What Is Retinol? 6 Dermatological Benefits

You've probably heard that retinol delays skin aging and eliminates wrinkles. The truth is that its dermatological benefits go beyond that.
What Is Retinol? 6 Dermatological Benefits

Last update: 21 March, 2023

Retinol is an active form of vitamin A with significant benefits for skin health. It is part of a large group of retinoids that, due to its low concentration, is sold without a prescription and is included in many beauty products.

By penetrating the deepest layers of the skin, its impact improves the appearance of the dermis. Hence, this is the main component in many creams and products, especially anti-wrinkle ones. Of course, it’s important not to overdo it if it’s applied directly.

It’s recommended to start with a small amount on the face, the size of a bean, taking care not to apply it to the eyes, eyelids, nose, or mouth. It should be applied at night because sunlight inactivates it and leads to irritation.

The 6 benefits of using retinol

Retinol is part of the retinoids, specifically the first generation, that is, non-aromatic. Palmitated retinol, retinol aldehyde, retinoic acid, sotretinoin (13-cis-retinoic), alitretinoin (9-cis-retinoic), alpha-14-hydroxy-retro-retinol, fenretinide and E-5166 (polyprenoic acid). All of them with positive impacts on dermatology.

1. It stimulates the production of collagen

Collagen I and III fibers provide resistance and strength to the skin. In addition, this protein helps to reduce wrinkles and improve the general appearance.

Because retinol is a lipid molecule with hydrophilic functional groups (OH-), as we already mentioned, it penetrates the deepest layers of the skin to interact with other compounds. There it activates its properties, including stimulating the production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid.

Woman checks her skin for lack of collagen.
Retinol stimulates collagen production, which slows the progression of wrinkles.

2. It promotes anti-aging

There are two types of aging: intrinsic or chronological (a natural process that the body experiences over the years) and premature (due to inadequate sun exposure and other processes that stimulate oxidative stress).

In order to find an anti-aging response, the reaction of natural retinoids has been studied, finding that retinol helps reduce deep and superficial wrinkles. This action would be related to its ability to stimulate collagen.

In addition, the preventive action would come from the concentration of antioxidants, which combat the negative effects that the action of free radicals has on the skin.

3. It reduces spots

Retinol is very effective in managing hyperpigmentation and spots caused by the sun, also known as melasma. This action is due to the fact that it inhibits the production of melanin, thus attenuating and blurring these dark patches that usually appear on the face, neck, chest, and shoulders.

This benefit is also related to its ability to degrade collagen, a highly relevant factor in the fight against various symptoms of photoaging.

4. Retinol balances hydration levels

Retinol is considered a moisturizing active ingredient that, together with the increase in collagen that it stimulates, favors corneal integrity. This is the layer that protects the skin from drying out and some damage caused by the environment or chemical factors.

On the other hand, its exfoliating effect helps to eliminate dead cells that can cause moisture loss. This adds to the moisturizing and fat-balancing action.

5. It reduces acne

Another of the blemishes that can be reduced with the use of retinol is acne. By acting in the deepest layers of the skin, this compound removes dead cells and removes oil from the pores, preventing the formation of pimples and blackheads.

Similarly, studies have shown that retinoids reduce the action of enzymes that influence lipogenesis, blocking the differentiation and cell division of sebocytes, that is, the cells that form sebum.

6. Retinol improves the appearance of scars

Retinol has an important action on scars, not only those produced by acne. In addition, it has been established that it acts in an important way in the initial stage of healing.

At this stage, retinol stimulates the immune system response, epithelization, and collagen production. Actions that not only help to heal, but also improve the appearance of the scar.

Other benefits of retinol

In addition to the benefits listed above, retinol and retinoids have also been found to prevent hyperkeratosis caused by a thickening of the outer layer of the skin, where there’s a higher concentration of keratin. In addition, they are used to:

  • Attenuate stretch marks
  • Treat the alterations of ophthalmological xerosis
  • Influence the improvement of psoriasis
  • Treat chronic hyperkeratotic disorders
Retinol in patients with psoriasis.
Retinol could be a help and support treatment for psoriasis approaches.

Considerations on the use of retinol

Retinol, as an active part of vitamin A, isn’t synthesized in the body, so it must be supplied through the diet or exogenously. As a cosmetic treatment, it’s applied to the skin and in small amounts.

It isn’t a treatment for all skin types. You’ll need to consult a dermatologist before using it, as it may be contraindicated in people with sensitive skin or a history of rosacea, in those who are exposed too much to UV rays, or in pregnant or lactating women.

It’s important to note that the use of retinol can cause some side effects, including irritation, redness, dryness, flaking, and itching.

Other secondary but rare symptoms also include the appearance of acne, eczema, discoloration, swelling, and itching. If these occur, it’s best to discontinue use of the retinol product and consult with your healthcare professional.

Retinol effectiveness

We must know that the action of retinol is not immediate and requires consistency. When it has been prescribed by a professional, it can show greater results and is much faster than when it’s used based on over-the-counter presentations.

Also, some problems can take several months to show improvement. This is why it’s recommended to prevent the appearance of skin disorders with the use of sunscreen.

Este texto se ofrece únicamente con propósitos informativos y no reemplaza la consulta con un profesional. Ante dudas, consulta a tu especialista.