Retinol: The Skincare Ingredient That Stops Time

Apr 08, 2020   Dr. Preeti Talwar Skincare

What Is Retinol?

Vitamin A or Retinol has been the most go-to skincare ingredient to stop visible signs of ageing. This ingredient has been studied for decades and has proved time and time again to have positive effects on black spots, fine lines and wrinkles, acne inflammation, and oppose the impact of UV exposure.  

What Does It Do?

Retinoids (Retinoic Acid, Retinol, Tretinoin, Tazorac, Isotretinoin, Adapalene, and Retinal/Retinaldehyde) are a group of Vitamin A derivatives that increase cell turnover, reduce pore-clogging, increase collagen production to promote clear, brighter, and glowing skin.

Retinol: The Skincare Ingredient That Stops Time

How To Choose The Right Retinoid?

Before incorporating retinol into your skincare regimen, the first step is to decide between cosmetic retinol or a doctor prescribed more potent retinol, and secondly, to determine the result you want to achieve?

Prescription grade retinoids like Tretinoin or Retinoic Acid are pure forms of Vitamin A used to treat significant acne conditions that leave behind dark marks and acne scarring. Cosmetic retinoids, available over the counter, can be used by people in their early 20’s to target clogged pores and uneven skin tone.

Note: Do not use retinol if you are pregnant and consult a physician to decide if it is suitable for your skin, in case you are dealing with skin conditions like rosacea or eczema.

Non-Prescription Retinoids

  1. Retinyl Palmitate – This derivative of Vitamin A is the least potent and not considered by many dermatologists as it is neither useful nor absorbed well by the skin.
  2. Retinol – A popular form of retinoid that comes in varying strengths from as low as 0.025% to 1%, which is 100 times more durable and potent. Since retinol proves to be a little too strong, a good place to start would be with a small dose, as it will give your skin time to adjust and build a tolerance to the retinization process.
  3. Retinaldehyde – This form is easy to start and gentle as compared to retinol. It comes in two strengths- 0.05% and 0.1%. Also, aside from the retinoid effect of anti-ageing, it prevents acne by killing p.acne bacteria. 
  4. Granactive Retinoid – It is found in ordinary products and is more affordable. It is a cosmetic grade of retinoids with a significantly lower irritation level. 
  5. Retinyl Retinoate – It is a combination of retinol and retinoic acid. It is gentler on the skin due to the slow conversion rate of retinol to retinoic acid.

Prescription Retinoids

  1. Tretinoin – This form is recommended for anyone concerned about pre-mature ageing and blemish-prone skin. While tretinoin can cause irritation and heightened sensitivity due to increased cell turnover, it has proven to deliver acne-free, even-toned, and smooth skin with consistent use. 
  2. Adapalene (Differin) – This is a more tolerable retinoid form that has gone from being a prescription-only to an over-the-counter product. However, as dermatologists still view it as a strong retinoid medication that deals more specifically with acne and also pigmentation to some extent, they would recommend it to those who are dealing with acne, post-inflammatory pigmentation, thin and sensitive skin, and those who are nervous to start a more advanced and powerful form of retinoid.
  3. Isotretinoin – This type of retinoid comes as a tablet and in a gel formulation. It is sold in its own independent form and sometimes comes combined with an antibiotic. Isotretinoin is used to treat significant acne dealt by oily skin types. 
  4. Tazarotene (Tazorac) – This form again is for acne and pigmentation, and higher dosages are recommended for those suffering from psoriasis. However, it is quite potent in nature and not tolerated by most skin types.

Note: These are recommended for use only with proper physician guidance. 

Pro Tips To Start A Retinoid

  1. Cleanse

Always cleanse before applying retinoid to stop it from reacting with the surface dirt and dust. 

  1. Moisturize

First-time users are advised to go in gently by first moisturizing with Niacinamide as an active ingredient to reduce irritation or build tolerance level for the retinoid. It will increase ceramide content in your skin, making the protective barrier a little more robust. Also, when moisturizing, focus on the thin skin areas where fine lines and wrinkles might be like on the forehead, nasal areas, or around the corners of the mouth as they can be more prone to redness and irritation.

  1. Protect lips

Apply a lip balm to protect the thin layer around the corners from dryness and irritation.

  1. Retinoid application

Using retinoids means that you are prepared to let your skin go through some major changes. If you’ve never used a retinoid, start slow with an amount that equals to half of a quarter inch on your fingertip and apply every alternate day. You can build it up to larger amounts and use more often as tolerance develops. 

During application, use the 13 dot system to spread the cream/serum equally over your face. Use the majority on thicker parts and work the serum or cream in nicely as you don’t want it to sit on your skin as that will only irritate it more. Work the application nice and gently till it seeps into the deeper layers of the skin, allowing it to work its magic like production of collagen and hyaluronic acid. Massage it till the skin is touch dry.

Note: For first time users, it is better to use a cream as it is easier to measure when compared to serums. Use a serum when your skin is adjusting well to the treatment. 

  1. Moisturize

After applying the retinoid treatment, wait for 15 minutes and then moisturize again to get relief from the dryness that will follow.

  1. Consistency is key

Any visible changes to the skin take about a month or two. If your retinoid treatment is relatively easy on your skin, then stick to it every other day routine and stick to the generous use of a moisturizer before and after the use of retinoid. If redness and irritation persist, consult with a dermatologist before continuing use or switching to another retinoid.

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