Cell differentiation is the process by which a cell changes from a stem cell to a skin cell, or any other speciﬁc types of cell. Without adequate vitamin A present in the cell at the time of differentiation, cells cannot be relied upon to conform to their DNA plan and may become dysfunctional and unhealthy.
If we can understand the role of vitamin A in the development of healthy cells, we can prescribe better treatment plans that will lead to healthier skin. The summary below is designed to highlight the role of topical vitamin A molecules.
Potency of Vitamin A Actives
Vitamin A molecules are all equipotent because they share a common biochemical pathway to the vitamin A acid forms (retinoic acids) that cells can use in differentiation. Through this pathway, retinol occupies a pivotal position on the way to the irreversible retinoic acid via the gateway molecule, retinaldehyde, and then catabolism (the breakdown of complex molecules in living organisms to form simpler ones) via cytochrome P450 in the liver. Potency, and efﬁciency, molecule for molecule, is therefore the same for all.
Many claims about which form of vitamin A is most effective are untrue. Examining facts that are well established through sound, scientiﬁc research spanning seven decades, dispels most of the myths and fables spawned by incomplete or misleading articles and commercial marketing claims.
Despite claims to the contrary, all molecular forms of vitamin A, apart from the acid group, are substrate for providing the active acid forms of vitamin A (ligands), which function on the nuclear vitamin A receptor groups during cell differentiation.
While in topical applications, vitamin A molecules may differ in a few important ways, when arriving at the cellular level they are equipotent in managing their role on the DNA of cells. None of the substrate molecules like retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate or retinaldehyde have direct retinoid receptor activity. They are all converted into retinoic acid, which can then do the work of ensuring healthy cell differentiation.
It is misleading to imply that one form is more effective than another. A single molecule of retinol, or any of its storage forms, can only be turned into a single molecule of retinoic acid. All get transformed into retinol before becoming retinaldehyde. They are always equal in efﬁcacy and potency once converted. Differences do exist among various forms of topical penetration in the skin, along with their potential for irritation. Antioxidant potential may also vary, but not efﬁcacy as vitamin A. That they occupy different places in the life of vitamin A in human tissue is true, but they are proven to be interchanged systematically to meet cellular demands.
Another claim to be aware of is the promotion claims of fewer wrinkles in 30 days. A full epidermal cycle, just a single one, may take 42 to 60 days. Very little visible change that represents meaningful cellular change can take place in less than this time. Normally, one would expect at least three epidermal cycles before seeing meaningful and persistent improvement in skin cellular behaviour and appearance.
Good quality cell differentiation depends on vitamin A in optimal supply at any time of a skin cycle. However, many more elements are required to complete it.
To bring the effect of vitamin A to its full potential, one needs to understand and address other nutritional elements in the skin, as well as the complex cellular language of vital elements involved in the conversation between undifferentiated and differentiated cells both within the skin and from “distant” sources like the immune system. It is a language of protein and peptide words and phrases spoken in a watery environment.
Simply put, the DNA in your skin has receptors that decide whether to allow the vitamin A into the cell to do its job. If it is disallowed because the DNA does not readily recognise it, the vitamin A will accumulate around the outside of the cell and cause a rash. Vitamin A must be introduced very slowly to avoid this irritation. When the DNA starts to recognise its best friend, it will allow the molecules to enter the cell.
We are only now starting to get a better understanding of the functions of epigenetic switching by methylation and acetylation of nuclear elements. There is much still to learn, but we are much more sure-footed as to how the vitamin A functions in basic terms. This cellular language is perhaps best described as an intricate and continuously shifting music, where notes, phrases and chords are active in rhythms of time and cellular space.
It is very complex and still impossible to describe accurately in mathematical or any other scientiﬁc terms or language. However, the use of a relatively small collection of vitamins, peptides and a few acids and minerals can produce positive restructuring and normalising changes in skin damage over several decades of over-exposure to the sun.
The Vintage Salon Team x