Last month we talked about the powerhouse nutrients your skin needs to be its healthiest and most radiant. Vitamin A is one of those nutrients and, when used topically, its effect on skin is amazing! Whether your concern is acne, hyperpigmentation, or wrinkles, derivatives of Vitamin A—collectively referred to as retinoids—can do wonders for your skin.
Retin-A (generic names: retinoic acid or tretinoin) is the most widely recognized retinoid, and has been on the market since the early 1970s. Originally developed as a treatment for acne, scientists soon discovered that its effects went beyond treating blemishes, curbing oil production, and shrinking pores. Users of Retin-A also experienced smoother skin texture, fading of dark spots caused by sun damage, and diminished wrinkles. In the mid-1980s, further research was conducted proving the effectiveness of Retin-A for aging. Retin-A is available only through a prescription from your physician.
Retinol and retinyl palmitrate are “over the counter” versions of prescription retinoic acid. Once applied to the skin, they are converted to retinoic acid. Though less powerful than the prescription version, these ingredients are still effective in reducing the signs of aging and may cause less irritation. You’ll find them in abundance in the Dermalogica AGE Smart line of products as well as in some drug store brands (though at a lesser percentage than in Dermalogica).
SO HOW DO RETINOIDS WORK?
Retinoic acid receptors (RARs) within your skin may start to mutate or work less effectively due to sun damage or aging. Retinoids bind with and activate these receptors, leading to a normalization of cellular function. This results in increased cellular turnover, increased collagen formation, and inhibition of the breakdown of collagen. Aging, sun exposure, pollution and oxidation can cause skin cells to mutate in shape and size; retinoids encourage your skin cells to form in the correct size and shape. Basically, retinoids help your skin function at its optimal best!
IMPORTANT TIPS FOR USING RETINOIDS
Please Note: If you are trying to get pregnant or are already pregnant or nursing, do not use prescription or over the counter retinoids as they made cause birth defects.
1. Sunlight degrades the effectiveness of the product, so apply prescription retinoids at night to dry skin.
2. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 during daylight hours and avoid direct sun exposure as retinoids increase your risk of burning.
3. Do not use retinoids concomitantly with glycolic acid, vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, or salicylic acid. Use products with these ingredients in the morning after you have washed off any remains of the retinoid.
4. Start slowly and use only a pea-sized amount of product. Using more won’t increase the effectiveness, but it will definitely increase irritation. Begin using prescription retinoids every other day and slowly build up to every day as your skin adjusts.
5. Because retinoids thin the top layer of skin, facial waxing is contraindicated for prescription retinoid users. Some people can tolerate hard wax because it only sticks to hair, not skin. However, to be on the safe side, tweezing is recommended.
Also, don’t expect a miracle overnight. I tell my clients that using retinoids is more like running a marathon than sprints. It takes time, often several months, to really see the big changes that they can make when it comes to age-reversal. So hang in there!
Join me next week for my book review of The Water Secret: The Cellular Breakthrough to Look and Feel 10 Years Younger by famed dermatologist Howard Murad, M.D.