Retinol Creams Useful in Scar Treatment?

retinol (vitamin A) creamA few studies have demonstrated that topical retinoic acid (the strongest form of vitamin A) has beneficial effects on scar appearance. However, because of the, sometimes serious, possible side effects associated with this type of treatment its use is disencouraged by professionals in the health care sector.

But what about its less strong, thus less risky, sisters retinol and retinyl palmitate?

“In vitro studies demonstrated that collagen synthesis * could be markedly reduced in cultures treated with retinoid acid and its derivates.” [1]

* collagen synthesis plays a role in excessive scar tissue creation.

‘Its derivates’ are retinyl palmitate and retinol which are less strong forms of vitamin A associated with less side effects. For more clarity:

  • retinyl palmitate – safest form, best tolerance, fewest side effects, no prescription needed
  • retinol, stronger so more likely to cause reactions and is not suited to all skin types.’
  • Retinoic acid is the active form of retinol, with prescription only

Since the researchers concluded that its derivates also reduce collagen synthesis retinol and retinyl palmitate creams may help in the treatment of scars.

An interesting NY Times article titled; ‘The Thing About Retin-A: It Works‘, provides some additional insights.

For example: “Retinol, a less potent form of Retin-A, also has some strong science to support its effectiveness.”

“[..] consistent use of Retin-A helps normalize the cells,” said Dr. Min-Wei Christine Lee, a dermatologist in Walnut Creek, Calif.”

“Retin-A can improve skin texture and fade dark spots and freckles because it causes skin cells to turn over more rapidly. It shrinks dilated pores and improves cell turnover within the pores so they are less likely to clog and become blackheads and whiteheads.”

So in conclusion, retinol may have clinical support behind its efficacy but I haven’t found yet what it exactly does for scars. I’m wondering if anyone has used retinol creams on their raised, red scars? And if so, what did it do for you? (A close look at the sense and nonsense of retinol creams in acne scar treatment will follow.)

Read more on the benefits and potential side effects of topical retinoic acid on scars.

[1] Sense and Nonsense of Scar Creams and Gels Cees J. M. van den Helder, M.D., and J. Joris Hage, M.D., Ph.D. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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