Osmosis Beauty Blog

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Understanding Vitamin A

Posted by JoElla Milan on November 29, 2008

UNDERSTANDING VITAMIN A   Excerp from Dr. Ben Johnson

 There is no more important skin ingredient than Vitamin A. The body stores Beta Carotene and Vitamin A (aka Retinol) in the skin for activation whenever it needs to repair itself (which ends up being 24hrs/day). It converts Retinol to Retinaldehyde, which has some activity, and then it converts Retinaldehyde to Retinoic Acid (aka Retin A). Looking at this process, you would naturally think that Retin A is the answer since that is the most active of the group and has the majority of receptors in the skin. The reason that is not true is because retinoic acid requires very careful regulation. The skin has no ability to store retinoic acid so whatever is produced (or applied topically) is utilized. Unfortunately, like many processes in the body, when receptors are over-stimulated, they do not work as well. In the case of Retin A, the irritation resulting from over-stimulation reduces its effectiveness and the downregulation of receptors makes it less active over time. Retinol, on the contrary, can be stored in the skin. It is 1/500th as active as Retin A and has little independent activity outside of what is converted to Retin A by the skin (which is a very small amount). To achieve an adequate response, approximately 5% is needed topically every day. Retinaldehyde is the immediate precursor to Retin A and has been proven to have similar activity in the skin to Retin A. The big advantage is that the skin can store whatever is not converted, thus reducing irritation and maximizing effectiveness with long-term use. Maximum stimulation of collagen/elastin with minimal irritation, that is why Retinaldehyde is the best form of Vitamin A available.

Another important misconception about Retinols is there ability to penetrate the skin. They are a large molecule and often have difficulty penetrating to the dermis where they are needed. To combat this problem, some companies use doses around 5% knowing that at least some of the Retinol will make it into the dermis. The downside of this is that a large part of the retinol sits superficially resulting in over-exfoliation which compromises the skin’s defenses. To effectively penetrate ingredients like Retinaldehyde, the use of liposomal technology can be extremely important. The net result is that there is less exfoliation (irritation) because the ingredient isn’t being activated in the superficial epidermis and there is more collagen/elastin produced because of the now higher levels in the dermis.

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