People spend their lives searching for the fountain of youth. Maybe if Ponce de Leon knew about vitamin A cream, he would have saved himself some time...
Being more saavy than poor Ponce, you've probably heard of Vitamin A derivatives, known as retinoids. But with so many different names and variations on the market, it can be confusing. Here's the skinny:
Retinoic acid: this topical form of vitamin A is also called tretinoin. It's available by prescription, and is more effective than over the counter forms. In science speak: retinoic acid works to promote cell turnover and collagen production, and has anti-inflammatory effects. It also enhances the penetration of other topical medications/creams. In beauty speak: it helps lighten brown spots, reduces the appearance of fine lines, smooths skin, treats acne blackheads and helps prevent new ones from developing, and improves the overall appearance of skin. Prescription brand names include: Retin-A, Renova, Atralin, Refissa, and Tretin-X. Retinol: this is the form found in over the counter (nonprescription) products. In order to be effective, retinol needs to be converted to retinoic acid at the cellular level. It tends to be more gentle than retinoic acid, but is still quite effective.
Except in pregnant or nursing women, retinoids are an integral part of a good skin care routine. Add in the other essentials: a broad-spectrum sunscreen and an antioxidant/growth factor serum, and the fountain may soon appear!