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Retinoids are chemical compounds used topically to reduce wrinkles in the skin. These compounds are chemically related to vitamin A. There are various types of retinoids, including tretinoin and retinol. Tretinoin is the only topical treatment for lines and wrinkles approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Tretinoin is sold under the brand name Retin A. Two other retinoids have gained clinical acceptance in the treatment of wrinkles. These are tazarotene and adapalene. Tazarotene is sold as Tazorac and adapalene is sold as Differin.
Tretinoin was first prescribed as a treatment for acne. However, it was also found to reduce wrinkles in the face and is now used as an anti-aging treatment. Applied topically, tretinoin exfoliates the skin, increases blood flow, and stimulates the production of new collagen, and increases the production of glycosaminoglycan. Glycosaminoglycan helps the skin retain water. Tretinoin also causes the top layer of skin to become thicker, which makes the skin look more youthful. Sold as Retin A and Renova, tretinoin comes in the form of a gel, cream, and solution.
Tretinoin is a strong medication and should be used according to directions. It is recommended that tretinoin be applied at bedtime to a dry face. A very small amount of tretinoin should be used. A difference in skin texture is usually noticeable within 6 to 8 weeks. Applied topically, tretinoin causes irritation, dryness, and peeling of the skin. It also increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Topical tretinoin comes in difference strengths from 0.025 to 0.1. Stronger concentrations are not necessarily more effective in treating wrinkles than weaker concentrations. Stronger concentrations do cause more skin irritation. With regular use, improvement in the appearance of the skin may be seen for up to a year.
Retinol is the form of vitamin A found in animal life. It is a fact soluble alcohol. Retinol is available in many over the counter anti-aging products. Studies suggest that retinol in high enough concentration is as effective in reducing wrinkles and increasing the production of collagen and glycosaminoglycan as tretinoin. Many over the counter products do not contain a high enough concentration of retinol to have any anti-aging effect. Products with very low concentrations of retinol are not likely to have any significant effect on skin appearance. Retinol does not produce the side effects that are produced by tretinoin. Retinol does not produce sun sensitivity.
Research has been conducted on the effects of other retinoids on skin appearance. Tazarotene appears to have a significant antiaging effect. Tazarotene is used to treat acne and psoriasis. It has also been approved for the treatment of wrinkles and skin discoloration resulting from photoaging. Tazarotene has similar side effects to tretinoin. Adapalene is currently used primarily as a treatment for acne. It is less irritating to the skin than tretinoin. Although adapalene seems to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, the anti-aging properties of adapalene need further investigation.
It is important to note that the use of all derivatives of vitamin A should be avoided by pregnant women or women who are trying to become pregnant. Oral isotretinoin (Accutane) is a treatment for severe cystic acne and can cause severe birth defects if used by pregnant women. Isotretinoin is similar to tretinoin, but it is a separate drug. Even topical products should be avoided by pregnant women or women who attempting to conceive.