Friday, February 1, 2019

Retinol 101: What you need to know

What is it?
Retinol is simply another name for vitamin A. It’s commonly referred to as a retinoid.  Vitamin A is one of the body’s key nutrients for fighting cell damage.  It is an antioxidant that normalizes cell turnover and works as an anti-inflammatory to help acne; as well as fight the visible signs of aging by addressing free radical damage. There are many natural and synthetic (prescription) forms of retinoids; such as retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, and retinaldehyde. 

What are they used for?
Retinoids are truly transformative and when used regularly they promote skin renewal, brighten the skin tone, reduce acne, and stimulate collagen & elastin production.  I personally have noticed a difference in the texture around my eyes, no eye cream has ever worked on the bumpy surface, but the use of retinaldehyde has smoothed out any unevenness on my skin. 
 
How do they work? 
Retinoids are cell communicators. They actually affect gene expression and enhance collagen level.  Retinols work by "telling" the cells to grow at a faster rate, bringing fresher, more youthful skin to the surface more rapidly.  The increase of new skin cells push oils and dead skin out of blocked pores preventing the formation of new blackheads and whiteheads therefore effectively treating acne.  

A popular misconception is that retinoids are exfoliants and that they thin the skin. They do not. In fact, because it promotes collagen production and new cell growth, it can actually thicken your skin.  Vitamin A products can cause redness and flaking when you are first using them, which can be confused as exfoliation, but it is just a temporary side effect. After a few weeks your skin cells adapt and begin to tolerate it.  Many retinol products also contain exfoliants like AHA's and BHA's which then are mistakenly attributed to the retinoid ingredient.

Retinoids do not increase your risk for sunburn. They do, however, break down in sunlight and become less effective so always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater. If you aren’t diligent about sun protection, even the most effective anti-aging ingredients won’t be able to deliver the results you want. Unprotected sun exposure is simply bad for skin.

Prescription vs OTC?
Non-prescription retinoids deliver amazing benefits to the skin without the potential side effects that prescription ones may cause.  Dermatologists often recommend a gentler form of vitamin A for people with sensitive skin. Studies saw a significant decrease in wrinkles after about six months of use, but even better results were yielded up to a year after the start of application. Over time, retinols help boost collagen and thicken the deeper layer of skin where wrinkles begin to form, so long-term consistency will be worth the results.

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