What is retinoid? What is retinol? Are they different?

Retinoid is an umbrella term for a huge range of products, all of which contain a form of vitamin A. Retinoids come in many forms, from over-the-counter or prescription-strength products, from oral medications to topical products. They can come in the form of creams and gel serums. Retinol, simply, is one type of retinoid.

Why would I use a retinoid? Is the hype real?

Short answer—yes, the hype is very real! Retinoids are proven to help with speeding up cellular turnover, stimulating collagen production (thickening your skin), and softening wrinkles. Therefore, retinoids are extremely beneficial for anti-aging concerns and keeping your skin looking young and fresh. Sunscreen and retinoid products these are the two ultimate anti-aging skincare solutions.

Retinoids also help treat acne, clear pores, fade pigmentation (darkened spots on skin), and even out your skin tone. They help resurface the texture of your skin and make it glow. They’re basically a huge skincare powerhouse. There are many reasons to start using a retinoid!

When should I start using retinoid?

There is a misconception that you need to have mature skin to use a retinoid. Actually, you can start using retinoid in your mid-late 20s or early 30s, since this is when our bodies start producing collagen at a slower rate.

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How Do I Start?

Ok, so now you probably want to start using a retinoid. But where do you start? It can be a bit overwhelming. First, it’s important to be aware of the various types of retinoid and their main characteristics so that you can determine which direction might be best for you to go in based on your skin, and how to look for the product you want to try first. There are five different types of retinoids, all of which have different strengths and benefits.

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 The 5 different types of retinoid:

  1. Retinol
  2. Retinoid esters
  3. Adapalene
  4. Retinoic acid
  5. Isotretinoin

Retinol is a weaker retinoid than retinoic acid (the strongest form), and has fewer side effects than retinoic acid.

Retinoid esters aka retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate, are the weakest form of retinoid. A product containing retinoid esters would be good for you if you’re just starting on your retinoid journey.

Adapalene, widely known as Differin gel, is good if you need help with pore size, inflammation, and treating acne.

Retinoic acid, aka retin-A, tretinoin, or tazarotene is the strongest form of retinoid, from which you’ll see the quickest, most apparent results. It’s available by prescription only. It can also be harsh on skin and cause purging (all the junk will resurface on your skin), dryness, flakiness, and skin peeling for a while.

Isotretinoin, widely known as Accutane, is available via prescription only. This is an oral medication for bad cases of acne that can have numerous side effects and should be discussed with a doctor.

What happens when you use retinoid? I’ve heard some things…

Purging, dryness, flakiness, and light peeling are basically inevitable with the stronger retinoid products. (Although retinoids are commonly thought to exfoliate your skin, they’re doing something else, not just acting on the surface level of your skin.) But these undesirable side effects are temporary. It might take a few weeks for your skin to get used to your retinoid, but it most likely will.

Best practices for using retinoid: 7 Tips and Tricks

  1. Stick with it!
  2. Now is a good time to try it.
  3. Be patient.
  4. Use a retinoid at night, a few times a week.
  5. Use sunscreen during the day.
  6. Always use a moisturizer
  7. There are a few products you shouldn’t use in a nighttime routine while using a retinoid.

1. Stick with it!

Stick with your retinoid product through the purging/dry/flaky/peeling phase. This phase will eventually end, unless your product is really too strong for you.

2. Now is a good time to try it.

Now, in the time of COVID, is a good time to try a retinoid if you’re quarantining and working from home—no one (or very few people) will witness your purge phase!

3. Be patient.

Be patient—it may take a few weeks or even months to see results. After all, your product is working at the cellular level.

4. Use a retinoid at night, a few times a week.

Use your retinoid at night. Sun exposure breaks retinoic acid down and make it less effective. Start by using a new retinoid product a few times a week—ideally once or twice—and work your way up to daily use if your skin can handle it. Listen to your skin!

5. Use sunscreen during the day.

You’ve still got to use sunscreen! Protecting your skin during the day using sunscreen is the way to make your retinoid work—if you don’t, you’re undoing all of its benefits and damaging your skin.

6. Always use a moisturizer afterwards.

Always use moisturizer after using your retinoid. Moisturizer can help with the dryness and flakiness caused by retinoid. You can also mix your retinoid with your moisturizer, if you prefer. See which method you prefer!

7. There are a few products you shouldn’t use in a nighttime routine while using a retinoid.

Products with key ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and alpha hydroxy acids (such as glycolic acid), when used in the same routine as your retinoid, can deactivate some retinoids and be really harsh on your skin.

If you still want to use a product with one of these ingredients, you can, but you should use it on a night when you’re not using your retinoid. Actually, a chemical exfoliant can help support your retinoid’s effectiveness when you use the chemical exfoliant first in one night routine, followed by your retinoid the next night.

Retinoids have powerful skincare benefits, and we highly recommend exploring their effect on your skin!

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