What is retinoic acid?

Retinoic acid

The acids are a type of substance that when it is in a solution has the ability to increase the concentration of the ions of hydrogen . In the world it is possible to find a large amount of acids, among them we find retinoic acid , a type of acid that is made within the human body from vitamin A , and that fulfills a very important function in cells. An important acid that can also be manufactured in chemical laboratories to treat skin problems.

Retinoic acid What is it, characteristics, structure, properties, uses 

What is retinoic acid?

The retinoic acid is a derivative of vitamin A which fulfills a number of important roles in the growth and organogenesis the cells so it is a necessary component the body to function and remain healthy .

  • Characteristics of retinoic acid
  • Structure
  • Formula
  • Nomenclature
  • Physical properties of retinoic acid
  • Chemical properties
  • Obtaining
  • Applications
  • Risks of retinoic acid

Characteristics of retinoic acid

Retinoic acid is one of the many members that are part of the retinoid family. It is a compound that is derived from retinal or vitamin A and has several characteristics, among which we mention the following:

  • Retinoic acid is obtained from vitamin A.
  • It is a chemical compound that is sensitive to light .
  • It has a relatively low molecular weight which allows it to be fat soluble , in other words, it can easily diffuse through cell membranes.
  • It can bind to cells via the cellular protein of binding to retinoic acid .
  • It is a fundamental molecule in the embryonic development of vertebrates.
  • It has a density of 0 ± 0.1 g / cm3.
  • Its boiling point is 8 ± 14.0 ° C at 760 mmHg.
  • It is also known as tretrinoin or trans retinoic acid .
  • It is one of the most powerful antioxidants out there.
  • It is produced in the body thanks to the presence of vitamin C.
  • It is part of the retinoid family which are chemical compounds that come from retinol .


Its structure is as follows:

Retinoic acid What is it, characteristics, structure, properties, uses


Retinoic acid has the following chemical formula : C20H28O2 .


The nomenclature of retinoic acid is as follows: (2E, 4E, 6E, 8E) -3,7-dimethyl-9- (2,6,6-trimethylcyclohexen-1-yl) nona-2,4,6,8- tetraenoic acid.

Physical properties of retinoic acid

Among its most important physical properties are the following:

  • It is usually in the form of a crystalline powder .
  • Its color is generally between orange and yellowish .

Chemical properties

Some of the chemical properties of this acid are as follows:

  • When it is in the presence of light, air or heat, it can oxidize due to its great sensitivity.
  • It is an acid insoluble in water but it is soluble in ether.
  • Its melting point is between 180 and 182 ° C.
  • It is quite unstable when in the presence of oxidizing agents .
  • It has a molar mass of 300.4351 g / mol.


Retinoic acid can be obtained through the consumption of vitamin A, which is of plant origin because it comes from beta-carotene. When this beta-carotene is ingested, it adheres to the intestine and in this place the process for the synthesis of retinoic acid begins . First, a substance called retinal will be produced by the enzyme reductase. Subsequently, most of the free retinol is esterified through the action of the enzymes lecithin-retinol acyltransferase and part of the retinol is stored while another undergoes stratification to form retinol . This retinol will then be oxidized to the active form of theretinoic acid .

To achieve an adequate level of this acid in the human body, it is necessary to consume rich sources of vitamin A , for example fortified cereals , fish oils , dairy products , green vegetables , spinach and fruits such as orange and tangerine .


The uses of retinoic acid are many and all of them are important to the human body. If we remember that vitamin C is derived, we can conclude that it plays a fundamental role in several of the processes related to vision , learning and memory . They intervene by improving and increasing immune function and reproduction and also have an important use for the skin .

Another important use of retinoic acid is in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia and some types of cancer, since it has been shown that in high doses it has the ability to kill cancer cells. In skin diseases, it manages to considerably increase the production of collagen , it also reduces the amount of blemishes on the skin and smoothes wrinkles .

Risks of retinoic acid

Despite its great benefits, retinoic acid can also carry several considerable risks, in fact, in some countries its use is totally contraindicated for skin treatments. This acid is considered teratogenic so its use in women of reproductive age is contraindicated as it could cause serious congenital malformations in the fetus, so its use is completely prohibited in women who are in the gestation period.

Being an irritant agent , it can cause the skin to flake and also makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight since it is a photosensitizer , it could even cause skin burns . Regarding the risks, it is important to remember that this acid comes from vitamin A, then, when uncontrolled doses of it are ingested, a series of reactions or side effects can also occur in the body, among which we can mention the following:

  • Weakening of the bone system
  • Liver damage
  • Constant headaches
  • Skin irritation
  • Joint pain
  • Sickness
  • Blurred vision problems
  • Dizziness and vomiting

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