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Les différentes formes de rétinoïdes.

The Various Forms of Retinoids.

Retinoid is a generic term that refers to vitamin A and its derivatives. Their effectiveness on the signs of aging is no longer in question, and retinoids have become an important part of modern skin care. But what forms of retinoids are there? What makes them different? We answer your questions.

Published November 15, 2022, by Maylis, Chemical Engineer, — 7 min read

What are retinoids?

Retinoids include vitamin A, its metabolites and its derivatives (natural and synthetic). Retinol, retinoic acid and retinal are the three available forms of vitamin A. These molecules belong to the family of first generation retinoids. Their history can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where beef liver compresses (containing retinol) were used to treat blindness. This explains their names, which derive from the "retina" of the eye.

It was in 1931 that the retinol molecule was isolated for the first time by the Swiss chemist Paul Karrer, from mackerel liver oil. The first study using tretinoin (or all-trans retinoic acid) to treat acne was published in 1943. The effectiveness of this organic compound on the signs of aging was demonstrated in the 1980s by the American dermatologist Albert Kligman. Retinoids are keratolytic substances that stimulate cell renewal.

The Different Types of Retinoids.

Retinoids come in different forms, each with a specific action.

  • Retinol (authorized in cosmetics)

The most popular retinoid in skin care, it is considered one of the most effective compounds to compensate for the degradation of the skin's support tissue. It stimulates the production of collagen and elastin for smoother, more elastic skin. In addition, retinol is known for its antioxidant properties that prevent the premature aging of skin cells. It also has an impact on the production of melanin in the skin, allowing to reduce the appearance of brown spots that can appear with age.

Generally recommended for mature skin, this type also an excellent choice for oily and/or acne-prone skin. Its keratolytic properties eliminate the dead cells present on the surface of the epidermis. The pores are cleared, and the skin texture is refined, thus preventing the appearance of blackheads and/or comedones.

  • Retinal (authorized in cosmetics)

Chemically speaking, retinal is an intermediate metabolite between retinol and retinoic acid. In other words, when applied to the skin, retinol is oxidized into retinal and then metabolized into retinoic acid, its active form capable of fighting effectively against skin photoaging but prohibited in cosmetics because it is too irritating.

Thus, retinal is more directly converted into retinoic acid in the skin than retinol, which must first undergo oxidation. Retinal is relevant in skin care because to be active, its concentration can be lower than retinol. In fact, retinal can have a smoothing and regenerating action at concentrations ranging from 0.015% to 0.1%.

  • Retinoid esters (authorized in cosmetics)

These compounds are generally used because of their greater chemical stability compared to retinol or retinal, but also because they are the gentlest retinoids for the skin. The most common are retinyl acetate (INCI: Retinyl acetate), retinyl propionate (INCI: Retinyl propionate), retinyl palmitate (INCI: Retinyl palmitate) and retinyl linoleate (INCI: Retinyl linoleate). They are easily identified with the suffixes "ate". Nevertheless, retinol esters are less effective on wrinkles and acne than retinol or retinal, because they have to undergo more transformation in the skin before taking the form of retinoic acid. Esters are still relevant if you have sensitive skin but still want to start incorporating retinoids into your beauty routine.

  • Retinoic acid (prohibited in cosmetics)

This acidic form of vitamin A, also known as tretinoin, is one of the substances prohibited in cosmetic products according to the European Regulation because of its irritant potential. This active ingredient is only available by prescription and used in the treatment of severe acne.

Note: Regardless of the form of retinoids chosen, none of them are recommended for pregnant women and all of them are photosensitizing (they increase the skin's sensitivity to UV rays).

Discover our Five Retinol-Containing Skin Care Products.

To fight against skin aging and prevent skin sagging, the Wrinkles & Fine Lines serum contains 0.3% retinol. It is 99% formulated with ingredients of natural origin. It is particularly suitable for mature skin. We do not recommend its use for sensitive and reactive skin.

The Neck and Décolleté Serum is composed of retinol (0.2%) and borage oil, known for its firming properties. This product smoothes the skin of the neck and cleavage. It can also be used locally on other parts of the body.

Our Firming Face Cream with 0.2% retinol and tsubaki oil is enriched with active tensors to fight the appearance of wrinkles and make the skin more plump. It stimulates the production of collagen and elastin fibers to prevent the signs of skin aging.

The Firming Toner contains 0.1% retinol and damask rose extract. It is applied after cleansing the skin, to rebalance the skin's pH and delay the appearance of wrinkles. It is composed of 99% of ingredients of natural origin.

The Wrinkles and Imperfections Serum combines the tightening effect of retinol (0.3%) with the anti-bacterial action of bakuchiol (1%) to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and correct imperfections. Synthesized by plants endemic to Australia, the plant polypeptides it contains are able to act in synergy with retinol to promote the synthesis of type I collagen. They thus help reduce the depth of wrinkles and replenish the skin. These peptides also participate in maintaining a thick epidermis, which plays the role of shield with respect to the external environment.

Sources :

  • Mukherjee S, et al. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: An overview of clinical efficacy and safety. (2006).

  • WANG L. H. Simultaneous determination of retinal, retinol and retinoic acid (all-trans and 13-cis) in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals at electrodeposited metal electrodes. Analytica Chimica Acta (2000).

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