Importance of Retinoids – Skincare Series “Finale”

March 9, 2016
Importance of Retinol

What are retinoids and why are they important? Why do retinoids have so many different names (i.e. Retin-A, Retinol, Pro-Retinol, etc? Furthermore, should I be using them? These are typically top questions I’m asked when it comes to skincare. There’s a universal misunderstanding when it comes to retinoids and their benefits. So let me put it this way…if you are the age of 30 or older, retinoids should ABSOLUTELY be part of your skincare regimen. If you’re not using a retinoid, stop what you’re doing right now and go grab some after reading this post. Again, this goes for both MEN and WOMEN. Skin is skin people! Regardless of your gender. So I’m going to take some time to educate you on this topic. Here’s the gist…

What are retinoids?

In a nutshell, retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives used in skin care. The term “retinoid” is just an umbrella term to describe the different types and levels of this Vitamin A derivative (whether it be Retin-A, Retinol, etc.). After the age of 30, our skin cell turnover slows down significantly. Producing less collagen and elastin which in turn creates fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. Retinoids increase skin cell turnover which thicken the deeper layers of our skin and enhance collagen production. The results are smoother skin, faded dark spots, and less wrinkles.

What are the different types of retinoids? 

Retin-A (also known as Retinoic acid/Tretinoin): This is a prescription strength retinoid and can only be obtained from your doctor. It is the only Vitamin A derivative proven to alter gene expression and bring about cellular changes in the skin to produce measurable anti-aging results. This is a highly concentrated retinoid so be sure to ask your doctor about proper application and what to expect while using. There are different percentage levels of Retin-A and your doctor will likely start you off at a lower level like 0.025% or 0.05%.

What will happen to my skin while using Retin-A?: You will absolutely peel, experience redness, and irritation as the product is affecting gene expression (enhancing collagen, smoothing skin, evening out pigmentation, etc.). This will continue for 2-3 weeks until your skin cells adapt to the ingredient. This is usually when most people give it up, but I can assure you, it’s just part of the process. Just hang in there as the benefits will be astounding after continued use. Here are some tips to control the peeling and redness…

  • Start out by using Retin-A every 3rd night for about 2 weeks, then increase to every 2nd night, and eventually every night if needed.
  • Apply a bland moisturizer to your skin first, then follow with a thin layer of Retin-A. I’ve been using retinoids for years and always apply a moisturizer on top as it helps with the peeling, flaking process. The moisturizer needs to be fragrance free and low in ingredients. CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion PM is a good one.
  • Apply Retin-A at night before bed. Retinoids break down in sunlight which defeats the purpose. And for the love of all things…wear a sunscreen during the day people! You need to protect that new skin that’s coming through from all the cell turnover.

Retinol: This is a Vitamin A derivative used in non-prescription/over the counter anti-aging products. Retinol is a conversion of Retin-A making it a more gentle product but less active. Retinol can essentially do the same thing as Retin-A, however, it will take longer to see results as retinol doesn’t achieve the same amount of change at the cellular level. If you’ve never used a retinoid, my suggestion would be to start with a retinol cream (I have a few good ones listed below). After your skin has adjusted to the retinol, then you can graduate to a Retin-A prescribed by your doctor.

Pro-Retinol (aka. retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate): Pro-retinol formulas are still a Vitamin A derivative, however, they are significantly weaker. Studies have yet to show that pro-retinol actually converts to Retin-A or Retinol when applied to the skin. You likely will not see your desired results with pro-retinol as it’s just too weak.

Some Tips…

  • If you 100% decide that retinoids are not right for you, stick with Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) products such as glycolic acid and lactic acid. These can also increase skin thickness and stimulate collagen.
  • Don’t be afraid to apply retinoids around the eyes as that’s where most damage appears on the face. Studies have shown that people who apply retinoids right up to the eye get the best results.


Although Retin-A is a prescription and will need to be obtained from your doctor, here are some great Retinols that you can start using asap!

Thank you so so much for reading my Skincare Series! I truly hope I’ve educated you in some way when it comes to achieving beautiful skin. I’ve spent half my life researching all things skincare so this is very close to my heart. My goal for you is to walk confidently through this life with beautiful, glowing skin that you can be proud of. Regardless of your age, gender, or ethnicity, beautiful skin is evidence in how we care for ourselves. Skin is our biggest organ so lets take care of it!


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susan March 11, 2016 at 11:20 am

Finally someone explains retinoids!! I have been confused for a while, so this is a great reference page! Big fan of retin-a! Looking forward to your next post!

Reply March 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm

So glad it was helpful Susan!


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