What is Retinol? – ABCs of Skincare Part 2

What is Retinol?  

Retinol is Vitamin A. Vitamin A comes in 2 forms: carotenoids and retinoids. Retinoic acid, retinol, retinyl palmitate and retinaldehyde are all retinoids. Vitamin A is crucial to the body for bone growth, healthy vision and the immune system, but your body doesn’t naturally produce it so you must get it from your diet. It is found naturally in carrots, sweet potatoes and dark, leafy greens, however, because your skin is the last organ to receive this crucial nutrient, topical vitamin A is the best way to ensure your skin gets its vitamins!

What happens to our skin with aging?

As we age, cell turnover slows, decreasing the production of collagen, elastin and hydrating components of the cells (called glycosaminoglycans, or GAGs). The existing collagen and elastin breaks down. Natural exfoliation slows leading to buildup of dead cells on the surface, sometimes clogging pores and causing breakouts. Sun damage can occur, causing sun-spots, age-spots, freckles or discoloration. Our skin begins to look dull, dry and flaky, thinner, fine lines and wrinkles appear and we may develop discoloration and uneven skin tone.

Why is retinol one of the best anti-aging products?

After sunscreen, retinol (vitamin A) is the best product you can be using to reverse signs of aging in your skin and prevent further damage because it increases cell turnover, thus increasing production of skin cells, collagen and elastin, hydrating components (GAGs) and natural exfoliation. Retinol also protects our existing collagen by inhibiting production of an enzyme called collagenase and decreases discoloration by inhibiting the transfer of melanin (the source of the brown color) from the cells where it is made to the skin cells.

What can I expect?

With the increase in cell turnover you will see a natural exfoliation and within days to weeks skin loses its dull appearance and takes on more of a vibrant, healthy glow. Long-term effects are even more dramatic as cells replace themselves faster and increase production of collagen, elastin, and GAGs, increasing skin thickness, elasticity and moisture and decreasing fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.

Retin A verses Retinol:

Topical retinoids are commonly used in 2 forms today; Retinoic Acid (Retin A, Tretinoin) and Retinol.   Retin A is available only by prescription and is typically used to treat acne. It can be extremely irritating and sensitizing on the surface of the skin and most people have difficulty tolerating it. Most cosmeceutical, anti-aging products use Retinol which is converted to retinoic acid once it has been absorbed into the cells, making it much less irritating.

How do I find a good Retinol for my skin?

Remember that Retinol is a medication and thus, one size does NOT fit all. Patients with some skin conditions should avoid or be very careful using vitamin A while others should use a stronger formula. Because of this, the best way to determine what strength and formulation is best for your skin type and issues is to consult with a dermatologist or skin care specialist. Because Retinol is a medication, over the counter products cannot contain enough that you can harm yourself, therefore, they also do not have sufficient concentrations for you to see a significant difference in your skin. (link to “why use professional skin care products”)For these reasons, you should definitely purchase prescription-strength vitamin A from a skin care professional.


Skin Deep Laser MD carries a formulation that pairs a time-released, patent-pending delivery system with soothing green tea polyphenols to provide the effectiveness of a retinoid without the irritation. Regular use will diminish fine lines, wrinkles and achieve smoother, firmer, more evenly toned skinSkin Deep Solutions Retinol Forte Serum is available in multiple strengths to suit all skin types.

How do I use Retinol?

Apply Retinol to your freshly washed face at night, followed by moisturizer. In the daytime, you must use a quality sunscreen as retinol makes you more sensitive to the sun

Although Retinol is much better tolerated than Retin A, you may still experience some irritation in the form of red, dry, scaly patches, especially in sensitive areas like the neck or corners of the nose and mouth. This is not an allergy but a natural effect of the increase in cell turnover and will go away as your skin gets healthier. Remember, this is a prescription-strength medication. A great way to start a Retinol is to begin by using it only twice a week (maybe Monday and Wednesday night) for a few weeks, then increase to 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), then, eventually to every night if tolerated. Following with a good moisturizer will help with the dryness until skin gets healthier.   Be patient and you will see your skin transform over the next months!

 

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