EDIT 22/03/2017: According to a 2006 study, 0.05% retinaldehyde is as effective as 0.05% retinoic acid for the treatment of photoaging. In comparison, “retinol is 20 times less potent than tretinoin and it requires further conversion to retinoic acid (in vivo)”. That means retinaldehyde is a more effective form of vitamin A than the more famous retinol, making it a great choice for treating the signs of aging.
Retinoids are considered the gold standard in antiaging and for a good reason: in fact, they have been proven to reduce wrinkles, fine lines and other signs of aging. But not all forms of Retinoids are equally effective. Forms such as Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate need to be converted by special enzymes into Retinoic Acid to provide benefits for the skin. In addition, Retinoids can be irritating, especially for people who have sensitive skin. Luckily, there is a form of Vitamin A that, according to the research published until now, may deliver the same benefits without the side effects. It is called Retinaldehyde.
The antiaging benefits of Retinaldehyde
Retinaldehyde is converted into either Retinoic Acid or Retinol in one quick and easy step (it can be further converted into Retinyl Palmitate too). Now, this ingredient can provide antiaging benefits, like this 1999 French study demonstrates. A topical Retinaldehyde 0.05% cream was applied on 21 people for a year. The control group, made up of 19 people, used instead only an emollient. The results? “Compared to the control group, Retinaldehyde treatment induced a significant increase in epidermal thickness of the temple, as well as in cutaneous elasticity. The results further suggest that Retinaldehyde has counteracting effects on skin aging.”
Another French study, conducted in 1999 by Dr Boisnic, researched the effects of a cream containing 0.05% Retinaldehyde on skin damaged by UVA rays. The study was performed ex-vivo and the scientists reached the following conclusion: “in all UVA-exposed and then Retinaldehyde-treated skin specimens, collagen and elastic fibers were restored to the level of nonexposed skin. It has been shown that Retinaldehyde has many of the properties of Tretinoin in its biological and beneficial effects on photoaging.”
Retinaldeyde is an effective acne treatment
In addition to fighting the signs of aging, Retinaldeyde may be an effective treatment for acne too. Retinoids are commonly used to treat this condition but Retinladehyde is the one that works best for two reasons. Unlike the other Retinoids, Retinaldehyde has been shown to have antibacterial activity and is thus able to kill the P.Acnes bacteria (the one that causes acne). In addition, Retinoids can be irritating for the skin. Other acne treatments, such as Benzoyl Peroxide, AHAs and BHA, can cause irritations too. Using them all together can be too harsh on the skin. But as we’ll see in a minute, Retinaldeyde is less irritating than other forms of Retinoids and so, when used in conjunction with other acne treatments, can be well-tolerated by the skin.
Retinladehyde is less irritating than other Retinoids
Retinoic Acid can irritate skin when topically applied. To avoid this problem, skincare products contain precursors (substances that can be converted into Retinoic Acid by the body) such as Retinol and Retinaldehyde. A German study conducted by Dr Fluhr has compared their irritation potential and concluded that both Retinol and Retinaldehyde are better tolerated by the skin. However, even though Retinaldehyde is less irritating than other forms of Vitamin A, it can still cause a negative reaction in people with very sensitive skin. For this reason, it is always best to start with a low concentration and apply it only every other day. Once your skin is used to it, you can switch to higher doses and daily application.
The problem with Retinaldehyde
So far Retinaldehyde sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? It reduces wrinkles, treats acne and there is only a small risk of irritation. But as always, when things seem too good to be true, there is a catch. Research on Retinaldehyde is promising, but limited. While this ingredient is beneficial for the skin, we don’t know yet if it is it the most effective form of Retinoids for antiaging. Another thing we don’t know is the best concentration to use to provide maximum benefits. All studies so far have been conducted using 0.05% and 0.1% concentrations, so it’s not clear how higher concentrations will perform or if smaller doses are useless.
The Bottom Line
Research on Retinaldehyde is limited and so far, we don’t know how effective this form is compared to other Retinoids and in what concentration it provides the most benefit for the skin. However, the studies conducted so far demonstrate that it is effective at treating acne and reducing sings of aging, and is less irritating than other forms of Vitamin A. Because of these reasons, I think Retinaldehyde is a valid option for people with sensitive skin who are interested in using Retinoids but can’t tolerate harsher forms of Vitamin A.
Do you use products with Retinaldehyde?