Dr Ian Webster
Dr Ian Webster

Retinoids

The term retinoid refers to a group of compounds that are derived from the vitamin A molecule. This means that they possess structural or functional similarities to vitamin A. There are many types of Retinoids, such as retinol, retinal, and retinyl esters.

Retinol is a fat-soluble derivative of Vitamin A which is easily absorbed by the skin. When applied to the skin it is converted to retinoic acid providing anti-ageing benefits with its ability to repair sun-damaged skin, it helps to treat acne, and reduce pigmentation.

Where does Retinol come from?

In 1971 Dr Albert M Kligman, a famous Dermatologist at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, discovered Tretinoin (Retinoic Acid) to treat acne. It was marketed by Johnson & Johnson with the brand name Retin-A and it was an extremely effective treatment for acne.

Dr Kligman’s older patients who were prescribed Retin-A noticed that their skins became smoother, their wrinkles became less and their pigmentation lighter. Tretinoin is still regarded as the gold standard topical anti-ageing ingredient.

Tretinoin is an extremely effective prescription-only medication but the side effects of redness and irritation can be unpleasant and it can cause the skin to become sensitive to sunlight. 

It has been found that topical Retinol is less irritating on the skin than Tretinoin but this depends upon the Retinol concentration.

The usual concentrations of Retinol in cosmeceuticals range from 0.1% to 1.0%. Retinol has become more popular as it is generally better tolerated by the skin and it does not need to be prescribed by a medical professional.

More modern and innovative delivery systems of Retinol into the skin have helped to reduce irritation and lower the risk of a reaction. 

What are the Benefits of Retinol?

  • Helps to synthesise new collagen
  • Stimulates and increases skin cell turnover which slows with age
  • Repairs damaged skin cells
  • Protects the skin from free radicals
  • Increases epidermal thickness
  • Smooths and compacts the stratum corneum (outer layer of the skin)
  • Improve fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation

Treatment tips for using Retinoids in your Skincare Routine

Prescription

  • When starting a prescription retinoid like tretinoin or adapalene, introduce the product only at night time starting twice a week. Depending on your response one can potentially increase the nightly usage.
  • The risk of a ‘Retinoid Reaction’ – a temporary irritant contact dermatitis is much higher when using tretinoin and adapalene.

(Check with your medical professional)

Non-Prescription

  • As topical Retinoids have the potential to irritate the skin it is best to only cleanse the skin with a gentle cleanser and not to use any harsh toners or scrubs 
  • Dry the skin thoroughly before applying the Retinoid
  • Most topical Retinoids are used at night
  • Start slowly initially applying it on Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday nights. This can be done for a week or two and if the topical Retinoid is well tolerated then it can be increased to every night. If the skin can only tolerate it once or twice a week at night, it is better to use it in this way rather than to not use it at all.
  • As the topical Retinoids may make the skin more sensitive to the sun it is important to apply a good quality, broad-spectrum sunblock every morning. 
  • It is advisable not to use your Retinoid if you know you are going to be outdoors for prolonged periods the next day.

Skincare products that contain Retinol

Retinol is a highly versatile skincare ingredient addressing ageing, pigmentation and acne. Dr Webster recommends:

Posted in LEARN / INGREDIENT FOCUS on November 7th, 2023.

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