Learn about the most effective options for retinol according to scientific literature to boost the skin aging process.
Cosmetic creams are increasingly recommended in the dermatologist's office and it is estimated that they represent up to 40% of the prescriptions made (1). Many of the queries we receive are about how to slow down or improve the skin aging procedure.
the retinol or retinoic acid (derived from vitamin A) are two widely studied molecules that have been shown to reverse skin aging and even prevent skin cancer when used in (topical) creams. Its continued use reduces wrinkles, eliminates imperfections, softens the skin and gives it a bright and uniform appearance.
Surely retinoic acid and its derivatives are the molecules with more evidence proven for its anti-aging capacity and the most used. And also about which we can find more information.
But both retinol and retinoic acid may not be tolerated on some skin and cause stinging and irritation. It should be used at night, since it can sensitize you to the sun, and also for this reason, in summer, its use should be more cautious.
So what alternatives to retinol/retinoic acid cream can you use? Research in this field is intense and very extensive. Below, I will describe some of them.
Alternatives to retinol: what other anti-aging molecules can help your skin age better?
1. Alpha hydroxy acids (1,2)
to. The most used are glycolic acid and lactic acid. There are other acids such as citric acid, mandelic acid, pyruvic acid and others, which have similar uses and functions.
b. Its use in cream increases the production of collagen in the dermis, giving it support, reducing wrinkles and increasing skin thickness. They also increase the elasticity of the skin as the elastic fibers increase.
C. Glycolic acid is used in concentrations from 5 to 25%, and the higher it is, the greater its effect on the skin. The lower concentrations are found in pharmacy products, and the higher ones are used under medical prescription in peels in clinics applied by the dermatologist.
d. They should be applied gradually since at first it can cause stinging, which improves with use and as the skin gets used to it. To this end, they can also cause irritation like retinoic acid, so skin tolerance and concentrations of alpha-hydroxy acids must be assessed if they are offered as an option.
and. Interestingly, on the other hand, in skin with good tolerance, retinoic acid with alpha-hydroxy acids can be used in combination, thus constituting a powerful anti-aging cream.
F. In addition, its application on sensitive skin areas such as the eyelids or the corners of the lips should be avoided since in these areas the skin is thinner and can become irritated (like retinoic acid).
2. Vitamin C (abscorbic acid) (1,2)
to. It is used in concentrations of approximately 5 to 20%.
b. It reduces the production of free radicals produced by aging and increases the production of collagen and elastin in the skin, reducing wrinkles.
C. Topical application of vitamin C, E, and ferruic acid has been shown to decrease the capacitation of thymine dimers in skin DNA, the initial step in UV radiation damage and carcinogenesis.
d. At high concentrations it reduces hyperpigmentation, in other words, skin spots, with the advantage of being able to be used in summer, with sun exposure.
and. One of its main limitations is that it oxidizes over time and exposure to air, thus losing properties. This is why vitamin C is included in special formulas to prevent oxidation and/or in “airless” packaging, in which no air enters.
3. Topical nicotinamide (vitamin B3) (3)
to. It is another option to retinol. With “anti-aging” properties, it is used in concentrations of 2.5 to 5%.
B. It is a derivative of vitamin B3 that, when applied to aged skin, produces an improvement in the skin barrier, wrinkles, pigmentation and skin elasticity.
C. It has a unique and very characteristic property, which is to reduce the yellowing that the skin suffers with age.
D. It can cause “redness” and vasodilation in the face, so some patients do not tolerate it well.
4. Soy derivatives (isoflavones) (3)
to. Applied in cream, they have antioxidant properties and promote collagen formation.
B. They are a good alternative to retinol / retinoic acid in mature skin with low tolerance to creams.
C. They are considered fundamentally useful in postmenopausal women, in whom we find a greater collagen deficit and more refined skin.
to. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland with important anti-aging action, and which has experienced a complete entry into the madriderma.
b. It is used topically in concentrations of 0.5 to 1%.
C. It has an important antioxidant, anti-wrinkle and anti-stain capacity with very good tolerance.
d. Its usefulness topically is fundamentally interesting to prevent and treat skin damage caused by radiotherapy (radiodermatitis), an extreme and acute form of skin damage due to radiation.
6. Hyaluronic acid
to. Hyaluronic acid is a glucosamine that is used formulated in creams and also to be injected into the skin (dermal fillers) for its moisturizing properties, increased volume of soft tissues and its ability to promote the production of collagen and elastin (4) .
b. Their application in creams has very good tolerance, so they are a good alternative to retinoic acid / retinol for sensitive skin.
C. Hyaluronic acid has shown in different studies a significant improvement in the signs of aging in the skin after its application for 2 to 3 months.
d. Hyaluronic acid can have different molecular weights and be included in different formulations (gels, creams) with other components. Its absorption through the skin is greater when it is smaller, in other words, with lower molecular weights. This has led to the development of ultra-small hyaluronic acid (nano hyaluronic acid) creams.
to. It is a molecule synthesized in the red vine and other plants.
b. Its effects on the skin occur in both oral supplements and creams, at concentrations higher than 0.5%.
C. In creams it has shown anti-aging and anti-spot effects, being an interesting alternative to retinol / retinoic acid.
d. You will find on my web portal a complete entry dedicated to resveratrol.
8. Coenzyme Q10
to. Also called ubiquinone, it is a substance that the body produces to defend itself against oxidative stress.
b. Madriderma dedicates a blog post to coenzyme Q10.
C. It can be used in both creams and oral supplements.
d. In cream it is a powerful antioxidant that protects from damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun and aging.
and. Of interest is its ability to act in chronoaging, in other words, in aging derived purely from time.
9. Alternatives to retinol: other active ingredients to consider
There are many other components studied to prevent and treat skin aging, it is an extensive field and I will list some of them in a more superficial way (5,6).
to. Vitamins: along with vitamin C and B3, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) is used in creams for its repairing and anti-aging effect in concentrations from 2 to 20%. Its effect is not as powerful as that of vitamin C or B3.
B. Polyphenols (green tea) and alpha lipoic acid: protect against ultraviolet radiation and are capable of reducing skin expression lines.
C. Peptides and oligopeptides: they imitate the composition of collagen and elastin and can increase their production in the skin.
d. Hormones (Estradiol 0.01% and progesterone 2%): with age, female hormones in the blood decrease, and its application in cream has been shown to increase the elasticity, functionality of the skin and reduce wrinkles.
I would not like to finish this text without remembering that the best anti-aging product that can be used on the face is a daily sunscreen. 80% facial aging is caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
1. Sunder P. Relevant topical skin care products for the prevention and treatment of aging skin. Latest facial surgery Clin North Am 2019; 27: 413-418.
two. Shin JW, Kwon SH, Choi JY et al. Molecular mechanisms of dermal aging and anti-aging approaches. Int J Mol Sci 2019; 20:2126.
3. Pandey A, Gurpoonam K, Sonthalia S. Cosmeceuticals. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; January 2020
3. Bukhari SNA, Roswandi NL, Waqas M et al. Hyaluronic acid, a promising skin rejuvenating biomedicine: a review of recent updates and preclinical and clinical research on cosmetic and nutricosmetic effects. Int J Biol Macromol. 2018; 120: 1682-1695.
Four. Zoubolis C, Ganceviciene R, Liakou A, et al. Aesthetic aspects of skin aging, prevention and local treatment. Clin Dermatol 2019; 37: 365-372.
5. Baumann L. How to use topical and oral cosmeceuticals to prevent and treat skin aging. Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am 2018; 26: 407-416.