The Ingredient Chronicles: Retinol

retinol skin care ingredientOne of the ingredients I love in my personal routine is retinol. It is always present. I recommend it for many different skin concerns. Let’s take a deeper look and see what it does.

Retinol and Retin-A, or the class of ingredients called retinoids or retinoic acid, are Vitamin A derivatives. These ingredients work primarily as exfoliants. They are special because they exfoliate the surface of the skin as well as the interior of the pore, unlike salicylic acid, which works just in the pore or glycolic, which works mostly on the surface. Because of the way they exfoliate, they are especially good at getting rid of deep clogs and textural acne.

Retinol is the over-the-counter version of retinoic acid. Retin-A is the prescription form of retinoic acid. However, don’t take this to mean that Retin-A is better than retinol. Some skin types may find that they can tolerate the lower doses in an OTC retinol product.

Retinoids have many benefits aside from just their amazing pore-cleaning abilities. Retinoids are the only FDA-approved anti-aging ingredient. It was being studied for acne prevention when people started noticing that their wrinkles were going away. When you have damage to the skin, the skin responds by creating scar tissue. Scar tissue is essentially collagen that has grown back irregularly, like you see in wrinkles or in acne scars. Healthy collagen is spiraled like a slinky, and it lines up in straight lines. Damaged collagen has grown back over- or under-spiraled, and it starts to bundle together and collapse on itself. Retinoids work on these irregularities by breaking down the damaged collagen and encouraging the growth of healthy, properly spiraled, perfectly aligned collagen. So retinoids are great for decreasing the depth of wrinkle and repairing acne scars.

Retinoids also help to control melanin production, which makes them great to repair the uneven pigmentation that many people see after years in the sun. For acne sufferers, especially those with deeper complexions (think: olive skin tones and deeper), it can fade the marks that remain long after blemishes have healed.

But here come the cautions. Retin-A is aggressive. Many people experience flaking, redness, and sensitivities while they are using it. Retinol (the OTC version) may be easier to tolerate for these skin types. It takes longer to see results than the prescription strength products, but avoiding the adverse side effects may be worth it.  Retinoids are also contraindicated for waxing, since it sensitizes and may cause lifting of the skin (read: a big patch of no skin… not the brow look you were going for!) Retinoids are absolutely contraindicated for pregnancy.

Retinol should always be used as part of your nighttime routine. It can cause photosensitivity, so you need to be diligent about applying a sunscreen every day (even if you get minimal sun exposure). Dermatologists usually recommend using the product every day, but more sensitive types might not tolerate that much. Stop using your retinoids if you’re going on a big beach vacation or if you’re planning on getting or have just gotten a deep chemical peel.

I really believe that everyone can find a retinoid that works for them, but you may need to try some variations to your routine or the way you use the product to minimize the adverse side effects. Here are some tips for dealing with the irritation that retinoids may sometimes cause.

  • Try using it less frequently. Try it twice a week, and slowly work your way up to more frequent usage. Once you start to see the results you want, you may want to dial your usage back again.
  • Apply a light moisturizer before the prescription. The moisturizer will act as a buffer between your skin and the prescription, slowing down the absorption. That can actually make a huge difference in the level of irritation.
  • Use a gentle enzyme mask to dissolve away the flakiness. This will help you control your urge to pick and keep your skin hydrated and smooth.
  • Try a soothing hydrating mask. Dry skin types can definitely use this help. Even acne prone skin types need this boost. Masking more frequently can help to give your skin that extra hydration and soothing that it needs.

Retinol and Retin-A are my hero ingredients. You can’t beat the multiple benefits that you get from one product. But it is an ingredient where less is definitely more, so find the balance your skin needs.

 

 

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Battle of the White Jackets: Dermatologists versus Estheticians

dermatologist speaks to patient about skin Dermatologists and estheticians both treat the skin. But we each treat the skin differently. As an esthetician, my license allows me to only treat the epidermis, or the outermost layer of the skin. I treat the layer of skin that you see. Doctors can treat anything from the epidermis down to the deepest layers of the skin. They treat the layers that support the visible layer of the skin.

Dermatologists cure medical conditions, while estheticians focus on the beautification of the skin. [Tweet this!]

I can help you control chronic conditions like eczema, acne, or rosacea, but I cannot prescribe medicine if that’s what you need. I can help you build a routine around a prescription. People can tolerate different levels of prescription meds, and I can help you to balance your routine around your new treatment. I can offer alternatives if your prescriptions are causing your skin to be sensitized, or experiencing excessive redness, flaking, or tenderness. I can help fill in the holes in your routine if you’re still not seeing theesthetician applies aloe mask in a facial results you want.

I don’t see this as an either/or kind of question, but lots of dermatologists seem to. To be fair, there are many dermatologists that respect what estheticians do. There are plenty of dermatologists that recommend great products. But there are times that the recommendations some dermatologists make are aggressive and over-drying. I have seen dermatologists put patients on a daily Retin-A and a glycolic pad (nevermind that AHAs and retinoids break each other down, making both ingredients ineffective) or Retin-A without a moisturizer. I believe that if you are on an aggressive product like a prescription, you may need to go more gentle with other aspects like cleanser or moisturizer. I feel some dermatologists neglect to help their patients with the entire picture.

So what does this mean to you? If you have a chronic condition or a funny mole, see a dermatologist. If you are concerned about a dull complexion or just not looking your best, see an esthetician. Ultimately, we can all work together to get you your best glow.

 

 

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