What Happens To The Skin When Using Retinoids
Retinoids work by stimulating cellular turnover which increases the production of collagen in the skin. Topical retinoids are used for a variety of reasons: for the control and management of acne; as an anti-aging treatment to tone and tighten, reverse and prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles; or as a treatment to even out dark spots from sun damage, just to name a few.
Retinoids can be irritating to the skin during the initial weeks of use. The skin may become prickly, itchy, red and irritated. It usually peels and flakes as cellular turnover is accelerated, and some people may experience an initial breakout as clogged pores become exposed.
One way to minimize these side effects is to introduce the retinoid cream or gel to your skin slowly, applying it once every three days for the first one or two weeks. As your skin adjusts to the product, increase the application to once every two nights for about 10 days. Over time, you will be able to use the product on a nightly basis for the maximum effect and benefit.
There are different types of retinoids – so if your prescribed product is too irritating for your skin, switch to a less potent version while your skin adjusts. These less potent versions of retinoids do work, they just take a little longer to show results.
Retinoids for Treating Acne
As an acne treatment, retinoids will reduce acne outbreaks by preventing dead cells from clogging pores. By clearing acne and reducing outbreaks, retinoids can also reduce the formation of acne scars. For serious acne cases, an oral retinoid can help treat oil production, bacteria associated with acne, and inflammation.
Retinoids for Wrinkles and Other Signs of Aging
Tretinoin was the first retinoid approved by the FDA to treat wrinkles. It works by increasing the production of new collagen which strengthens and thickens the skin. It also stimulates new blood vessels in the skin, giving the skin a healthy glow. Tretinoin will also work to fade age spots, and can help reduce precancerous skin spots called actinic keratosis.
As an anti-aging treatment, apply to your face, neck, chest, hands, and forearms at least twice a week, although it may take three to six months of regular use before improvements in wrinkles are apparent. You should see a noticeable difference after six to 12 months.
While most anti-aging regimens include the use of exfoliants, you should avoid these while using retinoids. According to Diane Heinz, most retinoids deliver a hefty dose of exfoliation naturally. If you are not using a very strong retinoid, you can use AHAs or BHAs for extra exfoliation, however, we recommend you only do this under the care of a dermatologist or Aesthetician, who will know what appropriate measures to take.
A Note of Caution
Retinoids increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, making it more vulnerable than usual to harmful UV rays. While retinoids can help repair sun damage, failure to protect your skin from the sun while using retinoids can potentially cause further sun damage.
If you are using retinoids, avoid the sun and protect your skin at all times with a broad spectrum sunscreen. Wear a good pair of sunglasses, a hat, and protective clothing.