Skin care product launches nearly doubled over the past ten years and the same active ingredient is still used in most of these products. That’s good old retinoid. Retinoid is a class of vitamin A used for skin care since the 70’s. It was developed as an acne treatment in the 60’s by Dr. Albert Kligman, a professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. Kligman noticed that his acne patients had reduced wrinkles and improved skin tones.
Retinoids are amazing multitaskers! They act directly on the DNA of skin cells, boosting cell functions that slow down once we hit our 30’s. Retinoids increase cellular turnover by sloughing off dead, damaged skin cells, which improves the health and enhances the radiance of your skin. Retinoids also thin the top layer of your skin (the stratum corneum) while thickening the lower layers of the epidermis, helping to achieve a firm and luminous complexion. The benefits continue deeper below the surface. Retinoids boost the production of collagen (the skin’s primary support structure) and prevent collagen breakdown. They also increase the levels of glycosaminoglycans such as hyaluronic acid that keep your skin plump and hydrated.
Which Retinoid is Right for You?
If you are a newbie, over the counter products are a good place to start. Look for retinoids labeled as “encapsulated” or “stabilized” and retinoids called “retinol” or “retinyl palmitate”. These ingredients convert to retinoic acid in the skin. We suggest that you purchase your retinoid in an airless pump because all retinoids are sensitive to light, heat, and air. Vitamin A is prone to breaking down and losing its potency so store your retinoids appropriately.
Prescription retinoids contain pure retinoic acid, which is up to 20 times stronger than OTC products. Higher retinoid levels mean that you will see quicker results but it’s very important not to jump right into prescription strength because of the side effects. The most common side effects include redness, burning, peeling, flaking, and dry skin.
OTC retinoids can give you a brighter, smoother complexion in just a few days but you should allow at least 6 weeks to see noticeable results. After six months, consider moving to a prescription retinoid, but only if your skin feels comfortable and can tolerate the higher strength.
How to Care for Your Skin
You finally achieved great skin! Now what? You need to protect your skin daily with an SPF of 30 or higher because retinoids thin out the top layer of dead skin cells, making you more prone to sunburn. So it’s best to apply retinoids only at night to avoid any discomfort during the day. Here are some quick and simple instructions to ramp up faster results:
- Wash your face at bedtime with a mild cleanser. You may use an alpha hydroxy acid or a salicylic acid but avoid cleansers containing rough beads. Wait about 20 minutes after cleansing before applying your retinoid to avoid stinging.
- Apply a dime sized amount of retinoid (total) to your face, neck, and chest. Do not apply a retinoid inside your orbital bone because it could irritate your eyes. The heat from your face will liquefy the retinoid outside the orbital bone and push it toward your eyes, addressing any fine lines and wrinkles in that area.
- Follow the retinoid with a night moisturizer as needed. If your skin is very sensitive, apply a thin layer of moisturizer before applying the retinoid.
- If you can’t tolerate the irritation, wash off the retinoid after 15 minutes. This is known as a “short contact” method, which can greatly increase your comfort while slightly lessening the benefits.
- Begin using your retinoid twice weekly for two weeks, then increase to three times weekly. If you encounter too much irritation, reduce the frequency until your skin can tolerate the increase. Try to work your way up to nightly applications but, if your skin is most comfortable at three or four times weekly, then stay there.
Retinoids are probably the best single product you can use to improve your skin’s health and beauty. Follow the simple steps above to make your retinoid experience painless and effective.