Skin Remodeling Lesson 7, Part 3: Retinoids

Retinoic Acid

Ingredient Name: Tretinoin, trans-retinoic acid, all trans-retinoic acid, retinoic acid

Used For: Retinoic Acid is a prescription strength retinoid. It is classified as a drug and should be used while under the care of a licensed physician. It is most commonly prescribed to control acne, but has been approved for anti aging purposes and is the only FDA approved product proven to reverse the signs of skin aging. Retinoic acid is also the only topical active that is proven to stimulate both collagen and elastin production. Like other actives, it is effective on scars and stretch marks even though it is typically used to reduce wrinkles and discoloration.

Effective Concentrations: Most products will contain .025%, .05%, or .1%. More is not always better for this ingredient because adverse side effects increase with strength. Some studies show nearly equivalent results with the lower and higher concentrations.

How to Use It: Consult your physician on exact usage for your skin. Retinoic acid should be used in the evening because UV exposure makes it less effective. Use extreme caution when using chemical peels or other types of exfoliation.

Side Effects: Dryness and increased sensitivity to sunlight of the affected skin have been reported. Sensitive patients may also experience redness, scaling, itching, and burning. Over time, retinoic acid may thin the epidermis. These are normal side effects. There is always a chance that you can be allergic or extra sensitive to an ingredient, check your product label for additional warnings.

Strength Building: Strength building is absolutely essential with this product. People adjust better to prescription retinoids when they start out with over the counter products containing retinol or retinaldehyde. Start with the lowest concentrations first. Since these products are so strong, many users will dilute them into a neutral lotion or cream so they can strength build very slowly.

Retinol

Ingredient Names: Retinol

Used For: Retinol is form of Vitamin A and a precursor to retinoic acid, the active ingredient in the prescription product Retin-A. It’s primarily used in skin care as an anti aging ingredient, but works well on scars and stretch marks as well. Retinol increases cellular turnover and stimulates collagen production. It’s a good option to diminish fine lines and wrinkles and fade discoloration. It’s also particularly useful for oily skin types because it helps control acne and may reduce pore size. Young skin can convert retinol into retinoic acid, which can increase both collagen and elastin production in the skin. Retinol is ideal for preparing your skin for the stronger and more irritating prescription retinoid products.

Effective Concentrations: 1% retinol is typically the highest, most effective concentration available in an over the counter product, but is too irritating for new users. .5% is also effective, and .15% is a common starting concentration.

How to Use It: Retinol can be used daily. These products should be used in the evening. Don’t use retinol after a strong chemical peel until skin is behaving normally. Wait at least 48 hours following a superficial chemical peel or strong microdermabrasion treatment. Once your skin tolerates retinol well, it can be used a few hours after mild types of exfoliation. Retinol works well with other active ingredients, like peptides and Vitamin C.

Side Effects: Skin flaking is a common side effect from retinol use. It can also cause skin dryness, which often benefits oily skin types. There is some risk of over exfoliation when used with peels, microdermabrasion, or hydroxy acids. If you are using too strong of a concentration, redness and inflamed patches may occur. Many retinol products also contain lactic or glycolic acid, so check your product label for sun exposure warnings. Retinol is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women. These are normal side effects. There is always a chance that you can be allergic or extra sensitive to an ingredient, check your product label for additional warnings.

Strength Building: New users with sensitive skin should start out with a .15% retinol cream or lotion. Some people are able to start out use mid strength products containing .5% retinol by using every second or third day in the beginning. A 1% retinol lotion or serum is generally the strongest option available. Look at the ingredient label and check to make sure the percentage reflects the retinol content by making sure “retinol” is high on the list. Some products will add other forms of Vitamin A to the percentage.

Retinaldehyde

Ingredient Names: Retinaldehyde, Retinal

Used For: Retinaldehyde is a form of Vitamin A that is similar to retinol, but stronger at a lower concentration. It is easier for your skin to convert retinaldehyde into retinoic acid than converting retinol, making it more effective at a lower percentage. It is used to increase collagen and perhaps elastin production, as well as increase cellular turnover. Retinaldehyde is typically found in anti aging products that treat wrinkles, fine lines, and discoloration, but the active also works well on scars and stretch marks.

Effective Concentrations: Retinaldehyde should be used in concentrations of .05% to .1% for best results.

How to Use It: Retinaldehyde should be used in the evening because it is degraded by sun exposure. It is irritating in the beginning, and requires strength building. Don’t use retinaldehyde after a strong chemical peel until skin is behaving normally. Wait at least 48 hours following a superficial chemical peel or strong microdermabrasion treatment. Once your skin tolerates retinaldehyde well, it can be used a few hours after mild types of exfoliation. It works well with other active ingredients like Vitamin C and peptides.

Side Effects: Retinaldehyde has similar side effects to retinol. Skin flaking and dryness is common and normal. Redness and inflamed patches are signs that you are using too strong of a concentration. The drying effect is often beneficial to oily skin types to control acne and greasiness. There is some risk of over exfoliation when used with peels, microdermabrasion, or hydroxy acids. Retinaldehyde is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women. These are normal side effects. There is always a chance that you can be allergic or extra sensitive to an ingredient, check your product label for additional warnings.

Strength Building: Retinaldehyde is not as common in skin care products as retinol, so it may be difficult to find in multiple concentrations. You can use a mild .15% retinol product to help prepare your skin for retinaldehyde. The dilution strength building method or increasing frequency method can be used if you have to start out with the strongest products.