Guide to Retinols and Retinoids

Guide to Retinols and Retinoids

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Patients often ask, “What is the one skincare product I need for anti-aging?” To that I always say an amazing SPF, but second to that, I say a retinol or retinoid. From treating acne to fighting fine lines, these products truly are the work horses of cosmetic dermatology, but before you start bathing head-to-toe in these miracle products, there are some things you need to know. Check out our dermatology guide to retinols and retinoids.


What are Retinols and Retinoids?

These are topical products which are derived from vitamin A. Vitamin A is a nutrient which helps to boost cell turnover. Because of this their benefits include reducing acne, increasing collagen production, skin brightening, and skin renewal.  This means they help discoloration, pore size, acne, oily skin, skin tone/texture and fine lines/wrinkles.


What is the Difference between a Retinol and Retinoid?

Retinols contain a lower percentage of active ingredient and therefore can be less irritating allowing them to be purchased over the counter. Retinoids are stronger making them more effective, but this can also mean more side effects which is why they must be prescribed by a physician.


How to Start Incorporating Products into your Anti-Aging Routine

To successfully start using these products you will want to follow these guidelines to avoid common side effects like irritation, burning, and dryness. If you are naïve to these products, I recommend starting with a lower percentage retinol but even at this low percentage you can still experience dryness, so we recommend starting 2-3 times weekly and combining with a gentle fragrance-free moisturizer. A little goes a long way, so the dosage is a pea size amount. After a few weeks, you can start to increase usage to a nightly dose. This could mean a transition period of several weeks or even months.

You can gradually work your way up to higher percentages. If you feel you reached a peak with OTC retinols, consider seeing your dermatology provider for a RX-strength retinoid. Each time you switch percentages, it is best to restart gradually and slowly increase usage. This is also important if you switch brands. You should also wear SPF daily as these products make you more sensitive to the sun. I recommend holding them one week prior to significant sun exposure (such as a beach vacation) and prior to any lasers, chemical peels, or microneedling treatments. Retinols and Retinoids should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.


Tips for Buying a Retinol

  • Buy physician grade products: We carry an amazing array of retinols and retinoid in our office. Skinceuticals, Skin Medica and Obagi each have lines of retinols.
  • If you want to try an OTC product, I like Peter Thomas Roth’s Retinol Fusion PM, and La Roche-Posay Redermic R Antiaging Retinol Serum.
  • Another OTC option for retinoids is Adapalene 0.1 % which only two years ago was a prescription retinoid. (You will find this in the acne aisle as Differin and La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Adapalene Gel).

*Insider Tip: Just because a prescription-grade retinoid is not medically necessary, and therefore not covered by insurance for anti-aging, doesn’t mean it has to cost you hundreds of dollars. Often, we work with mail order specialty pharmacies who offer great cash prices for these products. Feel free to ask if you would benefit from this at your next office visit.

To learn more about how to improve your skin’s health, Contact Us about booking a consult with one of our dermatology providers at The Skin Care Center of Southern Illinois. Call to book your appointment at 618-244-0031.