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:
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.
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 and their percentages.
2. Look for a retinol that has ceramides. Ceramides replenish the natural lipids in your skin that are lost from exposure to environmental factors and the natural aging process.
3. It should contain moisturizing components like hyaluronic acid (my personal fave), green tea or squalene.
4. It needs to have 0.5% to 1.0% retinol in order to be effective.
5. Look for something fragrance free.
Keep in mind that when choosing a retinol for the first time, start with a lower percentage and work your way up over time, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Retinols for sensitive and/or dry skin or someone new to the game:
Differin Gel / $20.70
Mad Hippie Vitamin A serum / $26.39
First Aid Beauty Retinol Serum / $58
Retinols for oily/ acneic skin:
Urban Skin Retinol Treatment // $22.99
Paula's Choice 1% Retinol Treatment // $58
SkinCeuticals Pure Retinol // $88
Retinols for normal skin:
The Ordinary Retinol in Squalene // $7.00
CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum // $17.99
ROC Retinol Deep Wrinkle Repair // $17.95
No b.s. Retinol Night Cream // $50.00
This one's for the mamas!
Thankfully, there are some products that you can use that have similar effects as retinoids and are safe for you and baby. Some active ingredients to look for when shopping for an alternative are kojic acid, vitamin c and glycolic acid.
Kojic acid: blocks the enzyme needed to create pigmentation, resulting in bright skin. Helps with hyperpigmentation, so it's great for women who struggle with melasma.
Vitamin C: protects the skin from damage, fights free radicals, aids in the production of collagen, and brightens the skin tone.
glycolic acid: gentle way to exfoliate daily and keep your pores from becoming clogged. Glycolic acid is great as a daily toner.
Here are some products to try if you love your retinol, but you've got a bun in the oven:
Ren Bio Retinoid Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Oil // $69
Biossance Phyto-Retinol Serum // $72
SkinCeuticals Phyto+ Botanical Gel // $87
Verso Retinol 8 // $110
How and When to use Retinoids
Last, but definitely not least, is how to properly use a retinol to keep your skin safe. When you begin a retinoid, you want to start slow and gentle, and eventually increase usage. Because it increases sensitivity to the sun, only apply your retinoid at night and make sure to wear SPF during the day to protect your skin.
When first starting out, use at night once a week after you cleanse and before you moisturize (make sure it has completely absorbed before applying moisturizer). After about two weeks, start using it two or three nights per week. Eventually increases it to 4-6 nights per week or to your level of comfort. Like I mentioned before, you may or may not go through a purge period where your skin gets a tad worse before it gets better. Stick with it! You will love the results. At first, your skin may be sensitive, dry and flaky as it adjusts to the active ingredient. That will subside eventually. If your skin seems to be handling it without any dryness or flakes, you can consider upping the dosage or frequency a little bit.
The most important part of using retinol is to wear sunscreen every day. Also, be careful with layering your retinol with other active ingredients. Stay away from using ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and glycolic acid in conjunction with retinoids. Benzoyl peroxide will cancel out retinoids, rendering them ineffective. Salicylic acid will irritate the crap out of your skin and cause a lot of dryness. If you want to, you could use a Vitamin C serum in the MORNING, but definitely follow up with SPF to keep your skin from being upset. Remember, there is nothing wrong with a simple skincare routine! Here is my own personal skincare regimen:
I hope this helped you understand retinoids and if you have any questions, feel free to contact us on our Insta: @oasisfacebarworthington