Inspired by vitamin A for anti‐ageing: Searching for plant‐derived functional retinoid analogues

N. J. Sadgrove, J. E. Oblong, M. S. J. Simmonds


Background: Cosmetic treatments that inspire one's appearance to resemble their younger portrait often utilize ingredients that confer acute effects, particularly hydration by creating hydrophobic barriers or transient elevation of barrier water content. But superior therapies successfully promote morphogenesis of the dermal‐epidermal junction, inspiring extracellular matrix (ECM) formation. This can be achieved by agonism of the very well‐known retinoid nuclear receptors using the endogenous ligand all‐trans retinoic acid (tRA), tRA precursors or plant‐based functional analogues, with reduced side effects.

Aims, Materials and Methods: While there are already many promising cosmetic ingredients available from the world's flora, higher potency is favoured, so increasing known candidates is a worth undertaking. Functional analogues of retinoic acid can be identified by culturing fibroblasts with lipophilic candidates from the plant kingdom and assessing genearrays. Modern approaches to validating these findings include the coculturing of fibroblasts with keratinocytes as a measure to predict the potential effects of crosstalk.

Results and Discussion: In this regard, the most promising plant‐derived candidates are of terpene or meroterpene origin, including derivatives of squalene and phytol. Surprisingly pimaric or abietic acids and labdane diterpenes are also noteworthy agonists of the retinoic acid receptor, stimulating collagen expression in dermal fibroblasts.

Conclusion: There are numerous derivatives of these terpenes available from the world's flora and research conducted thus far encourages further screening of these chemical candidates.