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J Cosmet Dermatol. 2005 Dec;4(4):237-44.

Proposed mechanisms of action for retinoid derivatives in the treatment of skin aging.

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Department of Dermatology, University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland.


Skin aging (intrinsic aging) and photoaging (extrinsic aging) involve a similar process that leads to the typical creased appearance of the skin, with the progressive loss of its physical and biologic properties. Photoaging is a premature skin aging caused by long-term exposure to the ultraviolet B radiations of the sun, and is more frequently associated to skin cancer than intrinsic aging. Retinoids are natural and synthetic vitamin A derivatives. They are lipophilic molecules and penetrate the epidermis easily. Their biologically active forms can modulate gene expression by binding to nuclear receptors and then to specific DNA sequences. Because of their ability to modulate genes involved in cellular differentiation and proliferation, they appear as good candidates to treat and prevent photoaging. Hyaluronate and collagen, two major constituents of the dermis, are progressively decreased and altered during aging. Various retinoids were shown to increase their synthesis and concentration in the skin and reduce their rate of degradation. Furthermore, retinoids share a common chemical structure containing several conjugated double bonds that enable them to trap free radicals and absorb UV radiations from the sun, thereby protecting cellular targets such as DNA, lipid membranes, or proteins by preventing direct photochemical damage or UV-induced oxidative stress. Therefore, retinoids may be beneficial in treating skin aging and photoaging because of their biologic, chemical, and physical properties, which act at several levels.

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