Retinoids The Breakdown

March 11th, 2021

The retinoids family, the name for a group of Vitamin A derivatives it is one of the most talked about ingredients on the market it comes in many variables but not all retinoids are created equal. This ingredient is used by consumers to treat a wide variety of concerns such as pigmentation, acne and ageing.  

The closer a form of retinoid is to retinoic acid the more effective it is to improve skin concerns. All results will depend on the formulation, concentration, skin type, skin condition, irritation index of the retinoid used.

Retinoic acid binds to receptors in the skin normalising cellular repair and renewal processes. The gentle retinoids used in skin care products have to be converted by the enzymes in our skin before they work this happens in one two or three steps. Depending on the individual the speed in which the enzymes respond and convert will depend on how quickly you see results on the skin.

Retinol is oxidised to form retinal

Retinal is oxidised to generate retinoic acid which binds to retinoid receptors of skin cells, this step allows entry to the nucleus to bind with DNA. This binding biologically effects the skin.

This biological process includes:

  • Cell turnover and modulation
  • Collagen production
  • Stimulates blood vessels
  • Prevent free radical damage – protecting cell DNA
  • Reduce UV oxidative damage
  • Antioxidant effect


The Vitamin A Pathway  -  MORE STEPS = LESS EFFICENCY 

Step 1

Retinaldehyde is the direct precursor to retinoic acid

Step 2

Retinol converts to retinaldehyde

Retinaldehyde converts to retinoic acid

Step 3

Retinol esters convert to retinol

Retinol convert to retinaldehyde

Retinaldehyde to retinoic acid

*Retinoic acid proves to be approximately 20 times more powerful than retinol


A breakdown of the retinoid Family  

Retinal Esters

  • Gentle on the skin
  • Three conversion steps to retinoic acid
  • Weakest in the retinoid family
  • Good for retinoid beginners and sensitive skin types

Examples include – retinal palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinal linoleate


  • Slight irritation
  • Two conversion steps to retinoic acid
  • Better results achieved with a higher content
  • More visible results compared to retinal esters
  • Fewer side effects than retinoic acid - prescription strength, converts on a cellular level. Results visible within months.

Retinaldehyde & Hydroxy Pinacolone Retinoate (HPR)

  • Slight to moderate irritation
  • One conversion step to retinoic acid
  • Most effective over the counter retinoid
  • HPR is an ester pulled from retinaldehyde it is the lowest on the irritation index

Retinoic Acid

  • Irritation can occur generally more than any other OTC retinoid
  • Already in form -works significantly faster than retinol since no conversion in the skin needs to take place
  • Prescription only
  • Studies show improvement in acne, collagen production and density

Examples: tretinoin

If you would like to include retinoids into your skin care routine contact Jody for more information.



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Retinoids The Breakdown

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