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Retinoids: To Use or Not to Use, That is the Question!

Have you thought of using a Retinoid product but are not sure if it is right for you? Or maybe you have a prescription Retinoid and had some skin irritation and you stopped using it and now you think Retinoids are just not for you?

At Body Celebration – Holistic Skincare & Wellness, we carry incredible Retinol products at 4 different strengths: Body Celebration Sensitive Retinol Restore has a 0.3% strength. This Retinol is a great product to start out with and can even be used by most sensitive skin types. Our Retinol Restore I comes at 0.8% strength and the Retinol Restore II is a 1.6% strength. We also carry a Retinol Creme from Lira Clinical which is a 3% Retinol combined with a 7% Lactic.

The formulas actually help reverse the signs of aging, so skin looks younger, healthier and more vibrant. To get a bit more technical, a Liposomal delivery system ensures nutrients are absorbed into the skin. The nutrients in Body Celebration’s Retinol Restore are delivered directly to the skin by a lipid bi-layer liposome similar to the body’s own cell membranes. These liposomes facilitate transport of nourishment into the skin.

“That’s Great, But I Still Don’t Know Much About Retinoids.”

  • Should I use it, should I not?
  • What is the difference between Retinol and Retin-A?
  • Is it really good for my skin?
  • Will it cause irritation?
  • Do I need to use sunscreen when I use it?
  • Can I still go on tropical vacations and swim in the ocean?
  • What are retinoids?????

These are just some questions or concerns I have heard from clients in my treatment room.

The truth is that if a Retinoid is used correctly they can have amazing anti-aging and skin rejuvenating benefits! Retinoids have decades of research proving they can turn around aging skin and have shown in studies to do everything from smoothing fine lines and fading dark spots to making pores look smaller. So let’s clear up some of the confusion in a step-by-step process.

What are Retinoids?

Retinoids are a class of chemical compounds that are related chemically to vitamin A. There are a number of different types of Retinoids found in skin care products including Retinyl Palmitate, Retinol and Retinoic Acid. Retinyl Palmitate is not a bio available Retinoid and is therefore not as effective. I will be focusing on Retinol and Retinoic Acid in this article.

Retinol is the alcohol form of the vitamin A molecule, and is considered by many to be the purest and true form of Vitamin A. Retinol must be converted by our skin to Retinoic Acid before it can deliver any beneficial effects to the skin which our skin has the ability to do, provided the Retinol is in the correct delivery system.

Retinoic Acid is the acid form of Vitamin A. Dr. Albert Kligman discovered it when he researched cures for acne in the 1960s. Retinoic acid is patented because it is not in its natural form. It is a synthetic derivative of Vitamin A and therefore is available by prescription only. The prescription names you might be familiar with are Retin-A, Tretinoin, Aberela, Airol, Renova, Atralin, Avita, or Stieva-A, just to name a few.

What do Retinoids do?

Retinoids are known as cell communicating agents because they encourage skin cells to communicate and function normally. This is a process that is often disrupted during the aging process. When Retinoids help skin to function normally your skin derives a number of benefits including:

  • An increase in new skin cells due to an increase in cell turnover at the top layer of skin
  • Skin looks brighter and smoother
  • Smoother, plumper skin due to an increase in collagen production
  • A reduction in pore size because Retinoids can penetrate oil glands and help to unclog pores
  • A reduction in skin pigmentation associated with sun damage or other hyper pigmentation disorders such as Melasma
  • Protection against free radical damage due to its antioxidant action

Retinoids are an integral part of any anti aging skin care regimen because their regular use results in skin that is tighter, smoother, brighter and blemish free. Are all Retoinds equal? No not at all. Retinoids have to be stable and should be in a delivery system that our epidermis and dermis can utilize. In order to be effective Retinoids must also be delivered in adequate concentration. IF they are in a proper delivery system AND at a proper percentage Retinoids help to stimulate the production of collagen, hyaluronic acid, and elastin. The process also encourages our cells to function normally, energizes cells and calms melanocytes.

Translation: brown spots fade (with proper sun protection), fine lines and wrinkles diminish, skin takes on a healthy glow, skin looks firmer, and the texture of the skin will also improve.

So should I use a Retinol Product or a prescription Retinoic Acid?

Prescription Retinoids have Retinoic Acid, so your skin does not have to be convert it. It is kind of like a “nuclear bomb” going off and can cause peeling, irritation, sensitivity, redness, discomfort and sun sensitivity in many people, it can thin your skin as well. All this unfortunately makes lots of people think all Retinoids are irritating, but this is not true.

Retinol on the other hand used properly is not at all irritating or inflaming to the skin since the Retinol is slowly converted to retinoic acid, the active ingredient in prescription creams. It may simply take more time (12-14 weeks) to notice a difference in your skin than if you’d used a prescription product. Retinol promotes collagen synthesis so your skin gets stronger and healthier over time. Retinol is mildly exfoliating and can cause some sloughing of the skin if there is damage because the restoration process, so to speak, has started.

HOWEVER you have to allow your skin the time to acclimate to the Retinol. The acclimation period will vary from person to person. Over time your skin cells will increase the number of receptor cells each holds to drink in and utilize the very beneficial Retinoids and thus you can use them more and more frequently.

Do I have to avoid sun when I use a Retinoid and when do I use it?

While it is true that Retinoids make your skin more sensitive to the sun, you do not need to avoid sun. Apply the Retinoid in the evening and use a full spectrum sun block in the morning, rain or shine. I like physical sun blocks with Zinc and/or Titanium Oxide and a SPF 30 (see my article I wrote on sun screen). Also wear hats whenever possible (little side note here: SPF and hats should be worn no matter if you use Retinoids or not). If you are going on vacation and you will be out in the sun frequently, simply stop the use of your Retinoid product a few days before you go and start using it when you come back. You might have to start using it slowly and build your way up to more frequent use again.

Who can use Retinoids?

  • If you are pregnant or nursing: Do NOT use Retinoids.

Consider using Retinoids if you are concerned about:

  • Sun damage
  • Pigmentation disorders
  • Wrinkles and/or fine lines
  • Acne

Younger looking, smoother and more luminous skin are your potential rewards. And do not wait until the damage is done! Retinoids are great preventatives and the earlier you start using them the better – you will reap the full benefits of this amazing anti-aging skin rejuvenator.

Call me at 415-302-8490 if you have any questions or if you would like to schedule a consultation.

Corinna Kavanagh

Corinna Kavanagh

Owner, Lic. Esthetician, Cert. Massage Therapist

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