Retinoids: How This Magic Molecule Can Help Battle Acne, Wrinkles and Fine Lines

by | Jul 13, 2022 | Style & Grooming

Every area of life has its MVPs, and in the world of skincare: retinoids are king. This Vitamin A derivative can reduce hyperpigmentation and dark spots, prevent breakouts, and stimulate collagen production (an important step in slowing the effects of ageing).

But what exactly are Retinoids, and are they right for you? We caught up with the experts to get all the answers.

Q: What are retinoids?

It’s important to note that retinoids and retinols are not the same thing. While they’re both derivatives of that magic skin elixir Vitamin A, retinols are usually an over-the-counter remedy while retinoids, which are far more powerful, are usually only available through a prescription.

Q: How do they work?

“Retinoids such as Retin A help your skin produce more collagen and therefore soften wrinkles and fine lines,” says Dr. Edward Berry. “These molecules also stimulate new blood vessels that—together with the thickening of the dermis—can give you a youthful and glowing complexion. Retinoids also help fade age spots and smooth out rough patches.”

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Retinoids were first prescribed to treat acne, and remain a formidable tool to combat this condition. However, tretinoin can take up to 12 weeks to work effectively, and your acne might worsen in the short-term. “This is known as the tretinoin purge, and symptoms include dryness and flaring of the acne,” says Berry. “This phase can last for up to six weeks, but usually never continues beyond three.”

Q: Which Vitamin A derivative is best for me?

Vitamin A derivatives are available in three varieties: pro-retinol, retinol or the far more active retinoids. “Tretinoin is a prescription drug as it is 20 times stronger than your typical retinols,” says Berry. “It’s also available in different strengths and these can be used in either a cream or gel form.”

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Choosing between these two options will depend on a variety of factors, predominantly environmental factors like humidity. “Gels usually contain a higher percentage of alcohol and, in theory, might lead to more drying and irritation,” cautions Berry. “However, it may be the formulation of choice for those with oily acne-prone skin, while ageing skin might benefit from the extra moisture in a cream.”

Q: How do I use them?

For prescription retinoids such tretinoin or Retin-A, you’ll typically want to take a peanut-sized drop of these products on the tip of your finger and dab it (gently) on the different areas of your face, says Candice Przybylski, regulatory and quality assurance specialist and director of The Green Element Consulting. Make sure to avoid the corners of your eyes and mouth. Berry recommends using a reliable hydrating moisturiser to mitigate some of the side effects such as drying.

Q: Should I be using them in the morning or at night?

“Retinoid should be used at night as all Vitamin A derivatives will increase sensitivity to the sun, causing discomfort when exposed to UV rays or bright lights,” says Berry. Przybylski recommends that you remain diligent about with sun protection during the day.

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