Do you ever wish you could go back in time, when your skin was flawless and glowy, without a wrinkle in sight?
Retinoids are the fairy godmothers that can grant you that wish.
Sort of (there’s always a catch with fairy godmothers, ins’t there?).
If you’re 50, retinoids won’t take your skin all the way back to your 20s BUT, they WILL reduce those pesky wrinkles, fade away those annoying dark spots and give your complexion a beautiful glow.
Bonus points : if you’ve got acne, retinoids send it packing.
Not convinced? Here are all the science-backed reasons you should use retinoids into your skincare routine:
What Are Retinoids?
Retinoids are forms of Vitamin A.The most powerful (and most irritating) are available by prescription only:
- Retinoic Acid
The gentlest forms (don’t be fooled, they still pack a punch) are available OTC:
- Hydrapinacolone Retinoate
- Retinyl Palmitate
Related: What Form Of Retinoids Is Right For You?
Here are what these little fairy godmothers can do for your skin:
1. Retinoids Prevent AND Reduce Wrinkles
You’re trying to get rid of your acne and your wrinkles disappear, too! What a miracle!
That’s exactly what happened in the 1970s. Doctors prescribed retinoids to acne patients and, during the treatment, they discovered these little molecules can do a lot more than that!
Retinoids are the only thing (so far!) that has been scientifically proven to reduce wrinkles. How?
They stimulate the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen, the substances that keep skin firm. When you’re young, your body produces them in spades, but as you get older, it becomes lazy. Production can’t keep up with demand anymore.
Add to that sun exposure, pollution and all the many other things that destroy collagen and you’ve got the perfect recipe for wrinkles. Retinoids make sure collagen levels remain high, so those pesky wrinkles never have a chance to form in the first place.
P.S. Retinoids don’t work overnight. With retinol, for example, you should expect to see the first results after two months. Prescription retinoids work faster.
Related: 8 Ways To Boost Collagen For Younger-Looking Skin
2. Retinoids Treat Acne
I’ve already given this away in point 1, but here it is again: retinoids make your acne fade away.
Retin-A is the #1 treatment prescribed by derms to treat acne vulgaris (but the other ones do a good job at kicking acne in the butt, too).
Scientists aren’t 100% sure how it works exactly just yet but, it seems it has something to do with its ability to unclog pores.
P.S. Unclogged pores look smaller, too.
Need help to create a skincare routine that tackles both acne and aging? Click on the image below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive the “Acne + Aging Skincare Routine” cheatsheet:
Related: How To REALLY Make Your Pores Look Smaller
3. Retinoids Fade Dark Spots Away
Popped pimples. Melasma. Sun exposure. Hormones.
No matter what causes dark spots to turn up on your skin, retinoids send them packing again. How?
Retinoids speed up cellular turnover, a fancy way of saying they help skin exfoliate faster than it would on its own. As old, dark skin cells on the top of your skin give way to newer, more-even toned cells that were lurking underneath, your dark spots slowly fade away.
P.S. Speeding up cellular turnover also makes your skin smoother and brighter. Win win.
Related: The Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: What Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone?
How To Use Retinoids
Retinoids are awesome. In moderation.
Here’s the deal: retinoids are the most powerful weapon in your beauty arsenal. Like all powerful weapons, they have to be handled with care.
Use them right, they’ll give you your best skin ever. Use them wrong, they’ll destroy your skin..
How do you use them right? Here are my top tips:
- Start small: I get it, you want all the benefits immediately. But, retinoids can be irritating. If you have never used retinoids before, have sensitive skin, or use too much too often, they’ll make your skin all red and flaky. They can sting too. Save yourself the pain. Start with a small dose a couple of time a week and build your way up from there (check out my detailed post on how to do this with retinol here).
- Use them at night: retinoids can make skin more susceptible to sun damage – the very thing they treat! (Ironic, isn’t it?). Better use them at night when the sun ain’t around.
- Avoid them during pregnancy: studies have shown that retinoids can cause birth defects in mice. Studies on humans haven’t been done (for obvious reasons!!) so there’s no proof this is true for us too. But, why take the risk? If you’ve pregnant or nursing, give retinoids a pass.
Related: How To Make The Most Of Retinoids (Even If You Have Sensitive Skin)
What Are The Best Products With Retinoids?
If you want speedy results, go to a derm and ask them for a prescription retinoid. But to get started, OTC retinoids will do just as well. They’ll get your skin used to retinoids without (much) irritation (the adjustment period with prescription retinoids can be harsh!). Here are my fave picks:
- Paula’s Choice Resist 1% Clinical Retinol Booster ($52.00): Dermstore, Feel Unique and Paula’s Choice
- Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM ($65.00/£62.50): available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, Sephora and Ulta
- The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (£8.00): Asos, Cult Beauty and Sephora.
The Bottom Line
Retinoids are the fairy godmothers that keep your skin looking its best: they reduce wrinkles, bust acne and fade dark spots. But, don’t go overboard. Too much of a good thing is never good!
Do you use Retinoids in your skincare routine? Share your experience in the comments below.
I’m currently using an avene product that contains0.1% retinaldehyde for fine lines on my forehead. Not sure if it’s working yet… I’ll need to take an after pic. It does make my skin somewhat dry so I’ll have to use a richer moisturizer over it
Good article. I too use reteniods. But I use them in the form of Ponds Age Miracle line that is formulated with reteniod and is very mild, so I don’t experience any driness or discomfort.
.-= tanveer´s last blog ..Kaya Hydra Cleanse Make Up Remover – Review =-.
Connie, retinaldehyde is one of the less irritating form of retinoids and usually it works well at small concentrations. I’m sure the product you are using is working but like all antiaging products, it needs time before you can see the results. 🙂
Tanveer, that’s good so you can get the benefits without the side effects 😉
Thanks for the interesting and very informative article.
.-= Vonvon´s last blog ..EOTD/FOTD: MAC To The Beach-Inspired =-.
Vonvon, you’re welcome. 🙂
Thanks for the good article.
dear Giorgia, have you ever come across reduced glutathione? it’s a dietary supplement antioxidant. what do you think of it?
Tina, you’re welcome. Reduced glutathione is a powerful antioxidants but unfortunately scientific studies so far have shown that it is not well absorbed by the body in supplement form. So, when taken orally, it is less effective. It also has some side effects, but then any supplement can potentially have some too. Personally, I would use a good moisturizer or serum full of antioxidants and eat a healthy diet than rely on reduced glutathione. Hope this helps.
i love your blog, please can you do a review about neostrata skincare, with retionol or aha,
Meryem, I don’t think I ever saw Neostrata products in my town but I will try to get a hold of them and review them. In the meantime, I had a look at the ingredient lists of their products and most of them seem to be well-formulated, although quite overpriced.
thank you for your interest, neostrata is a canadian brand, and i live in canada, and yes its overpriced but they have a wrinkle repair with retionol for 30 dollar or35,
can you recommend me a good brand with retionol,
thank you so much
sorry for my english iam french
Meryem, I didn’t know it was a French brand. I know it is available here in Italy but my town is small so most brands aren’t sold here. But I’ll do to my best to get my hands on their products. 🙂
Unfortunately products with Retinoids tend to be quite expensive. A good drugstore option would be Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream, (Night Formula or Original formula), which contains a stable form of Retinol and it comes in a tube. Roc Multi-Correxion Night Treatment is another not too expensive product with retinol. Hope this helps.
And your English is really good. 🙂
I’m using the retino-A 0.025% cream for anti-aging purposes, 3X/week. I don’t experience redness, but I do see some flakes and skinpeeling, especially around nose and chin… Any tips bwb?
JohnDoe hi. I’m sorry you’re experiencing some side effects. How long have you been using the cream for? The flakes and peeling occur because skin needs time to get used to retinol but if you’ve been using it for a few weeks it may just be that this ingredient isn’t suitable for your skin type.
Well, I have been using it for 4 weeks now. I’ve read it can take up till 3 months for the flaking to disappear. Is that true? Note that I’m using a prescription retinoid, not a beauty creme…
I wonder if should continue this experiment?
JohnDee, well if you have sensitive skin, then yes it may take a few months for the flaking to disappear. Although if in 4 weeks you haven’t seen even a slight improvement I’m not sure it’s a good idea to keep using it. Prescription retinoid creams are “stronger” than cosmetic retinoid creams so maybe switching to a cosmetic cream may work better for you. It may not irritate your skin as much. Keep in mind though that some people just can’t use retinoids as their skin just can’t get used to them so if you don’t see an improvement soon or even cosmetic creams don’t work for you, it will better to stop using retinoids altogether.
What’s the best retinol cream you can suggest? 🙂
Katrina, ROC Multi-Correxion Night Treatment, SkinCeutical Retinol 1.0 Maximum Strength Refining Night Cream with 1.0% Pure Retinol and Paula’s Choice RESIST Barrier Repair Moisturizer, Skin Remodeling Complex are all good options.
Great! I’ve been constantly hearing about the ROC Multi-Correxion Night Treatment, so I’ll give it a try. Hopefully it won’t cause me terrible side effects, worth a try though. Thanks!
Katrina, you’re welcome. I hope you won’t experience any side effects either. To minimize the risk, start using it every other day at first to give your skin time to get used to it. 🙂
Hi, at what age should we start to use products that contain retinol ? thank you in advance for your answer
Fiona, hi. Usually, mid-20s are a great time to start using retinol, but it could be used even earlier if you needed it to help with conditions such as acne. But I definitely wouldn’t wait until wrinkles appear. While it can help reduce them, it takes a long time to do so and, in any case, it’s best to use it to prevent them in the first place.
thanks for that good information. pls. give an advice, im using UK DERM ERASE tretinoin ANTI ACNE AND DEPIGMENTING SOLUTION 250mcg/ml, i feel breathing hard and experience headache everytime i use, would you advice me to stop using it or can you give me some tips how to avoid such side effects. it’s good to my skin. thanks a lot.
Riza, those side effects sound pretty serious. I think you should stop using it, and switch to a less strong form of retinoids. It will work more slowly, but you shouldn’t experience any side effects. Hope this helps.