What is retinol and how is it good for my skin?

We’ve all heard that Retinol is an absolute must for any anti-aging skin care regimen, but with all of the products available, how do you choose what is best for your skin?  Read on, my friends.

Let’s start with the basics.  Retinol is a component of the Vitamin A group called Retinoids.  Retinoids work at the cellular level, affecting gene expression within the skin cells to increase cell turnover and enhance collagen production.  What this translates to is smoothing of fine lines and wrinkles, minimized pores, a reduction in dark spots (hyperpigmentation), and an overall rosy glow.   While there are prescription strength retinoids we use for acne and other skin conditions, retinol is available in many formulations that do not require a prescription.   And the literature shows that while retinol is gentler than the prescription strength retinoids, it achieves the same goal – it just may take a bit longer to see the results.


What are the key benefits of Retinol?

Since retinoids increase the cell turnover and increase collagen production, you will see an overall healthy smoothness in the texture of your skin with regular use.  Retinol also combats the damage from UV rays that result in discolored skin, freckles, and age spots.  Additionally, retinol can prepare your skin for more advanced skin treatments such as prescription strength retinoids, chemical peels, and laser resurfacing treatments.  If you are considering having a resurfacing procedure, we do suggest you stop your Retinol product 1 week prior to reduce the risk of irritation.


What should you look for in a retinol product?

In order to get the most benefit from your product, the key is in the ingredients. The product should contain the ingredient Retinol.  There are other derivatives called pro-retinols such as retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate, and while these are gentler formulations, they can be weaker and less effective.  So if you want results, check your ingredients!


What else should you know?




How to incorporate Retinol into your regimen

After cleansing your skin, apply a thin layer to your face, neck, and chest area.  You may also apply a thin layer to the backs of your hands as well.  Due to the cell turnover effect of retinol, you may initially experience some dryness, redness, and peeling, particularly on the face.   To counteract this, consider initially applying only a few times per week and slowly increasing to nightly use as your skin adapts.   The great thing is that your skin will adapt after 1-2 weeks of use, so keep up the good work!  You may certainly follow your product with a moisturizer if dryness occurs.  It won’t interfere with the effectiveness of the Retinol.


Track your progress!

In the end, we all want results, right?  Well, greatness takes time.  It may be initially difficult to appreciate the visible effects of retinol on your skin since you look in the mirror every day.  I suggest taking a photo prior to starting, another photo at 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months.  Your skin will feel smoother, lines will be finer, pores will be smaller, freckles will be lightened, and your complexion will be clearer. You, too, will see the awesome effects of this skin powerhouse that we love so much in Dermatology!


Angela Jones PA-C

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