The Regimen

The Molecular Advantage: Why Smaller Is Better For Retinoids


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The Molecular Advantage: Why Smaller Is Better For Retinoids

The Molecular Advantage: Why Smaller Is Better For Retinoids

The ability of ingredients to penetrate the skin is a defining element of their effectiveness. In order to create changes in skin retinoids (vitamin A) need to penetrate the top layers of the epidermis to get to the cellular level where collagen and elastin are hanging out. The smaller the molecular structure, the greater the penetration, and the result.




Vivant’s Senior Research Chemist Vanessa Campa explains why when it comes to retinoids, size definitely matters.


“Retinoic acid or Trentinoin, which is the active ingredient in Retin-A®, has the smallest molecular structure of the retinoid class with 20 carbons. That small molecular structure gives it the ability to penetrate to the lower layers of skin very quickly where it can really get to work. But that quick penetration can be a double-edged sword. It’s aggressive and often causes redness and irritation. For this reason, it must be prescribed by a doctor.”


What about non-prescription retinoids?

Non-prescription alternatives were developed to be less aggressive while retaining the benefits of Retin-A®—rapid cell renewal, regeneration of collagen and elastin. Since Dr. Fulton was the co-developer of Retin-A@ it was natural that he would be at the forefront of this development.

Dr. Fulton developed and patented vitamin A propionate, which accelerates the cell turnover cycle from 28 to 10-15 days with little to no irritation. It has 23 carbons, just three more than Retin-A®, which means it can be absorbed by the skin quickly to effect change at the cellular level.

Adapalene, which appears in some popular acne treatments, has a fairly high carbon weight of 28. Vitamin A palmitate, the retinoid most commonly found on drugstore brand labels, has 36 carbons. It’s large molecular size means palmitate takes a loooong time to penetrate.


Why is it so important that vitamin A penetrate to the cellular level?

Vitamin A has to be converted by the body into retinoic acid to become “activated.” Once converted, the retinoic acid encourages cells to advance their renewal process, produce healthy new cells, and regenerate collagen and elastin. This conversion can’t happen until the vitamin A comes in contact with enzymes in the cells at the deeper dermal level. That makes it all about penetration. Once vitamin A reaches the specialized enzymes and is converted to retinoic acid, everything accelerates. The faster break down into retinoic acid facilitated by the smaller molecule of the vitamin A propionate provides a huge advantage in this process.


What does vitamin A do for skin?

Vitamin A renews and regenerates skin. It exfoliates to allow new cells to rise to the surface. It stimulates the production of new collagen. It clears pores of cellular debris. It protects skin from harmful free radicals. It’s among the most effective ingredients available for treating acne and signs of aging.


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