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Vitamin A lotion may reduce wrinkles

June 25, 2007|Tom Graham | Washington Post

A small study has shown it may be possible to reverse somewhat the wrinkling of old age. The research suggests that topical application of retinol, a form of vitamin A, could make older people less prone to skin ulcerations and poor healing of wounds.

Three dozen white people -- average age, 87 -- had a skin moisturizer laced with retinol applied to one of their inner arms a couple of times a week for six months; a placebo was applied to the other arm. Neither the researcher who rubbed on the lotions nor the participants knew what was being applied.

By the end of the testing period, fine wrinkling -- which was assessed on a scale from zero, for none, to 9, for severe -- declined considerably on the retinol-treated skin, from an average of 7.25 to 5.61.

The researchers speculated that the retinol increased the production of collagen, which helps make skin elastic, and of glycosaminoglycan, which retains water.

Most of the 36 participants experienced some redness or itchiness where the retinol had been applied, though only three found these reactions severe enough to withdraw from the study.

Retinoic acid, a different form of vitamin A, is used to treat acne and sunlight-damaged skin. Sold under Retin-A and other brands, it is unsuitable for geriatric patients, the researchers noted, because of the irritation it often causes.

Eleven of the seniors who received follow-up exams found the benefits of the drug to be transitory: Six months after the study, the researchers found no significant differences between the retinol-treated skin and the placebo-treated skin.

Four of the authors of the study, which appeared in the May edition of the Archives of Dermatology, are working on patents for treating aging skin. The National Institutes of Health partially funded the research.

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