Acne,  Antiaging,  retinoids

Topical Retinoids: What You Need to Know

What are retinoids?

Derived from vitamin A (retinol), retinoids are a family of hero molecules used by millions for skin conditions ranging from acne to dyspigmentation.  They’re also considered anti-aging powerhouses due to their ability to shallow wrinkles, increase firmness and even skin tone.  All in all, they’re one of the quickest shortcuts to glowy, radiant skin!  Topical versions include over-the-counter adapalene as well as prescription varieties like tretinoin and tazarotene.

How do they work?

Nerd alert: retinoids bind various receptors in the nucleus of cells, allowing them to alter the transcription of DNA.  The result?  Speedier production of new keratinocytes (epidermal cells) resulting in a smoother appearance, increases in collagen and glycosaminoglycans like hyaluronic acid in the dermis leading to firmer skin, alteration in pigment production by melanocytes for a more even tone and decreases in inflammatory mediators to slow acne’s roll.

What do I need to know before using one?

While retinoids are key to one of the 4 commandments of antiaging, you should be using them under the guidance of your doctor.  Please note that you shouldn’t be using a retinoid if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or may become pregnant.  They can also be irritating to the skin, and cause sun sensitivity, but follow these rules and you’ll be on your way to clearer, younger looking skin in no time:

Start slow

Think of retinoids as a really intense workout for your skin.  You wouldn’t start crossfit or spinning with a 7-day-a-week regimen, and the same goes for retinoids.   Start out by applying a pea sized amount to the whole face 3-4 nights per week then work up to every night for maximum benefits and minimal irritation.

Stick with it

Like with any change in your skin care plan, you have to give retinoids time to do their thing.  Don’t expect to see the beginnings of a change until at least 6 weeks in.  You also may notice an initial breakout if you have acne but try to power through – the results are worth the initial setback.  Retinoids are safe for indefinite use, so make them a permanent part of your regimen for optimal results.

Keep it moist and simple

It’s been shown that applying a moisturizer prior to your retinoid will decrease the likelihood of irritation with no difference in results.  Retinoids are a little finicky, so it’s a good idea to avoid using too many actives at the same time.  Ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and vitamin C can could interact with topical retinoids, so it’s best not to use them at the same time.

Always use (sun) protection

The same high cell turnover rate that gives retinoids their oomph can also make your skin more vulnerable to the sun.  Wanna stop being so (sun) sensitive?  Make sure you’re using a moisturizer with SPF 30 or greater every morning and reapplying if you’ll be in the sun for more than 2 hours.

You’ve got the basics, now go get your glow on!


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