Retinol is right up there with sunscreen when it comes to aging, or rather anti-aging. No one disputes that wearing sunscreen is absolutely vital if you want to age well. The benefits of retinol are numerous, it’s the gold standard when it comes to collagen and elastin production, cell turnover, and a plump, dewy complexion. If you’re over 30, this post is for you.
Retinol, Retinoids, And Retin-A
Retinoids: Retinol and Retin-A are both retinoids, which are naturally-occurring vitamin A derivatives in the skin. The skin contains receptors for retinoids. Differin gel, or adapalene, which you’ve likely heard of is another type of retinoid used for acne because it reduces inflammation underneath the skin, and stimulates cell turnover. Accutane is an oral retinoid.
Retin-A: Retin-A or retinoic acid, is a synthetic or pharmaceutical form of vitamin A that has been used for years to treat acne, and is now used extensively as an anti-aging product. In fact, the FDA approved its use over 40 years ago. It can be purchased by prescription only under the generic name, tretinoin. It’s a much stronger retinoid than retinol and has a powerful effect on skin cell differentiation, which is responsible for many of the side effects associated with Retin-A. It is sold in concentration levels of 0.01% to 0.1%.
Retinol: Is a precursor to the active ingredient tretinoin in Retin-A, and is converted to retinoic acid via an enzyme in the skin. It’s a natural form of vitamin A. It’s much less irritating to the skin than Retin-A, making it a better choice for many people. Retinol delivers phenomenal results minus the annoying side effects, and it can be bought over-the-counter in concentrations ranging from 0.5% to 2.5%.
What retinoid product you choose to use will depend on various factors, including the reason you’re using it, your age, how sensitive your skin is, and your skin type.
The Benefits Of Retinol
Retinol has antioxidant properties, making it beneficial for treating free radical damage, which shows up as deep wrinkles in the skin. It is also a keratolytic, meaning it softens the keratin, a protein in skin cells, and gently exfoliates the top layer of skin to reveal healthier, younger-looking skin. This leads to a smoother complexion, while reducing the appearance of age spots and other pigmentation.
- collagen production
- prevents and treats acne
- reduces fine lines and wrinkles
- makes the skin stronger
- treats photo aging
- brightens complexion
- unclogs pores
- fades age spots
- stimulates cell turnover
- diminishes pore size
- eliminates blackheads
- thickens the skin
- decrease the development of melanin
- prevent a build-up of dead cells in the pores
Over-The-Counter Products With Retinol
You can buy some really great over-the-counter retinol products. They’re effective, yet non-irritating, making them safe enough to use every night. You may or may not need a moisturizer, depending on your skin type. Always wash your face before applying. Some people like to use retinol every other night or a few days in a row with a couple of days off. Set a schedule that works for you based on how your skin reacts to the product you’re using. Make sure vitamin A is listed as one of the first five ingredients when buying retinol to make sure it works as intended.
[Read More: What Is The Best Skincare System?]
Following are some great 2.5% retinol products. I always go for the highest strength retinol I can find. And by the way, if these products are good for women’s skin, they’re also fantastic for men:
I’ve used prescription Retin-A for years, and have also used over-the-counter retinol, especially for the area underneath my eyes. Both work, but prescription retinoids are stronger in concentration, which may or may not be good for your skin, especially if it’s super sensitive. You can still get great results with retinol. If you have particularly sensitive skin, I would definitely start there as it won’t cause as much flakiness and redness.
Retin-A is a strong retinoid and acts kind of like a chemical peel. Since it doesn’t have to be converted to retinoic acid in the skin, you’ll see results faster, but you’ll still get amazing results with a non-prescription retinol. Retin-A is a good choice if you have acne. If it becomes too drying, use a non-comedogenic moisturizer. When I first started using Retin-A in my 30s, I would exfoliate more often than normal because of the flakiness factor, which thankfully tapered off over time.
Since retinol is gentler on the skin than Retin-A , your skin will be less sensitive to the sun. Always apply the cream at night, as sunlight will deactivate it, canceling out the benefits. Keep in mind, when using Retin-A, your skin may look worse before it starts to look better, due to the kerolytic effects
What About Contraindications?
Sunscreen and retinol go together like a hand in a glove. You should be wearing sunscreen as a matter of course anyway, but particularly when you’re using strong retinoids like Retin-A. Retinol can be used every day or a few times a week. How often you use Retin-A will depend on your skin type and how irritating it is to your skin. Retinoids are contraindicated for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, and shouldn’t be used in conjunction with products that contain alpha hydroxy acids or benzoyl peroxide, which would compound the drying effect. Unfortunately, once you stop using retinol, the benefits stop as well.
[Read More: The Benefits Of Glycolic Acid]
Fortunately, there are retinol alternatives that are safe to use while for pregnant and lactating women, just make sure it says “phyto retinol” on it. Check out this phyto retinol serum.
Retinol is a beloved superstar of anti-aging skincare. It’s been an indispensable tool in my skin rejuvenation toolkit. A little dab will do your entire face, so a tube or jar will last a long time, making it cost-effective. You’ll start to notice positive changes in your skin in just a few weeks. What are you waiting for?
Have you used an over-the-counter retinol or prescription Retin-A? Let me know in the comments:)