Retinol, Retinoic Acid, & Retinoids
I’ve never heard a patient regret the decision to invest in a quality skincare regimen that
makes their skin look great! I used to have a lot of different items that I used but now I have a
simple regimen that focuses on the best ingredients with the most science.
Anyone who wants the best in skincare should try to incorporate a retinoid into their routine
as the effects can be significant. These compounds include retinol, retinoic acid and others that
have been studied extensively for decades. There is much validity to their use in our antiaging
skincare! The active ingredient is retinoic acid. Some over the counter formulations can be
effective but at a much slower rate even when used consistently.
Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant. Originally used to treat acne,
they cause skin cells to turn over faster through microexfoliation which improves fine lines and
wrinkles, unwanted pigmentation and creates smoother skin. These powerful products can also
slow down our own collagen breakdown, thereby producing thicker and more plump skin. A
few of the better medical grade retinol products are balanced by other active ingredients that
convert retinol to retinoic acid more quickly, can act as retinols themselves, promote deeper
penetration of product, limit surface irritation and even provide moisture and anti-
inflammatory action to minimize side effects. A few products are now shown to be as effective
as prescription with many extra abilities.
Retinol side effects are variable but include redness, dryness, flakiness, itching and irritation.
They are sun sensitive and so should only be used at night. Do not use retinol products if you
are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Since prescription and physician grade products are required to be extensively skin tested, I
recommend using products that are followed by a skincare expert. Start lower in strength, go
slow 1-2 nights per week and build tolerance gradually. Most of us feel our skin looks a little
worse before it starts improving. I like to recommend using a moisturizer over the retinol at
night to minimize side effects. Gradually build up to at least 3-4 nights per week or every night
if tolerated. Over the long term it will be consistency, not strength of the product that provides