We’re used to layering products after products every morning and night, all of which have a different purpose and particular benefits for our skin. But what if I told you that there’s one product that contains many different benefits for the skin, ranging from anti-aging properties to sebum control and fighting acne?
Yes, you guessed it, that product is retinoid. Retinoid has been a staple in people’s skincare for decades, and there is a reason why. More and more people nowadays are claiming that retinoids are their holy-grail skincare products, and in this article, we will explore all its different properties and functions, as well as give you some tips on how to use it and which products to stay away from while you’re using it.
So, if you’ve been wanting to try retinoid in your skincare, this is the article for you.
First and foremost, before going into all the practicalities regarding the implementation of this product in your skincare regimen, let’s first establish what retinoids are so that you can get a better understanding for what you’re putting on your face.
Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A and they have been used as a skincare product for decades now. So, retinoids is an umbrella term for all these derivatives that fall into the same group, the most famous of which is Retin A, made of tretinoin. Another famous derivative is retinol, which is also a common product in skincare. There is retinoic acid as well, a type of acid that’s not only good for the skin but it’s also easily absorbable.
Retinoid products can contain mainly retinoid, but they can also be mixed with other ingredients, which is mostly the case when retinoid is used as an anti-aging product.
As we’ve already mentioned, retinoid is a general term for all the derivatives of vitamin A that fall under the category of skincare products.
Retinol, on the other hand, has a specific formula and function. When retinol is applied to the skin, your skin enzymes convert it into retinaldehyde first, and later into retinoic acid. Due to this slow process of conversion, it’s gentler on the skin than other retinoid products, but at the same time, it will take more time for you to see results after you’ve been using it on a regular basis. Nevertheless, the results come eventually, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on anything.
Retin-A is the most commonly used retinoid for battling acne. This tretinoin cream is extremely strong but also exceptionally effective for many skin issues. Due to the fact that it’s stronger on the skin, it does provide faster results but at the same time, the risk of getting any of the side-effects is greater.
There are many benefits that you too can experience by trying out retinoids from a couple of months. Remember, like all other products, it will take approximately 3-4 months for you to notice any significant improvements on your skin, whether it’s in terms of acne reduction, wrinkles or skin tone. Let’s examine all the potential benefits of retinoid usage.
Most people use retinoid in order to reduce their acne and eliminate it completely. Many people who have been struggling with acne for decades are prescribed either topical retinoid cream or Accutane so that their struggle finally comes to an end. Both the oral medication and the topical treatment can drastically reduce the amount of acne you have, and what’s more, they can prevent acne in the future by shrinking pore size, treating excess sebum and unclogging pores. All of this combined will ensure that the breakouts are minimized and your complexion stays clean and shine-free.
You can use topical retinoids by applying a small amount of the product on a clean face, approximately 30 minutes after you’re done washing for optimal results. If you plan on going on Accutane, it’s imperative that you visit an experienced dermatologist who will carefully determine the dosage of Accutane and explain to you all the possible side-effect of going on it.
While we’re on the subject of Accutane, what makes people hesitant to try out retinoid creams is the notion that your skin will worsen before it gets better. This is technically true – your skin will take some getting used to the formula and in that period of time, you may experience some uncomfortable side-effect. This period is commonly referred to as ‘purging’ or ‘detoxification’ of the skin. Although it’s unpleasant for those who’ve suffered from acne for years, it’s completely normal and every patient goes through it. Eventually, after your skin is used to the new product, the breakouts will start to go away and new, clear skin will be revealed from underneath.
Now that you know all the benefits of retinoids in terms of acne, let’s see how it affects wrinkles. Although these common skin problems aren’t directly related, retinoids can potentially work on both.
Retinoids increase the amount of collagen in your skin, which definitely contributes to a decrease in wrinkles and fine lines. Collagen is produced by the fibroblasts which function is to support the epidermis and create collagen. As we age, the amount of collagen our skin produces drops, so it always helps to include products which contain collagen in our skincare routine. Collagen not only helps keep the wrinkles at bay, but it also keeps your skin plump which gives it a youthful look.
On top of that, retinoids can also stimulate the production of elastin in your skin. Just like the name suggests, elastin gives your skin elasticity, which is incredibly important for preserving the youthful appearance. Skin which doesn’t contain enough elastin usually shows signs of aging and creasing, so if you want to avoid all of that then retinol is the way to go.
Other than increasing collagen and elastin, retinoids also stimulate new blood vessels which keep our skin healthy and glowing. This process can also work on hyperpigmentation – it stimulates the healing of spots and marks left by previous acne.
If you want to use retinoids for their anti-aging benefits, the application should be the same as if you’re using it for acne. Apply a pea-sized amount of the product on your face before you go to bed, approximately 30 minutes after you’ve cleansed your face.
Retinoids speed up cell turnover and act as a topical exfoliant, so with regular usage expect an even skin tone and a bright complexion.
You know by now that retinoids are vitamin A derivatives. What you might not know is that vitamin A is an antioxidant, and antioxidants protect you from free radicals and oxidative stress. When applied to the skin, antioxidants have the same benefits. Retinoids can protect your skin from environmental stressors and aggressors, as well as other harmful external effects from the sun and pollution.
Yup, retinoids can also help with large pores. Not only can retinoids clear out pores from congestion, but they can also decrease the physical size of pores and smooth the skin. Decreasing pore size will not only look physically appealing, but it will also protect you from future breakouts.
There is enough evidence to conclude that retinoids help with skin conditions such as psoriasis. They work by slowing down the growth of skin cells which normally occurs at a higher rate. If you’re using retinoids for this skin condition, the same rules of application apply.
A rather unusual benefit from using retinoids, but it does work! When all else fails, dermatologists prescribe retinoids for patients with warts. Retinoids, in this case, work by disrupting the growth of the wart’s cells.
Now that we’ve covered all areas which retinoids can help with, let’s answer the most asked question regarding retinoids: Are they suitable for all skin types?
The short answer is yes, all skin types can potentially benefit from using different types of retinoids. But what will happen to every single type is that they will go through that initial phase of irritation, redness, breakouts and dry skin before retinoids start to work.
Which particular brand, formula, and type of retinoid you choose will depend on your skin type and this is an important matter that you should discuss with your dermatologist.
Here are some general tips to make your retinoid adjustment period a lot easier.
When adding a new product in your skincare routine, it’s important to start slowly. If you’re not a very patient person, this might irritate you, but trust that it’s for your own good. How slowly you add it on your skin depends on how sensitive your skin is to new products, but generally speaking, you should start by applying it one night a week and then two nights a week and work it up until you can apply it every other night. Once your skin is used to that frequency, you can try adding it every night.
As mentioned before, it’s best not to apply your retinoids right after you wash your face. Instead, wait for 20 to 30 minutes and then apply the product.
Don’t apply too much product since it can dry out and irritate your face. Avoid the lips and eye area and make sure you’re wearing protective gloves so that you don’t irritate the skin on your hands.
When it comes to choosing the best retinoid product on the market, there are a few things you should be wary of in terms of packaging and labeling.
As you’re purchasing the product, make sure that the packaging is tinted and impermeable because retinoids are very sensitive to sunlight.
If you’re looking at the ingredient list, keep in mind that retinoids can appear as many names, since they have so many derivatives. Some of those names include retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate, retinal and retinoid.
If you’ve never used a retinoid product in your life, start with a low percentage and work your way up. There are many brands which offer a wide range of products with different percentages, so you don’t have to worry about not finding a suitable one.
The answer to this question depends on which retinoid product you’re on the lookout for.
If you want to purchase Tretinoin (retinoic acid), it will require a prescription. It’s much stronger than retinol and it works faster.
Retinol is a tamer version of tretinoin and it doesn’t require a prescription. You can purchase this topical treatment in most pharmacies under many different brands.
Consult your physician in order to determine which type will suit your skin best. Make sure to discuss all the potential side-effects with them and make a plan on how to avoid them using other skincare products.
The benefits of retinoids are quite appealing, but some people are put off by the mere fact that you need to be really careful if you’re planning on introducing them as an integral part of your skincare regimen. Here is a list of products you should avoid at all costs while using retinoids. These will not only lessen the effects of the retinoids themselves, but they can also lead to some very troubling side-effects and cross-reactions. Knowledge is power, so have this list in mind while using retinoids.
Since retinoids are notorious for drying out your skin, in general, you should avoid any additional products which tend to have the same effect. Some people might get away with using toners in the morning, but it’s generally not recommended to use them if you’re prone to dry skin since toners can be drying to those who have normal and dry skin. Unless you’ve been prescribed a specific toner from your dermatologist, it’s a good idea to stay away from them while you’re using retinoids.
Benzoyl peroxide is an incredible ingredient on its own. It has the ability to kill off harmful acne-causing bacteria without risking antibiotic resistance. However, when combined with retinoids, it can be a problem for most people. Not only can it dry out your skin, but it can also cause the retinoid to oxidize, which is definitely not what you should aim for. The process of oxidization makes the product less effective, so you’ll be wasting your time and your money.
Exfoliators are amazing for rejuvenating the skin, but if you use too many of them at the same time, you risk burning your face and removing the protective layer of skin which serves as a barrier for all the bacteria and pollutants to enter the skin. Retinoids, as we’ve established, have the ability to shed off skin layers and thus reveal healthy skin from underneath. But if you go too far and add a new product on top of that, you risk all kinds of trouble.
Exfoliants you should avoid include acids such as AHA and BHA, harsh scrubs, abrasive face masks, fruit acids, lactic acid, and crystals.
Those who have read about retinoids are well aware of the fact that dermatologists urge their patients to use sunscreen on a daily basis, whenever they leave the house, especially if they’re on harsher acne treatments such as retinoids.
Why is this so? Retinoids get rid of dead skin cells which helps the skin but it also makes it more open to potential damage from the sun. Abrasive treatments such as chemical peels and acids like AHA and BHA have the same effect.
This is why it’s best to use these products at night, right before you go to bed. That way you can avoid direct exposure to the sun as soon as you put them on. Avoid using them through the day as much as you can.
Use at least SPF 30 while you’re on a retinoid treatment and keep reapplying layers of SPF if you’re outside for a longer period of time. Make sure you stay away from direct sun exposure (although this isn’t always an option) and wear protective clothing such as a cap when you go out. Try to stay indoors from 10 am and 4 pm, but if you must be outside while the sun is out, try to sit in the shade.
Despite all the incredible benefits that come with using retinoids on a regular basis, there are some side-effects you should be aware of before starting to use them in your skincare routine.
Here are the most common skin problems which you might experience:
Although this seems like quite a long list, most people only experience a few of the side-effects mentioned on the list. If you’re visiting a dermatologist in order to get your retinoid prescription, they will definitely warn you about all of these and give you helpful tips just like those mentioned in this article. If you introduce retinoids gradually, use a proper moisturizer, apply SPF on a regular basis, are wary of all the products which you put on your skin, you’re minimizing the chances of experiencing any of these. So, following instructions is crucial in this step.
Another thing that might be affected by retinoid usage is your waxing treatments. As we mentioned, retinoids make your skin more sensitive and thinner, so you should avoid waxing while you’re on them so you can avoid any unnecessary peeling of the skin layers.
Using retinoids might seem like a daunting task, but if you pay attention to all the repercussions, you will be fine and your treatment will be successful. It might seem like it’s a lot to take in at once, but trust that once you start to implement all of these tips, you will remember them easily and it will come naturally to you.
Have faith in the process and trust that you too will experience all the benefits which retinoids have in store.
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.