Retinoic acid: an effective anti-wrinkle

Despite the fact that I always say that miracles are better to ask Fatima, there is a molecule that has proven its effectiveness in the fight against aging: retinoic acid. My seventeenth New Year’s resolution is to write more posts on dermocosmetics on the blog and I have decided to start with what we are most concerned about : the effectiveness of anti-wrinkle creams.


We all know that the cosmetic industry invests fortunes in the search for the elixir of eternal youth. Therefore it is curious that the compound that has offered the best results so far has been precisely this retinoic acid or tretinoin. Retinoic acid is not an extract of plants that live in the last rock of the Himalayas, nor is it obtained by sublimation of rhodophytic algae from the Dead Sea. Nothing of that. Retinoic acid is a simple metabolite of vitamin A. A metabolite is a derivative, that is, a car with the same chassis to which it is tuned and some accessories are changed.


Well, like the famous penicillin and many of the great discoveries, by chance. In the 1960s a dermatologist at the University of Pennsylvania named Albert Kligman began experimenting with tretinoin in acne patients. Things went well and in 1973 he patented the formula.

What Mr. Kligman did not expect was that twelve years after “the invention” he would find an interesting surprise: people treated with tretinoin had fewer wrinkles and smooth and smooth skin. With permission of acne, that was indeed a discovery.


If the Royal Academy cleans, fixes and gives splendor, retinoic acid goes even further with its properties:

– ANTIOXIDANT : This is one of the keys since oxidation processes and free radical formation are some of the main causes of aging, both in chronological aging (due to age) and in photoaging (the sun).

– STIMULATES COLLAGEN PRODUCTION: With age, skin fibroblasts lose the ability to generate collagen, necessary to offer a firm and smooth appearance. The dreaded sagging appears (this process is known by the unpleasant name of senile elastosis).

– DEPIGMENTING : Skin spots are another of the signs of aging and retinoic acid is one of the active ingredients that can reduce them.

The fourth property, although not scientific, is equally important, and that is that retinoic acid is cheap. Very cheap.

It is marketed, for example, under the name of Retirides at different concentrations (0.025%, 0.05%, 0.1%) and in its data sheet from the Spanish Drug Agency you can see that one of the two indications of the drug is curiously photoaging:

Reducing treatment of the clinical signs of photoaging (premature aging of the skin with the appearance of wrinkles, blemishes and / or facial roughness due to prolonged exposure to the sun).


It wasn’t going to be perfect. Our jewel in the crown has numerous side effects mainly related to irritation, which makes many people not tolerate its application on the skin. The most frequent are burning sensation, peeling and dermatitis in general.

Due to this, it is an active ingredient subject to medical prescription. That is: a prescription is needed to buy retinoic acid.


The legal relative of tretinoin is retinol. It has fewer side effects and also a small but , unfortunately it is not as effective as retinoic acid.

To try to enhance the effects of this less effective compound, cutting-edge technology is used in the formulation of creams such as nanosomes. These are very small liposomes thanks to which retinol penetration is favored. Retinol is a molecule that is easily oxidized so to avoid spoiling it is formulated together with antioxidant compounds such as sodium bisulfite and others that sound better, such as BHT, BHA or vitamin E. For this reason, creams that contain retinol usually come presented in metallic and opaque cans.



Don’t be scared if you don’t find it in the composition. No one is cheating on you. It is important to know that within the list of ingredients retinol may not be described as such but in the form of esters such as retinyl retinoate, retinyl palmitate, retinyl propionate or retinyl linoleate. The good retiniloatador that retinile it good retinilator will be.

I don’t know if they were the first in Spain, but at least one of the first to popularize retinol among the general public was the gentlemen of Roc and his Retin-Ox.   It has rained a lot since then and now practically all cosmetic houses, large or small, contain some product of their line with retinol or derivatives. Some examples are Redermic R (La Roche Posay) , Liftactviv Advanced Filler (Vichy) , Kinetinol (Martiderm). and Retinol 0.3 (Skinceuticals).

Less allergenic than retinol is the retinaldehyde of the Avène patent with its Eluage line (it can also be useful for facial veins such as telangistasesia).


As stated previously, retinoic acid requires a prescription for dispensing . As we already know each other, if someone is very interested in using it, I insist that you should not go out on your own in search of its antioxidant honeys, but consult the dermatologist first. He will be the one to assess in each case whether it is possible to use it, or on the contrary, whether the remedy may be worse than the disease.

In case you are already using tretinoin, it is very important to follow the instructions. You should not be in a hurry and you must assume that the results can take between two and six months to appear . It is usually started with low doses to observe tolerance and, from there, go up. If we start with a strong dose and we get a dermatitis, goodbye treatment.

Finally, always, always, you must use a suitable sunscreen since the retinoic thinns the stratum corneum of the skin and we can burn easily. In addition, being a compound that degrades with light, its use at night may be more advisable and effective. Retinoic acid is an effective anti-wrinkle but, in any case, and this is something within everyone’s reach, we should not underestimate the daily use of sunscreens , both in winter and in summer, in the prevention not only of melanoma, but also of photoaging.
If this entry has been useful to you and you want to help me out with a vote in the Bitácoras Awards… I will thank you in my soul!


Leave a Comment