What Are Retinoids And Can They Help With Wrinkles?

April 1, 2022

It is difficult to find an anti-aging product that does not include retinol. Considered one of the most well-researched skincare ingredients available, adding retinol to your routine can reduce multiple signs of aging. Despite these positives, most people do not understand how to use it.

What are retinoids and what do they do?

Retinol, also known as vitamin A and tretinoin, is actually the weaker, over-the-counter version of tretinoin, a vitamin A derivative. Retinoids are used to reverse signs of aging, 80% of which are caused by UV exposure from the sun. It is also an effective ingredient for tightening pores.

What makes retinol so incredible is its versatility. Under 30s can use retinol to treat acne, improve skin smoothness, and reduce discoloration. Over 30s can reduce acne scarring, decrease fine lines, and inflammation associated with chronic skin issues like rosacea.

Buying retinoids over-the-counter (OTC)

Over-the-counter (OTC) retinoids come in various concentrations, with the highest being 1.5% retinol. You may be able to find an OTC retinoid in a 2% concentration, but they aren’t widely available. Any product with a 1% or higher concentration is typically a night cream or serum.

If you are just starting to use retinol, it is recommended to start with a lower dose. Retinoids can dry out your skin and lead to redness, which could cause more wrinkles. If OTC retinoids do not do the trick, you can speak to your dermatologist for a prescription that is 2% or higher.

How to apply retinoids to your skin

When used correctly, retinol can deliver results. From smoother skin to a brighter complexion, most people who use retinol will see their skin change for the better in as little as 4 months.

However, some people are understandingly concerned with the product’s harshness. Almost everyone who starts using retinol, whether they have sensitive skin or not, will experience skin irritation. This may cause them to stop treatment before they see any noticeable results.

Both retinol and tretinoin work by stimulating cell turnover. These products push out old cells to make room for new ones. If you use too much retinol or cover your whole face with it, you could overstimulate cell production, leading to dry skin. Remember: retinol is a treatment, not a cream.

A pea-size amount should be enough for your entire skin if you dab it evenly and massage your face slowly. Even if you miss spots, do not worry. Your skin communicates with each other.

When to use retinoids for the best results

Whether you are a retinol newbie or veteran, you should always apply retinoids after washing and drying your face at night. At the same time, you cannot start using retinol at the highest dose.

To ensure your retinoid product delivers the best skincare results, follow this schedule:

  • At 1-2 Weeks: Start with 0.25% retinol and apply it two nights a week.
  • At 2 Weeks: Apply your 0.25% retinol every other night.
  • At 4-6 Weeks: If your skin can handle 0.25%, upgrade to 0.50-0.75%. 
  • At 8-12 Weeks: If your skin is handling 0.50-0.75%, increase it to 1% and apply nightly.

If you are suffering from prolonged skin irritation, reduce your dose or how often you apply. 

If you have sensitive skin and you are worried about breakouts, do the following:

  1. Do A Skin Patch Test: Instead of applying the retinoid evenly, dab it underneath your jaw or ear. If after 48 hours there is no noticeable reaction, try it on your face.
  2. Apply Moisturize After The Retinoid: Sometimes retinoids react negatively on dry skin. Applying a thick, night-time moisturizer after the retinoid should offset the irritation. 
  3. Wait Until Your Skin Heals: If your skin is breaking out or drying out, because of the retinol, wait for your skin to heal before applying. Try again with less product.

Speak to your dermatologist for more instructions on how to use your retinol treatment safely.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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