Don't Avoid the Retinoid

Let's get straight to it- if you know anything about skincare, you've probably heard and seen the terms "retinoid" and "retinol". Maybe you even use one! Some of you have probably stayed away from these ingredients because, let's face it, they are confusing and intimidating! But have no fear, I'm here to give you the lowdown on what these products are and the amazing benefits they have for your skin. My retinoid is my favorite part of my skincare regimen. Total game-changer.


What are Retinoids?

To break down the confusing names, retinoid is a derivative of Vitamin A. Retinol and Retin-A are both forms of retinoid. "Retinoid" is the term for skincare ingredients that are formed from Vitamin A, which is found naturally in our skin, but production slows down as we age. Loss in Vitamin A results in dull, wrinkly, saggy skin. Retinoids are amazing because of everything they do for the skin:

  • Unclogs pores

  • Boosts collagen production

  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

  • Speeds up cell turnover to even out and smooth the skin

  • Treats breakouts and keeps new ones from forming

  • Total baby butt skin potential


The Birth of Retinoids

About 40 years ago, the first ever retinoid (tretinoin) was used by dermatologists to treat acneic skin, but only by prescription. Tretinoin, now known as Retin-A, produced fantastic results. Dermatologists noticed that patients using Retin-A had not only clearer skin, but also had a brighter, more even skin tone and softer skin. In today's world, there are three prescription-strength retinoids: tretinoin, tazarotene and adapalene. Adapalene (now known as Differin) is currently available over the counter, and let me tell you, I have been using it for about 6 weeks now and my skin hasn't looked this great since I was about 7 years old. I had some texture issues on my cheeks and it's about 95% cleared up.


What Will Work For You?

Now that you know are more familiar with retinoids, it will be easier to understand what you should be using for your skin. In order to know what type of retinoid you should use, ask yourself two questions: does your skin need something you can get over the counter or does it need something stronger that is only available by prescription? What are the skin goals you are trying to achieve?


If you are someone who is really struggling with super stubborn breakouts (i.e. cystic acne) and they are leaving deep scars and hyperpigmentation, it may be time to consult a dermatologist and have them prescribe you a retinoid. Additionally, if you have a skin condition like rosacea or eczema, definitely consult a dermatologist to see if it is even safe for you to use a retinoid, as an ingredient this strong may worsen or irritate your condition. However, if you are someone who has textured skin, stubborn blackheads, and/or breakouts that come and go, Differin is an amazing and affordable retinoid to try. Finally, if you are someone who has occasional breakouts, dull complexion, fine lines and wrinkles, or you just want to prevent the aging process, over the counter retinols are a great choice for you! You can be proactive and begin using a retinol in your 20's to slow down the aging process significantly.


Pros and Cons

Like most things in the world, retinoids have pros and cons. The cons to using retinoids is increased skin sensitivity, dry and flaky skin, and your skin typically goes through an "adjustment period". This means that your skin may get slightly worse before it gets better. Many people make the mistake of starting a retinoid, seeing their skin break out more and then throwing it in the garbage. Or it sits on a shelf collecting dust just like my dumbbells. Don't make this mistake! Sometimes it must get worse before it gets better. Be patient, because you will see results after about 4 weeks and you'll see your best skin in about 10-12 weeks after using the product consistently. Beauty takes some patience :)


Unfortunately, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use retinoids, but don't worry-I have included a list of products that work similarly to retinoids that are safe for you to use! Lastly, if you are needing a brow wax or a chemical peel, it is important to know that you should stop using your retinoid about 3-4 days before those services because that combination can be damaging to your skin.


The pros of using retinoids are quite obvious as stated above: collagen production, clears breakouts, evens out the skin tone (great for hyperpigmentation), and speeds up cell turnover. Basically, you'll give Jennifer Aniston a run for her money.


OTC Retinoids

First and foremost, my personal favorite out of OTC retinoids is Differin (it's amazing, I can't stop recommending it). Before Differin, I tried several retinols that I loved, but after some experimenting, adapalene was best for my specific skin and it gave me the best results. When shopping for a retinol, you want to be mindful of certain things:

1. The ingredients a