The following is an informative post regarding retinoid use on the skin and its benefits towards anti-aging and skin lightening.
First and foremost I would like to define what retinoids are. Retinoids are a class of Vitamin A derivates. Their main objective is to regulate and repair abnormal/damaged skin cells and replace them with new, healthy cells. Dermatologists have discovered there are well over 30 beneficial acts retinoids can produce on the skin (treating acne being the most widely recognized claim in the medical world).
Retinoids are a key preventive of skin aging, as well as powerful treatment for existing symptoms (wrinkles, spots, loss of collagen and pigmentation concerns). Unlike AHA/BHAâ€s, which only exfoliate the surface of the skin â€“ retinoids exfoliate from within, starting from the deepest layer. Despite the age or skin concern, any individual can use a retinoid and obtain its benefits. They are the only medicines that have the ability to repair damaged DNA in the skin. The reason they are such a popular treatment for acne is due to their ability to preserve the youth of the DNA, regulating keratin production and enzymes thus clearing the pores.
Skin lightening is also an evident result of regular retinoid use. It should be noted that retinoids do not bleach the skin. They only repair sun damage (i.e. help the skin return to its original color after excessive sun exposure). Melasma patients as well as patients suffering from acne scars are usually prescribed a retinoid to help reduce the amount of excess melanin and to aid the skin in distributing the melanin evenly (obtain an even complexion).
Types of retinoids:
Retinoids are divided into 2 different classes: OTC (Over the Counter) and Rx (Prescription).
OTC Retinoids are products that contain retinol, retinaldehyde or retrinal. Retinol is not as strong as an Rx retinoid (i.e. Adapalene) however studies have shown that if it penetrates well enough into the skin (you must take the type of product into consideration, if it contains AHA or not, or contains silicones which hinder penetration) a certain amount of retinol will be converted by enzymes into tretinoin (retionic acid â€“ the form that is useful to the skin). Retinol products are great for individuals who are new to retinoids as they are not as potent or irritating.
Retinaldeyhe is more effective than retinol because it is one step closer to being pure retionic acid. The skinâ€s enzymes have to convert retinol into retinaldehyde to become retionic acid.
Prescription retinoids are products such as Retin-A, Tazorac, or Differin. There are many others but these are the 3 most popular. They come in a variety of strengths. Retin-A utilizes tretinoin, which is pure retinoic acid. It is very effective at treating acne, diminishing wrinkles and lightening of pigment â€“ however it also produces the most irritation. Peeling and dryness are the most common side effects.
Tazorac utilizes a synthetic form, known as tazarotene. Studies have shown this particular synthetic to be very effective at treating pigmentation issues. Again, Tazorac also can be very irritating to the skin, however I will be explaining methods to reduce excessive irritation below in the â€œusageâ€ section.
Differin also uses a synthetic form known as adapalene. This is by far the gentlest form, causing the least amount of irritation. In fact, Differin has been shown to help treat Rosacea along with redness. I would recommend Differin to dark skinned individuals because of its ability to reduce post inflammatory hyper pigmentation (from irritation). The results take a couple of months longer to see than other Rx retinoids, but it more cosmetically elegant than the other two.
The irritation factor of Rx retinoids usually depends on the skinâ€s tolerance level as well as the strength of the cream.
Use of retinoids
I would like to first address that retinoids should only be used during the evening. Studies have shown them to become toxic when exposed to UVA/UVB rays (I am referring to Rx retinoids here). You should also always wear sunscreen during the A.M. and never use Vitamin C along with a retinoid (as it degrades the effectiveness). Vitamin C serums should be used in the daytime underneath your sunscreen. Also during the first few weeks of retinoid use (usually only with Rx retinoids) you will be experiencing acne, or worsening of acne. This is normal, it is the retinoid pushing the excess dirt, oil and clearing the pores.
The best products containing retinol:
- SkinMedica Retinol Complex
- Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream
- Neutrogena Healthy Skin Intensive Serum
- RoC Retinol Correxion
- DDF Energizing Moisturizer
NOTE: Personally, I would recommend you select from products that contain retinaldehyde over retinol if you are going OTC. Before going to your doctor to obtain an Rx Retinoid, you should start with a retinaldehyde or retinol product. Retrinal is probably what I'd recommend for beginners as it comes in 3 strengths and isn't as irritating and potent as Diacneal (which has AHA in it as well). These are more effective than any of the above retinol products mentioned.
The best products containing retinaldehyde:
- Avene Ystheal Gel
- Avene Diacneal (excellent product, combines 6% AHA and 0.1% retinaldehyde. It penetrates deep within the skin due to the AHA as well as inhibits melanin well).
- Avene Eulage
- Avene Retrinal (very gentle, great for beginners. Comes in 3 strengths. Highly recommended.)
Prescription retinoids for darker skinned individuals:
- Retin-A Micro
- Differin Gel
Prescription retinoid for â€˜toughâ€, resilient skin:
- Tazorac Gel
Tip to reduce irritation: Despite Differin being the gentlest retinoid, a dark skinned individual can use Retin-A and Tazorac if they can reduce the amount of irritation. A great way is to buffer the retinoid. Apply a basic moisturizer (Cetaphil, Neutrogena oil-free moisture, aquaphor) over bare cleansed skin. Wait for about 1 hour and then apply a thin layer of your retinoid over the skin. This should reduce the amount of peeling (which is normal when using a retinoid; it is sheding off old skin), dryness and irritation.
If you are interested in a prescription retinoid, talk to your doctor about prescribing the lowest strength retinoid.
Check out these sites for more information. I also got most of my information from them:
Topical retinoids (vitamin a creams). DermNet NZ
Retinoids in skin care. Advancing beyond tretinoin
You can definitley take Vitamin C orally while using Retin-A/Tretinoin and you can apply Vitamin C in your skin routine but just not at the same time as when you apply your retinoid.
Vitamin C works best in the A.M. as it boosts the effects of your sunscreen (UVA protection) as well as wards off free radicals which break down the skin, and boost antioxidant levels in the skin (which inhibits melanin to a degree).
To fade scars, your number one priority should be to avoid sun damage. A great non-oily sunscreen that is inexpensive is Hawaiian Tropics Oil Free Faces SPF 30. You can also check out on several sites on the net for european sunscreens which carry Mexoyryl (Vichy Ultra Fluid Fast Drying SPF 20 and SPF 60 are great, matte and offer excellent protection).
A vitamin C serum can help with your scarring as well. An excellent one is Skinceuticals AOX 20, you can get cheap samples off of ebay that cost 5 bucks and last for 3 weeks. SkinMedica Vitamin C complex is actually the best on the market (according to PubMed) but its very expensive, plus it has silicones so it might not be the best for acne-prone, sensitive skin.