Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, present in skin care products to fight against skin aging. Studies on its benefits for hair and scalp are rare. The ones existing, show promising results.
A Quick Reminder About the History of Retinol.
Retinol is a compound belonging to the retinoid family. These are derivatives of vitamin A. Initially, its acid form, tretinoin, was used in the 1960s to treat severe acne. Its irritating potential has excluded it from the list of authorized cosmetic substances. However, Retinol, which is better tolerated by the epidermis, is allowed by European regulations, at a maximum concentration of 0.3% in a non-rinsed product. Its plumping and wrinkle-smoothing properties have made it a popular active ingredient in cosmetic products to combat skin aging.
A New Use for Retinol.
Many active cosmetic ingredients initially intended for the skin can provide benefits in hair application, such as niacinamide or vitamin C. The same is applicable to retinol:
Retinol cleanses the scalp.
Just like the skin on the face, the skin on the scalp needs to be well moisturized. It is important to remove impurities that clog the pores to prevent the hair follicle from being clogged by the sebaceous gland, inhibiting healthy hair growth. Thanks to its keratolytic action, retinol eliminates dead cells from the scalp and promotes cell renewal. It also minimizes the action of the sebaceous glands and therefore the production of sebum for a purified scalp.
Retinol could promote hair growth.
This effect is increased when the acid form of retinol, tretinoin, is combined with another active ingredient, minoxidil. In fact, there is a synergy between minoxidil and tretinoin when the substances are combined and used topically. Retinoids can initiate cell growth and differentiation not stimulated by minoxidil. Minoxidil may promote mitogenic and vasodilatory effects not achieved by retinoids. With promising results, this duo could even be a potential treatment for alopecia.
It should be noted that consuming too much vitamin A orally can have the opposite effect and stimulate hair loss! Stored in the liver for a long time, vitamin A will act on different biological functions, leading to the shortening of the anagen phase during hair growth. This leads to a premature transition to the telogen phase and consequently to hair loss. Speak with a doctor before using it.
Retinol in Hair Care: Some Precautions.
Retinol remains a potentially irritating and drying substance. It is recommended for oily scalps and hair, with or without oily dandruff.
The type of retinol used and the amount applied are crucial. We advise you to use only products specifically intended for the hair and/or scalp, to avoid any inconvenience.
KYU HAN K. & al. The additive effects of minoxidil and retinol on human hair growth in vitro. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin (2007).
TOSTI A. & al. The role of vitamins and minerals in hair loss: a review. Dermatology and Therapy (2019).
Gail S. Bazzano & al., Topical tretinoin for hair growth promotion, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, (1986).