Skin, being exposed directly to the environment, represents a unique model for demonstrating the synergistic effects of intrinsic and extrinsic factors on the ageing process. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is the major factor among exogenous stressors responsible for premature skin ageing. The problem of skin ageing has captured public attention and has an important social impact. Different therapeutic approaches have been developed to treat cutaneous ageing and to diminish or prevent the negative effects of UVR. Topical retinoids represent an important and powerful class of molecules in the dermatologist's hands for the treatment of photodamaged skin. Since their introduction more than 20 years ago, topical retinoids have shown beneficial efficacy and good safety profiles in the management of photodamaged skin, and as therapeutic anti-ageing agents. This review provides a brief retrospective of the development of topical retinoids in the treatment of photodamaged skin, elucidates their mechanism of action, delineates their use and addresses clinical, pharmaceutical and regulatory issues in connection with their intended use.
© 2010 The Authors. BJD © 2010 British Association of Dermatologists.