concerns seek to obtain prescription-based retinoids which contain higher concentrations of retinoic acid.
To clarify. Retinol is the chemical name for Vitamin A. It requires a number of conversions to become the King. Retinoids are a few steps closer to being crowned and are thus stronger and faster in terms of retinoic acid delivery to the skin.
What is the best non-prescription form of Retinol? Biochemically, retinols and retinoids do exactly the same thing, just at different speeds and with different end concentrations. Also, direct acting retinoids can cause skin irritation and side effects if not managed correctly. Retinol derivatives found in over-the-counter skincare formulations were developed partly to overcome sensitivity issues whilst at the same time imparting some level of anti-ageing effect.
So do you see the problem? We all want retinol and its anti-ageing powers in our skincare routine. But we want it to be as effective as retinoic acid without the side-effects! We want it all. The good news is that there is a new member of the retinoid family – let’s call her the Queen – who is similarly as active as retinoic acid but without the irritation. She is gentle but strong and her name is Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR). HPR binds directly to the retinoid receptors on skin cells, initiating the desired responses without the requirement of multi-step conversions. HPR is an ingredient to look out for if you want an effective retinoic acid product without the irritation and side effects. Please also be mindful of other ingredients present – a mix of other beneficial ingredients in combination with retinol will give the best results for the skin. And remember – all forms of retinol deteriorate when exposed to air and light, so make sure you only buy retinol products packaged in airtight, opaque containers. Avoid screwtops!