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Retinoids: The Last Word On Anti-Aging

Retinoids: The Last Word On Anti-Aging
March 24, 2014 5 minute read

How many of you have spent hundreds of dollars on anti-aging products? I know I have. Those little pots and tubes easily entice with their promises to reduce wrinkles and pause aging. Being blind to the ingredients only made me poorer, and those brilliantly marketed products certainly didn’t erase or prevent any wrinkles. It all worked out in the end though, because I am now an anti-aging savant. The secret to baby smooth skin? Vitamin A (retinoids). In all my years of researching and trying every anti-aging product under the sun I’ve found this to be the only effective ingredient.

The holy grail of anti-aging creations is definitely a good dose of retinoid in any of its forms. Derived from vitamin-A, this ingredient is seriously the one wrinkle banishing item to look for – whether attempting to erase visible lines or prevent new ones. But I also kind of love my little wrinkles, I feel like they’re a right of passage. I have EARNED these smile lines through a happy life. I think we’re all a little too obsessed with looking like teenagers when we’re not (myself included). Growing up is exciting! I digress. Everything in moderation, right?


What Are They?

I’ll turn to my go-to product bible, Paula’s Choice, to explain retinoids. “Whether in over-the-counter or prescription form, vitamin A in all its forms works as a cell-communicating ingredient. That means it can actually tell a skin cell to behave and even look like a more normal, younger cell. When you have sun damaged skin this communication is incredibly beneficial because sun damaged skin produces unhealthy, abnormal, and inflexible skin cells.” In other words, it is amazing. All of this can be achieved by the thickening of the skin. Ok, so your stratum corneum will actually become thinner (especially with overuse), but your epidermis and dermis will become thicker. The result? Youthfully strong skin that looks the part. Bonus: vitamin A has strong pore minimizing/acne banishing abilities! It was actually initially used as a treatment for cystic acne.

Not all retinoids are equal. A prescription retinoid is popularly known as Retin-A, tretinoin being the most powerful version of retinoid available. Tretinoin’s little sister is retinol, found in over the counter anti-aging products. While tretinoin is stronger and potentially more irritating, it is faster acting and far more potent than retinol. You will peel and you will react when first using something like Retin-A. I actually prefer retinol, it’s milder and your skin doesn’t freak out. Plus I’m young – I just keep celebrating the anniversary’s of my 19th birthday – so I don’t need an intense tretinoin product. 


Where Can you Buy Retinoids?

You probably want to know where you can find some good quality retinoid products, so let me help you out. Regardless of which version of vitamin A you go for, always apply at night. Read: if you choose to incorporate some anti-aging action into you routine you simply cannot be lazy about sunscreen use anymore.


1) Retin-A, around $75 for 20g. This is a prescription retinoid that you must get from your doctor. It’ll be available in varying strengths but most of them will cause some peeling and redness to begin with. Carry on and be patient. This ingredient is just enhancing collagen production, peeling is it working to even out the pigment of your skin and smooth its surface. Once your skin has adjusted you will start to see the amazing results. Regardless, you probably want to start using a product this strong every third night, and then work your way up to every other night and then every night.


2) Philosophy’s Help-Me Retinol Night Treatment, $47.50. This was the first ever retinol containing product that I used. I love the whole Philosophy line and it’s packaging is retinol friendly in an aluminum tube. It accurately claims to “help minimize the look of large pores, fine lines and skin discolouration, while helping to clear congested pores. A patented time-release delivery system allows the retinol to be released into the skin gradually for less irritation.” Available at Sephora.

3) Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream (Night), $13. I just picked up this drugstore find 1.5 months ago. I won’t lie, I’m becoming a drugstore convert and I love it. I ran out of my Philosophy treatment a few months ago, and since it had been a while since I used retinol I was expecting to peel upon using this new…nope! This cream is gentle and moisturizing. The little fine lines that I was starting to see pop up on my forehead again are now significantly reduced, and I certainly see more of an overall glow to my skin. Available at your local drugstore. I get mine at Duane Reade


How Do You Use Them?

Apply in your treatment phase, before you moisturize and after you cleanse. You absolutely want to make sure your skin is dry before you apply your Retin-A or retinol. You can dab this treatment right up to your eye area if you so desire, the sky is the limit. Then follow up with your serum (if you use one) and your moisturizer. Another good thing to note is that the peeling that can sometimes occur is not due to exfoliation, so you can continue to use your regular acne/exfoliation treatments, like AHAs and BHA, while using retinoids. While it’s regarded as safe, I would still suggest alternating your uses. Retinoids one night, AHAs the next and BHA whenever needed. Be smart though people, don’t slather on a walnut sized amount of Retin-A when you see some baby crow’s feet appearing. Prematurely thinning your skin is not worth it in the long run. I apply my retinol once every 3 days, and sometimes not even that – I’ll probably start using it every 2 days now that I’m almost a quarter of a century (mild panic attack). 


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