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Understanding Retinol

Jul 21, 2023

Are you curious about Retinol? We see the word Retinol in many skin care products, and they boast their benefits. What is Retinol? Why are they good for our skin? We take a dive into Retinol to understand what it does to our skin and why it’s in so many products these days.

Retinol is a form of vitamin A, known for its anti-aging and acne-fighting properties. There are over the counter products that contain retinol, but medical-grade and prescription products contain stronger concentrations of retinoids. So, are retinoids and retinol the same thing? No, but they are in the same family. Retinoids have been in use since the 1970s for the treatment of acne, psoriasis, certain signs of aging, and even some cancers. The first retinoid that became available for use was Retin-A (tretinoin topical), which was used to treat acne. When it was discovered to have cell renewing and pigmentation fading properties, it gained a well-deserved reputation as an anti-aging treatment. Retinol can be purchased over the counter because it is less intense than retinoids.

Retinol is available in creams, gels, lotions, ointments, and serums, and it is sometimes found in cosmetic products. It works by increasing cell production, unclogging pores, exfoliating your skin, and increasing collagen production. In this way, it can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkle and make your skin look fresher and plumper. It starts to work right away, but you may not see an improvement in your skin for several weeks. In fact, your skin may look worse before it starts to improve. Retinol can cause redness, burning, and scaling, with retinoids irritating the skin more because of the concentration.

Your skin will build a tolerance after a few weeks, and most dermatologists recommend starting slowly and gradually building on your retinoid usage, to ease your skin into it. Start with an over the counter retinol every third night, building up to every other night after a week or so, working your way up to every night. Once you can tolerate over the counter retinol, you can talk to your dermatologist about prescription retinoids. You can also try applying moisturizer before and after the retinol, to soothe skin. This won’t have any impact on the retinol’s efficacy. Note: your risk of side effects will be greater if you use more than one product that contains retinol.

There are some notable precautions about the use of retinol. First, pregnant women should avoid retinol, so don’t use it without seeking a doctor’s advice if you think you may be pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. People with eczema and rosacea should not use it if their condition is active, because retinol can aggravate both of these conditions. Additionally, it is vital that you wear mineral-based sunscreen outside if you are using retinol, because sun exposure can increase your risk of exactly the problems you are trying to resolve, like age spots and wrinkles. UV exposure can also intensify drying and irritating effects of retinol.

Whether or not you want to know more about retinol, whenever you need expert advice and help caring for your skin, contact Arlington Dermatology. For over 40 years, our Board-Certified dermatologists have been serving patients, making the health and welfare of our patients our top priority. We offer innovative methods of treatment, using state of the art medical equipment, in our conveniently located, patient-friendly facility in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Schedule an appointment through our website or call 847-392-5440.