A Users’ Guide To Retinoids And Retinol

Anti-aging ingredients come and go, but Retinoids Have Been Major Players For Decades. Whether prescription or over-the-counter strength, there is not a single class of ingredient that can rival the proven track record that retinoids have for boosting collagen, unclogging pores, reducing wrinkles and accelerating skin cell turnover to even out discoloration and smooth the skin.

If you’re just beginning a relationship with this age-defying marvel or already swear by it, here are a few tips and resources that may help you get the results everyone raves about.

For Retinoid Rookies: Only your doctor can advise you on whether to begin your retinoid treatment with a prescription or an over-the-counter strength product. However, if you are trying retinoids for the first time, an over-the-counter retinol is a good choice, says These products irritate skin less because the retinol is slowly converted to retinoic acid, the active ingredient in prescription creams. Look for products formulated with at least 0.1 percent of retinol, which is the most effective retinoid in OTC versions.

Read The Label And Check The Packaging When Buying Over-The-Counter Retinoid Products: Read the ingredients listing to see where the active ingredient (Vitamin A which may be listed as retinol, retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate, or retinyl aldehyde also called retinal or retinaldehyde) is on the list. Depending on the total number of ingredients in the product, the closer to the bottom, the less it contains. You could be paying extra money for a regular moisturizer cream that happens to have a small amount of retinol in it cautions Secondly, packaging is important.  Look for opaque pump containers that minimize or block light exposure because all forms of vitamin A break down and deteriorate when repeatedly exposed to air or light which degrades the formula and reduces effectiveness.

Your Skin May Peel: To see results, you have to persist even if your skin begins to peel. Here’s what to expect. A few days after you begin applying the cream or gel, tiny, tissue-paper-thin bits of skin may begin to peel off explains’s 10 Important Things to Know Before You Use Retinoids. If you’re concerned, ask your doctor if what you are experiencing is reasonable. You’ll also want to say bye to waxing and hello to tweezers because waxing will pull off a layer of skin.

More Is Not Better: For prescription-strength retinoid products, only a pea-sized dab is needed for your entire face! Slathering on retinoid creams won’t only cause you to quickly use up your supply, but it can also cause redness, dryness and irritation. To help your skin get used to prescription-strength retinol, apply every other day, at night. If your skin tolerates it well, you can gradually increase to a once daily application, again at night. Dr. Goesel Anson, a plastic surgeon specializing in facial anti-aging and aesthetics, usually prescribes a low concentration tretinoin for her patients to start, at .025%, then as tolerated over time the concentration is bumped up. This is a good way to avoid unnecessary irritation and dryness.

It’s Okay To Apply Retinoids To Damp Skin: The instructions may recommend waiting until your face is completely dry before applying retinoids, but even doctors break this rule says  There’s no evidence that shows damp or wet skin exacerbates sensitivity

Always Use Sunblock: busted a common myth that retinoids cause increased sun sensitivity. The ingredient itself is sensitive to sunlight, decreasing its effectiveness, which is why it’s recommended that retinoid products be applied at night.  Though retinoids may not make your skin any more sensitive to UV rays than other methods of exfoliation, such as buffing away dead skin with a face scrub, you are still losing a layer of protection. So whether you choose an over-the-counter or prescription retinol product, daily use of a well-formulated sunscreen is a must. After all, sun damage is the very reason you’re using anti-aging products.

Adding a retinoid to your skin care regimen is a great way to get younger, healthier looking skin, but skincare is not one-size fits all, so consult your doctor first, even if you’re only considering an over-the-counter retinoid product.  In the meantime, offers an excellent explanation of the science behind these anti-aging wonders.