When it comes to skincare products, retinoids are ingredients we often hear about. These compounds have properties that promote aging and rejuvenation of the skin. Retinoids are vitamin A products. There are many types of retinoids, one of which is called retinol. Learning more about retinol and retinoids can help you make informed decisions about using these products and which ones are best for you.
What is retinol?
Retinol is a type of retinoid, made from vitamin A. It is often used in skin care products. It’s often used in skincare products because retinol is a precursor to retinoic acid, according to 2017 research. Retinoic acid has been shown to have anti-aging effects on aged human skin in the laboratory.
While other skin products slough off dead skin cells, retinol molecules pass underneath the top layer of skin to reach the middle layer, called the dermis. Once in the dermis, retinol neutralizes free radicals to stimulate elastin and collagen. This plumps up the skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It can also help treat severe acne and scarring. Retinol is often used topically to help repair skin and keep it looking young.
When retinol is used on human skin, it is eventually converted into retinoic acid. However, when retinol is used topically, it has fewer side effects than retinoic acid. Keep in mind, however, that a higher concentration of retinol is needed to achieve the same effects as topical retinoic acid. If you are pregnant or planning to be, do not use products containing retinol or retinoids. The use of products containing vitamin A may harm the fetus.
What are retinoids?
Retinoids are compounds that come from vitamin A or look and act like vitamin A. These can be natural forms of vitamin A or synthetic (man-made) forms. They are often used in skin care, cosmetics and medicine.
Retinoids can help:
reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen production
stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin
fade age spots
smooth rough skin
Here are some examples of retinoids
retinol, available over the counter
retinoid esters, also available over-the-counter
retinoic acid, which is only available by prescription
isotretinoin, also available by prescription
adapalene, available both over-the-counter and by prescription, is not a retinoid, but acts on the skin like a retinoid.
Retinol is a form of retinoid found in over-the-counter topical creams. These can improve the skin but are not as strong as prescription creams, so tend to be less irritating. Retinoids can dry out and irritate the skin. It is therefore recommended to use them every other day, then gradually every day. It’s also important to wear sunscreen when using retinoids because they can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
How to know which product to use
Consult your doctor before using retinol or retinoids. Due to the risk of side effects such as skin irritation, redness, and flaking, it may be best to start using a product by applying the over-the-counter retinol every other day or so. This allows your skin to get used to the product. If you’re not seeing the results you expect with retinols, ask your dermatologist to switch to retinoids.
How do retinols and retinoids affect people of color?
If you have dark skin, you can consult your doctor before using these products. Dark skin may have a higher risk of damage and irritation. Also, reactions to ingredients or products can lead to hyperpigmentation or dark spots. However, retinols can also help fade and heal dark, irritated spots. Ask your dermatologist if a product containing retinoids is right for you and how to incorporate it into your routine without irritating your skin.
Who should not use retinol or retinoids?
Pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant should avoid retinol and retinoids in skincare products because they can increase the risk of birth defects and miscarriages. Therefore, if you use retinol and plan to start a family, talk to your doctor. Some doctors prefer that their patients take birth control pills when using retinol, so as not to harm the baby’s development or avoid miscarriage. Before using retinol or retinoids, tell your doctor about any medications or supplements you take, as well as any other products you use.
Are there any risks in mixing other products with retinol or retinoids?
Avoid using other products containing retinoids if you are using a retinoid or retinol cream. Check the labels of your anti-aging or anti-acne medications to see if they contain either of these products. Using multiple products containing these ingredients may increase the risk of side effects. If you use retinol or retinoids, ask a dermatologist which products to avoid. Since these compounds can cause side effects such as peeling or dry skin, you should avoid any products that may make these effects worse.
What you must remember
Retinol and retinoids are effective products for reducing fine lines and wrinkles and improving the appearance of the skin. Although they are generally safe for most people, consult your doctor before using these topical creams, in particularly if you are planning to become pregnant, think you might be pregnant, are currently pregnant, are breastfeeding or are breastfeeding. Although retinol and retinoids are very similar, there are differences between the two products and knowing each of them can help you make the decision that is best for you.