The antiaging efficacy of retinol (ROL) has been explored mainly clinically in photoprotected skin sites and for high doses of ROL (0.4–1.6%). The objective of the study was to demonstrate the antiaging action of a low and tolerable dose of ROL (0.1%) ex vivo by measuring the expression of cellular retinoic-acid-binding protein II (CRABP2) and heparin-binding epidermal growth factor (HBEGF) by a histological evaluation of the epidermis and in vivo by assessing major aging signs and performing three-dimensional profilometry and digital imaging during a 9-month double-blind placebo-controlled study involving 48 volunteers. Finally, epidermal cell proliferation was evaluated using tryptophan fluorescence spectroscopy. Our results demonstrate that 0.1% ROL induced CRABP2 and HBEGF gene expression and increased keratinocyte proliferation and epidermal thickness. In human volunteers, topical application of a ROL-containing product improved all major aging signs assessed in our study (wrinkles under the eyes, fine lines and tone evenness). Moreover, tryptophan fluorescence increased in the active-agent-treated group and not in the placebo-treated group, indicating that cell proliferation was accelerated in vivo. These data demonstrate that a product containing a low dose (0.1%) of ROL promotes keratinocyte proliferation ex vivo and in vivo, induces epidermal thickening ex vivo and alleviates skin aging signs, without any significant adverse reaction.

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