Retinoids: True Anti-Aging Skin Care

Retinods are a class of compounds related to vitamin A. In skin care, retinoids are associated with anti-aging, acne treatments and skin reviving.

What are retinoids?

Tretinoin (retinoic acid) is the most common prescribed form while retinol and retinyl palmitate are over the counter. Simply put, retinoic acid communicates with skin cells in a way so that skin cells function better. Retinol and retinyl palmitate don’t communicate with skin cells directly. After its absorption into the skin, retinol breaks down into smaller components, of which, one is retinoic acid. And retinyl palmitate is converted to retinol first and ultimately to retinoic acid. As you can see, the over-the-counter retinol and retinyl palmitate have less strength compared with the prescribed. At the same time, retinol and retinyl palmitate also have less side effects.

Why should people use retinoids?

Although lots of facial creams claim they can reduce wrinkles, lift the face or increase firmness, retinoids are the only ingredients proven to be anti-aging. First, retinoids try to prevent your skin from losing collagen and hyaluronic acid. In addition, retinoids actually stimulate your skin to generate these important components. These processes improve your skin’s texture, increase firmness and reduce wrinkles.

Retinoids also encourage skin cell turnover, which slows down as we age. This adds to the skin radiance and brightness.

Finally, retinoids were initally found to treat acnes. By making the skin cells function normally, retinoids regulates the oil production and the pores. Alcohol and ice are sometimes used to make the skin pores smaller temporarily by irritating the skin cells. Retinoids, however, have long-term benefits in regulating the pores.

What are the side effects of retinoids?

At the beginning, you may (or may not) experience redness, scaling, itching, burning and dryness. Then you need to start with a low frequency so that your skin can adapt to it gradually.

Retinoids are highly destructive to the developing embryo so stop using them before conceiving. The safe time to wait before conceiving has not well established. I suggest you to consult with your physican. Generally, if retinoids are only used topically on the skin, the amount absorbed is very low. But to play safe, stop using retinoids at least one month before conceiving.

How to use retinoids?

Use retinoids right before going to bed because retinoids degrade in sunlight and electric light. Retinoids increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight so make sure you use sunscreen correctly during the day.

You need to gradually increase the frequency and amount of retinoid application to allow your skin to adequately adjust to the retinoids. Follow your dermatologist’s instruction when using prescribed retinoids. If you use over-the-counter retinol or retinyl palmitate, you can start with once a week to see how your skin reacts. Eventually you might increase the frequency to every night.

Avoid waxing on the area where you apply retinoids because retinoids help your skin shed the top dead layer and wax poses the risk of pulling off some of your “fresh” skin.

Choose retinoid products with air-tight packages because retinoids are oxidized with exposure to air or oxygen. The packages should also be obaque to avoid retinoids exposing to any light. Store them according to the product instructions. In any case, don’t leave retinoid products to excessive heat.

Finally, it is extremely important to stop using retinoids before conceiving.

References
[1]Christopher P. F. Redfern, Retinoid Protocols (Methods in Molecular Biology), 1998.
[2]Gideon Koren, Retinoids in Clinical Practice: The Risk-Benefit Ratio, 1993.

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