Retinol is pure and active Vitamin A. Another well known, synthetic form of Vitamin A is tretinoin, better known as Retin-A®. Vitamin A is one of the few substances with a small enough molecular structure to penetrate the outer layers of the skin and work to repair the lower layers of the skin where collagen and elastin reside. This allows it to repair and stimulate collagen and elastin, creating firmer, smoother skin. This is a good alternative for those with sensitive skin who cannot tolerate tretinoin.
Derivatives of vitamin A, such as tretinoin and retinol, work to increase cell turnover and exfoliation by stimulating cell production underneath the skin. This process slows down with age, allowing layers of dead, thick, sun damaged skin cells to remain on the surface. As a result - skin looks dull and thick, pores look large and sun-related damage such as age spots and blotchiness appear.
The acceleration of cell turnover caused by the use of retinol or tretinoin will encourage the exfoliation of these dead skin cells and allow healthier cells to appear. Skin will appear smoother, softer; pores will appear smaller and less noticeable; and signs of aging will start to diminish.
Studies have also found that this cell rejuvenation produces healthier, plumper skin cells. As we age, skin cells start to become slightly misshapen and altered in appearance. The new skin cells stimulated by use of vitamin A start to more closely resemble the younger, healthier skin cells of our youth. Use of vitamin A has also been shown to stimulate new collagen production.
The increased cell turnover caused by vitamin A has also been shown to be particularly helpful on acne patients. The skin exfoliation unclogs pores and helps fade acne scars.
Another form of retinol is retinyl palmitate. Retinyl palmitate is a more stable version of retinol, however, because the skin has to further break down retinyl palmitate, much higher concentrations are required to provide the similar benefits. When choosing between the two, it is better to go with the formula containing retinol rather than retinyl palmitate.