Retinol should be your new go to for skin care. What is a retinoid or retinol cream, you ask? The term describes vitamin A derivatives that unclog pores, boost collagen to reduce fine lines, and speed cell turnover to even out discoloration and smooth the skin and sometimes in as little as four weeks. The first retinoid—tretinoin—was FDA approved (under the brand name Retin-A) almost 40 years ago as a prescription acne treatment. Dermatologists soon noticed that patients on Retin-A experienced not just clearer skin, but softer, brighter and less-lined skin. Today there are three prescription-strength retinoids, tazarotene and adapalene.
If you don’t want to visit the dermatologist for a prescription, you can also find an over-the-counter retinoid, called retinol. It can also improve lines and discoloration. But, because retinol is gradually converted into retinoic acid (the active ingredient in the prescription creams) it is less potent. Results may take up to 12 weeks compared to 4 weeks with a prescription strength retinoid.
Many patients ask us if retinoids will make their skin sun sensitive. The ingredient in retinol is sensitive to sunlight so we suggest only applying it before bed at night. A retinoid shouldn’t make your skin any more vulnerable to UV rays than it would be after buffing away dead skin with a face scrub. We always advise our patients to apply sunscreen (SPF 30, at least) everyday as part of your skin care treatment.
Retinoids can cause dryness, redness, and flaking, but if you add this into your routine, you can avoid a rough transition. For the first two weeks we suggest applying a retinoid only every third night. If your skin isn’t irritated, ramp up to every other night for two weeks. Not dry or flaky? Go for it every night. A few other irritation-mitigating guidelines: Wait 15 minutes after washing your face before you apply a retinoid, and use one pea-size dab to cover your whole face. After a few minutes, apply a basic moisturizer to prevent dryness.
As with any new treatment, please consult your physician before starting. Never use a retinoid if you are pregnant or breast feeding.