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The Advantages and Uses of Retinoids

What Are Retinoids?

Retinoids - likely the most touted ingredient in dermatology and a must have in every skin care routine (unless you’re pregnant or breast-feeding!).

Retinoid refers to different types of vitamin A: retinyl ester, retinol, retinal (aka retinaldehyde) and retinoic acid. They all carry the same skin benefits but differ in potency with retinyl esters being the most mild and retinoic acid being the strongest. You can still achieve all the benefits when using a less potent retinoid, it will just take longer to see these results.

Retinoids are the gold standard anti aging ingredient - tried and tested! They’ve been used in dermatology for decades, have been extensively studied with proven benefits to prevent and improve the signs of aging and also to treat acne.


Advantages of Retinoids

Retinoids are most known for their ability to boost the skin's collagen production. Collagen is what gives your skin it’s structure and is reduced overtime and weakened by sun exposure. Increasing collagen production helps to improve and prevent fine wrinkles and makes the skin feel firm.

Retinoids promote skin cell turnover, acting as exfoliants. Shedding old skin cells stimulates new skin to form. This helps even out skin tone (by lightening superficial dark spots) making the skin brighter. 

Retinoids balance oil production, keep pores unclogged and help with the treatment of acne. 

It is important to note that the results are not seen immediately. This is because retinoids act at the level of genes. It will take at least 2-3 months for these changes to translate to visible changes that you can see on the skin. Retinoids need to be used long term and consistently to see and maintain results. 


A Few Drawbacks

The downside is retinoids are drying and irritating. The more potent the retinoid, the more effective but also more irritating. 

The best way to incorporate retinoids into your skin care routine is to go slow! When you start, use your retinoid only a few times a week and increase only as your skin tolerates (see below for details). Your skin will eventually tolerate this ingredient but it will take time. 


How To Use Retinol

  • Use at bedtime 
  • Cleanse and pat the face dry
  • Take a pea size amount of your retinoid, that’s all you need for your face. Dab over your face and massage in like you would a moisturizer, be careful over eyelids and neck as this skin is very sensitive. You may want to avoid these areas until you are a seasoned retinoid user!
  • Apply your night moisturizer overtop 
  • Always use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily as part of your morning skincare routine


For The Retinol Newbies

Do expect some dryness and irritation when introducing retinol into your skin care regimen, especially if you have sensitive and dryness prone skin. Here are a few different ways to introduce retinoids into your skin care regimen to help minimize dryness:

  1. Sandwich method. Apply your moisturizer, followed by your retinoid and top with another layer of moisturizer.
  2. Start slow and increase the frequency of application gradually. Start using it only 1-2 nights per week for a few weeks. If your skin is not irritated try 2-3 times per week for a few weeks. Every few weeks add another night until your skin can tolerate nightly use. That being said, using a retinoid even 3 times a week has been shown to still be beneficial for your skin.
  3. Start with a retinyl ester or retinol. These are less irritating with better tolerability. Retinols are less potent and therefore less drying. It may be helpful to introduce your skin to a retinol first before heading towards a prescription retinoid. 
  4. Short contact/Wash off. The product can be washed off after being applied to the skin for a few minutes. The contact time can be increased slowly based on tolerability. The method is especially effective when introducing prescription retinoids.