The term retinoid refers to a group of compounds that are derived from vitamin A. It encompasses a series of chemical ingredients, including retinoic acid, retinol, retinal, retinyl acetate, and retinyl palmitate. Of these, retinol is the on which is most commonly used in skin care cosmetics.
The benefits to using retinol are phenomenal. They are the only topical products that repeatedly demonstrate anti-aging properties in scientific studies. Additionally, they stimulate the creation of collagen, control pigment, and help trap free radicals while also absorbing UV radiation from the sun. In addition, they protect DNA, lipid membranes, and proteins from UV-induced oxidative stress.
At first, retinoids can seem a bit overwhelming. It’s important to find which works best for your skin type/sensitivity. Retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate are milder than retinol, and retinol is milder than retinal, which is milder than retinoic acid. These ingredients can be found in milder, over-the-counter formulations. Some professional/medical brands offer stronger alternatives, as well. These would need to be purchased at your favorite spa and under the recommendation of a trusted skin care specialist. The strongest and most effective form is prescription-strength retinoids.
If prescription strength is the most effective, then why bother with other variations? It all comes down to tolerability. With retinoids, it’s best to start out low and slow. These are very active ingredients and your skin will most likely have an adjustment period. As long as you’re using it correctly, the adjustment period should be mild and only temporary. Once you’ve found the right product for you, here are some pointers:
- Wash your face and make sure it is completely dry.
- Apply eye cream to act as a barrier.
- Use only a pea size amount (more is not more), followed by your favorite moisturizer.
- It’s wise to start gradually by using 2x per week, then every night once your skin can tolerate it.
- Be patient with your skin and this process. Do not stop using your retinol (unless you have an allergic reaction). In the beginning there will most likely be a bit of dryness, redness, and flaking.
- After a few weeks of use you are going to start seeing dramatic results.
- Remember, skin treated with retinoids will be sensitive to UV rays. To avoid burning, irritation, and dark spots, use only in the evening and make sure you apply sunscreen daily.
Article written by Leah Hardin, LME, Alya Salon & Spa