You probably heard about the amazing skin-rejuvenation and anti-aging benefits of retinoids, but did you know not all vitamin A derivatives are the same? Whether you want to treat acne, reduce fine lines, or even tighten skin on your face and neck, it’s important you find the right product for you.
With the holiday season fast approaching, we typically recommend retinol or retinoid use as part of our winter skincare tips. Our skincare experts at AesthetiCare MedSpa have worked with a lot of medical-grade (and prescription) retinoid products throughout the years. We always believe client education creates the best foundation for an effective skincare routine. With that said, here are the types of retinoids and how they work.
What are retinoids?
Retinoids are a group of vitamin A-derived antioxidants that can increase cellular turnover to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, tighten skin laxity, reduce hyperpigmentation, and treat acne. Basically, “retinoid” is a broad term that encompasses topical prescriptions, medical-grade, and over-the-counter products.
What is retinol?
Retinol is a type of retinoid that is extremely effective and easy to obtain. Since it’s not as strong on the cellular level as other retinoids, you don’t have to worry about a prescription. The fundamental difference between retinoids and retinol is the concentration of retinoic acid (the active ingredient). Retinols have a lower concentration, which makes it less intense and more accessible.
One thing to keep in mind is the type of retinol you use. Over-the-counter products typically contain ester forms of the substance (i.e., retinyl palmitate, retinyl linoleate, etc.) While these products work, they require extra steps for the body to convert them into retinoic acid, which really makes the difference. Key takeaway: the more conversions required to get to retinoic acid = the milder the product.
What are prescription retinoids?
What’s in a name? Whether it goes by Altreno, Refissa, Renova, or Retin-A, prescription-only retinoids use tretinoin, AKA retinoic acid (no conversions necessary).
Although it takes several months to really see the benefits, tretinoin works on the cellular level to reverse signs of aging and can also treat acne. It first sheds the outer layer of skin cells while raising your skin’s cellular turnover rate for fresher, younger cells to come forward.
From there, the product strengthens the underlying collagen framework to maintain a more youthful complexion. Keep in mind prescription tretinoin isn’t for everyone, and you don’t need a prescription retinoid to reap the benefits of topical vitamin A!
So, which should I use?
When it comes to whether or not retinol or tretinoin is best for you, it’s not so much an either/or question. Those interested in getting into prescription tretinoin should start with a medical-grade retinol product, like our favorite AC Signature Advanced Retinol. Build your way up to nightly use and if all goes well for 8 to 12 months, you can consider taking the next step and getting a prescription.
Since the tretinoin is so aggressive, it can lead to burning, itching, flaking, and extreme sensitivity to sunlight. You should only use a pea-sized amount for your entire face, wear sunscreen daily, and pregnant women should also avoid the product.
Note: A learning curve for retinoids
When you first begin a retinol and/or tretinoin product, some light flaking and peeling are normal. This is known as a “purging” stage. Some breakouts (especially blackheads) may come to the surface and certain spots may peel.
You shouldn’t experience extreme redness, inflammation, flaking, or burning. This means you might have used too much product too often.
The purging stage may last for a few weeks since your skin needs time to adjust. You can start slow by using every 2 to 3 nights at first, to eventually using every night or every other night.
Note: If your skin feels sensitive and uncomfortable with these products for weeks on end, you may be retinoid resistant. Try a plant-derived ingredient, like Bakuchiol, as a great retinoid alternative!
Come to AesthetiCare for the best skincare tips, products, and treatments
At AesthetiCare Medspa, we love helping you look and feel your best, no matter the time of year. We especially love seeing how radiant our clients look in their family photos from the holidays!
Take your skincare to the next level by using our helpful recommendations, performing a virtual consultation to get personalized recommendations, and scheduling a complimentary winter skincare consultation with us.