Retinyl Retinoate (RR) is a less well known but super interesting member of the retinoids (vitamin A derivatives), aka the "royal family of skincare". Unless you live under a skincare-news-shielding rock, you must have heard about tretinoin, the FDA-approved anti-aging superstar, and retinol, the most common OTC version of tretinoin. You can read more about whos-who in the retinoid family here.
Enter Retinyl Retinoate, a molecule that is created by attaching retinol to retinoic acid. The attachment makes the molecule more stable (pure retinol is unstable and hard to formulate) as well as more active. If you read our shiny description about retinol you will know that it is not active and has to be converted by our metabolic machinery to become retinoic acid, the biologically active molecule. The conversion is not very effective and takes two steps. Retinyl Retinoate also has to be converted, but in the first step, our cells break up the molecule to become retinoic acid (the active) and retinol, meaning that it becomes active both after the first conversion step as well as later on once retinol is further converted.
The Korean research group, who invented the molecule, did several studies published in well-respected journals to prove that Retinyl Retinoate has better anti-aging activity than retinol. In marketing materials, RR is often touted to be 8 times as active as retinol, but as far as research goes we can cite that "the biological activity of retinyl retinoate was in between the properties of retinol and retinoic acid. Retinyl retinoate showed higher biological activity than that of retinol, such as RAR activity and collagen synthesis. Also, retinyl retinoate showed a similar side-effect to that of retinol, and not retinoic acid."
As for in-vivo, aka done on real people studies, there is one from 2010 that compares 0.06% Retinyl Retinoate to placebo and to 0.075% retinol. The conclusion of this study was that 0.06% RR is "significantly" more effective than placebo or retinol, and RR also had a faster-acting effect. Another study (in test tubes + mouse skin) concluded that RR increases the Hyaluronic acid production more than other retinoids and is also less of an irritant.
RR shows promise for treating acne. In an 8 week, double-blind clinical study, 0.05% retinyl retinoate "showed a significant decrease in both inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions, and in sebum amount". It even had some activity against P.acnes that makes it a promising ingredient for acne prone skin, especially when combined with other actives.
Overall, we find Retinyl Retinoate a very interesting and promising member of the retinoid family. It is not as proven as good old retinol (the multiple studies on RR come from the same research guys), but it promises several advantages (more stable, more active, less irritating), so we say that if you like retinoids, RR is worth trying.
Show me some proof
- Kim, H., et al. "Improvement in skin wrinkles from the use of photostable retinyl retinoate: a randomized controlled trial." British Journal of Dermatology 162.3 (2010): 497-502.
- Kim, Hyojung, et al. "Synthesis and in vitro biological activity of retinyl retinoate, a novel hybrid retinoid derivative." Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry 16.12 (2008): 6387-6393.
- Kim, Jin Eun, et al. "Retinyl retinoate induces hyaluronan production and less irritation than other retinoids." The Journal of dermatology 37.5 (2010): 448-454.
- Kim, Bora, et al. "Retinyl retinoate, a retinoid derivative improves acne vulgaris in double-blind, vehicle-controlled clinical study." Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine 10.5 (2013): 260-265.