Qwerty asks… Is OTC retinol as good as prescription? Are they effective in the same way RX retinol is? What OTC retinol has the most effective % of retinol in the ingredients list?
The Right Brains responds:
This is a great question because “retinol” is easily confused with “retinoic acid,” a similar chemical that goes by a couple of different names. They both belong to a family of chemicals known as retinoids. Here’s the scoop on how to keep them straight.
Not all retinoids are the same
Retinoic acid (also known as Retin-A, tretinoin and sometimes by brand names like Accutane) is a prescription drug used to treat acne. While it is primarily known for its anti-acne properties, dermatologists noticed that it can also even out complexion and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. This makes it one of the most valuable anti-aging ingredients. However, retinoic acid is not available in any cosmetic. It can only be purchased with a prescription from your doctor.
Retinol is NOT a prescription drug. It is the alcohol form of retinoic acid. That means it’s chemically related, and does have some similar skin refining properties, however it is not nearly as effective as the acid.
Another problem with retinol is that it is not very stable and is easily oxidized. That means that exposure to oxygen, light, or even other ingredients in the same formula can render this ingredient even less effective.
How much retinol should I look for in cosmetic products?
You asked which over-the-counter product has the most retinol. Actually a better question to ask is which cosmetic product has done the best job of stabilizing retinol in their formula. In the last few years new technologies have been developed to allow formulators to stabilize retinol by encapsulating it with inert materials. If a product uses this kind of technology their product will be more effective: a product with 2% retinol that is not encapsulated may be less effective than a product with 0.5% retinol that is encapsulated.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
Do your homework before spending a lot of money on a retinol containing face cream. Look for some reassurance that the product uses encapsulating technology to protect its precious ingredient. If you have any specific products you’d like us to look at just leave a comment below.
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