Explaining the Benefits of Retinol - adaatude
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Explaining the Benefits of Retinol

Explaining the Benefits of Retinol

January 23, 2022

Every couple of years I feel like one active has its moment in the spotlight. Over the last few years, there's been a lot of mentions of retinol and its various benefits when it comes to anti-aging. Lots of brands have launched even milder forms of retinol, since some of the strongest forms can really irritate the skin and the milder formulas are also fantastic for newbies.

What are retinoids?

In their most broad form, Retinoids are a class of medications that are chemically derived from Vitamin A. They regulate numerous transcription factors including RAR and RXR located within the nucleus of various cells. (The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website). Retinoids vary greatly, ranging in uses, potency and effectiveness. Many are available over the counter and some require prescriptions. Topical retinoids have a number of benefits and are part of my regular skin care. Some of my personal favorite benefits include unclogging pores and treating acne, slowing and preventing photoaging due to UV exposure (think fine lines and dark spots), and improving the elasticity and texture of your skin (think collagen production).

 

Retinoids for photoaging, strongest to weakest

Retinoic Acid or tretinoin (most active form, no conversions needed before absorption)

Retinal (Retinaldehyde or Oxidated Retinol), Retinyl Retinoate, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (Granactive Retinoid)(converts 1 time to Retinoic Acid)

Retinol (converts 2 times to Retinoic Acid)

Retinaldehyde (converts 2 times to Retinoic Acid)

Retinyl Palmitate, Retinyl Propionate, Retinyl Acetate, Retinyl Linoleate (converts 3 times to Retinoic Acid)

What do retinoids do?

Retinoids and retinols change how a cell functions, specifically the speed at which cells turn over, or divide, to create new cells. Retinoids encourage skin cells to divide more rapidly, building up the protective top layer of skin, the epidermis. As we age, there is a decline in the natural production of collagen and elastic fibers that give your skin lift and bounce in the epidermis. That makes our skin more frail and thin, which leads to wrinkles, sun spots and other types of visible skin damage.

With the addition of retinoids into our skincare routine, we can combat a bit of the aging process by encouraging our cells to turn over faster and produce its own collagen, and freshen up that top layer of skin known as the epidermis.

How do retinoids address aging?

Retinoids thicken the epidermis through increased cell turnover at the top level. They also increase the production of natural chemicals (such as hyaluronic acid) in your skin that keep it plump and moist. Essentially retinol helps your skin do more of its own work, which is what you want. Helping to stimulate collagen production and inhibiting the breakdown of collagen that already exists is the key. Not to mention it also blocks several inflammatory pathways that exacerbate pimples and acne, which is not as highly publicized but so helpful.

"With continued use, these products effectively help exfoliate your skin, increase collagen synthesis, increase elasticity, and repair connective tissue." (Stanford)

 

How long does it take to see results?

As with anything, you won't see results overnight. With retinoids, you'll want to use the product for 3-6 months to really see results. Consistency is also key. If you use a retinol once in a while, you're not going to see the same consistent results in comparison to using it consistently. It's the simple biology of how cell turnover will work. The more often you utilize its power, the more results you'll achieve. Most people average using retinol 3-4 times a week, but it depends on the strength as well as the maturity of your skin. If you're new to retinoids, you may need it on a less consistent cycle. If you have more mature skin, you might need a stronger formulation or a more frequent usage. 

 
This is a chart that showcases retinoids in order of strength.

How do retinoids address aging?

Retinoids thicken the epidermis through increased cell turnover at the top level. They also increase the production of natural chemicals (such as hyaluronic acid) in your skin that keep it plump and moist. Essentially retinol helps your skin do more of its own work, which is what you want. Helping to stimulate collagen production and inhibiting the breakdown of collagen that already exists is the key. Not to mention it also blocks several inflammatory pathways that exacerbate pimples and acne, which is not as highly publicized but so helpful.

"With continued use, these products effectively help exfoliate your skin, increase collagen synthesis, increase elasticity, and repair connective tissue." (Stanford)

How long does it take to see results?

As with anything, you won't see results overnight. With retinoids, you'll want to use the product for 3-6 months to really see results. Consistency is also key. If you use a retinol once in a while, you're not going to see the same consistent results in comparison to using it consistently. It's the simple biology of how cell turnover will work. The more often you utilize its power, the more results you'll achieve. Most people average using retinol 3-4 times a week, but it depends on the strength as well as the maturity of your skin. If you're new to retinoids, you may need it on a less consistent cycle. If you have more mature skin, you might need a stronger formulation or a more frequent usage. 

You've probably noticed there are a lot of retinoid products on the market with similar names. With all of these options, it's important that you find the right product for you. In general, you want to find the product that provides you with the most benefit for what you are treating without causing your skin irritation, but you also have to work your way up in intensity. 

Over-the-counter (OTC), in order of potency:

Retinol

Retinal, which is short for Retinaldehyde (RAL), is a derivative of vitamin A, and is more potent than retinol. This is a great option if your skin tolerates retinol well but you want better results

Retinaldehyde is a retinoic acid precursor, which is formed as an intermediate metabolite in the transformation of retinol to retinoic acid in human keratinocytes. and there is one other option I believe that I'm not covering but they are different

Tretinoin (Retin A): This is a synthetic retinoid.

Tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), and adapalene (Differin) are prescription retinoids. Adapalene is also available over the counter (in a 0.1% formulation versus the 0.3% prescription version). Prescription only, in order of potency.

This is a close up of a few Beauty Pie products, including the Niacinamide Drops.

Have you started using retinol?

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