Retinoids, aka vitamin A, can be found in many different forms but the most popular and effective forms include: retinoic acid, retinol, and retinal.
Vitamin A has been shown to rebuild collagen and elastin proteins, which thickens the dermis. Bye, bye wrinkles! It stimulates cell turnover in the epidermis. Hello soft-clear skin! Helps to reduce hyper pigmentation. So long brown spots! It also reduces the appearance of large pores and prevents buildup of skin cells in the pores that cause unsightly blackheads.
Prescription strength retinoic acid vs. topical retinol or retinal
Not everyone can tolerate the prescription strength retinoic acid, which is also the most fast acting form. It takes most skin types 6-12 weeks to work through the dryness, redness, and dehydration before the skin adjusts. This is off-putting for many consumers who do not have the time or desire to “tough it out.” Retinoic acid is more easily tolerated if your skin is “tough,” meaning it does not react to anything, or if you are someone with an extreme skin condition, like melasma, and want something that will work quickly.
Reactive skin types, or those who prefer to avoid the retinoid rash, generally prefer a topical retinol or retinal. These forms of Vitamin A are effective but they work more slowly. Retinol requires two enzymatic conversions from the body before the skin is able to utilize the active form, retinoic acid. Retinol is also stored in the skin’s epidermis for up to 72 hours, which can make it potentially irritating or drying for some skin types.
More about retinaldehyde (Retinal)
Retinal only requires one enzymatic conversion and is not stored in the epidermis. This makes the ingredient more tolerable for reactive skin types. Retinal is my go-to for clients who want to correct enlarged pores, superficial hyperpigmentation (brown spots, sun spots), congestion (black heads, white heads), fine lines, and dull skin. This form of Vitamin A is less irritating. Reactive skin types are able to avoid inflammation, dryness, redness, and irritation while offsetting age related changes in their skin.
All forms of retinoids require consistent application for best results. Some skin types are able to tolerate daily use while others can only tolerate it 2-3 times a week. Retinoid products should be used at night since sunlight will disrupt the activity of the ingredient and render it ineffective. Retinoids assist in cellular regeneration, making them more effective at night when the body is in repair mode. While there are wildly conflicting opinions online about whether or not to use these products during the summer months, one thing is certain – wear SPF. Otherwise, all the goodwill you massage into your face at night will be sabotaged by unintentional sun exposure, which will accelerate aging!