By Dr Davin Lim
Best used: PM
Caution: Sensitive Skin, Rosacea
Best for: Anti-aging, acne
Comments: Early development. Retinoid effects without side effects
Mode of action: Retinoid like effects
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What is the science behind hydroxypinacolone retinoate?
HPR or hydroxypinacolone retinoate is an ester of retinoic acid (tretinoin; medically prescribed retinoid). There is a suggestion that HPR is as powerful as prescribed retinoids, without the unwanted side effects such as flaking, skin irritation & redness. In some countries, HPR is regulated like a prescription retinoid.
Retinoids bind to RAR & RXR receptors, in turn leading to the biological actions that include increasing cell turnover & proliferation, collagen synthesis, pigmentation & oil reduction, reduction of inflammation, & up regulation of blood vessel synthesis. This accounts for the anti-acne & anti-aging benefits of vitamin A.
The closer a molecule is to retinoic acid, the more powerful the effects. Unlike retinol, retinyl & aldehydes, HPR does not require enzymatic conversion to exert retinoid-like effects, hence all the fuss.
Is HPR better than retinol?
To date (as of 2021), there are limited papers on HPR vs Retinol vs vehicle. Most papers* suggest that HPR is better than retinol, with clinical outcomes comparable to prescription with less side effects such as skin irritation & redness.
*Papers-research undertaken by L’Oreal. Papers that show efficacy in acne use a formulation of HPR in combination with retinol. The latest research has demonstrated a good clearance with antibacterials coupled with HPR, retinol & salicylic acid 0.5%.
What is Granactive Retinoid?
Granactive is the trade (fancy) name for HPR. This catchy name consists of 90% solvent with only 10% active ingredient. Hence if labeled as 1% Granactive, the actual concentration of hydroxypinacolone retinoate or HPR is 0.1%
What are the other alternatives?
Other options include Retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde & prescription retinoids. The most efficacious form is retinoic acid, however side effects are universally seen with prescription creams. The next most powerful topical which only requires one step conversion is retinaldehyde, followed by retinol and retinyl derivatives.
The decision to incorporate which retinoids into your skincare regimen is largely based on two factors- your end goals & importantly your skin’s irritant threshold.
What is the highest over the counter retinol you can get?
Commercially available strengths range from 0.5 to 4%. Apart from strengths, formulation plays an important role. In the context of Granactive formulations, they typically range from 0.5 to 10%. Remember only 10% of Granactive is the active HPR.
What combinations of HPR are the most effective?
The leading studies combine stabilized forms of HPR & retinol, hence it is very hard to interpret what are the real outcomes. New combinations of HPR + retinol combined with peptides & BHA show promising efficacy in the management of acne.
How do I incorporate HPR - hydroxypinacolone retinoate in my skin care routine?
A sensible skin care routine that involves HPR goes something like this;
AM: Gentle wash or BHA, SPF, Make up, with the option of antioxidants (Ferulic acid, Ascorbic acid, Vitamin E/Tocopherol).
PM: Cleanser, HPR, Option to layer niacinamide & other active based upon your skin’s irritant threshold.
Davin’s Viewpoint on HPR hydroxypinacolone retinoate
Results are promising however some of the studies do not make any sense. There is one in particular that shows clinical effects at Day 14. We know that for collagen synthesis, it does take 6-10 weeks for efficacy- and that is with retinoic acid.
The biochemistry does however make sense, as the ester of retinoic acid does not require further conversion to exert its effects in the skin. The lack of skin irritation is another added bonus.