Your Complete Guide to Retinoids

Victorian Dermal Group
Victorian Dermal Group
May 29, 2023
minute read

If you're interested in achieving healthy, youthful-looking skin, you've probably heard of retinoids. These powerful compounds are derived from vitamin A and have been extensively studied for their ability to improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and even treat acne. 

But with so many different types of retinoids on the market, it can be tough to know where to start. That's why we've put together this comprehensive guide to help you understand the benefits of retinoids, the different types available, and how to incorporate them into your skincare routine for maximum results. Whether you're a seasoned retinoid user or a complete beginner, this guide has everything you need to know to achieve your best skin yet.

What are retinoids, and what do they do?

One of the key benefits of retinoids is their ability to enhance cell turnover. They accelerate the natural exfoliation process, meaning dead skin cells are shed more rapidly, revealing fresher, younger-looking skin underneath. This process not only improves the overall texture of the skin but also helps to fade dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and acne scars over time.

Retinoids also stimulate the production of collagen and elastin fibres in the skin. These proteins are responsible for maintaining the skin's elasticity and firmness. As we age, collagen and elastin production naturally declines, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. Retinoids are active forms of vitamin A, and according to recent studies, vitamin A and its derivatives, particularly retinol, slow the aging process. By promoting collagen synthesis, retinoids can help diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, giving the skin a smoother, more youthful appearance.

When to use retinoids in skin care routine?

The timing and frequency of retinoid use in your skincare routine are crucial for maximising their benefits while minimising potential side effects. Here are some general guidelines to help you incorporate retinoids effectively:

  • Start slow if you're new to retinoids
  • Apply in the evening 
  • Cleanse and tone your skin first
  • Apply a pea-sized amount of the retinoid treatment
  • Moisturise
  • Remember sun protection during the day
  • Be patient and consistent

Everyone's skin is unique, and individual tolerance to retinoids may vary. If you experience excessive dryness, sensitive skin, irritation, or discomfort, it's advisable to consult a dermatologist who can provide personalised recommendations for your specific needs.

Common concerns regarding retinoids 

Is retinoid a steroid? 

No, retinoids are not steroids. While both retinoids and steroids are classes of compounds, they have distinct structures and mechanisms of action.

Retinoids are derived from vitamin A and are primarily used in skin care for their beneficial effects on the skin. They bind to specific receptors in skin cells, promote cell turnover, stimulate collagen production, and improve skin concerns like wrinkles, acne, and hyperpigmentation.

On the other hand, steroids are a class of hormones with diverse functions in the body. Steroids can have anti-inflammatory properties and are often prescribed topically or orally to treat certain skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis. However, long-term use of steroids can have side effects and should be monitored under medical supervision.

How often should you use retinoids?

The frequency of retinoid use depends on several factors, including your skin type, tolerance, and the specific retinoid product you use. It's always best to follow the instructions provided by a skin specialist. However, here are some general guidelines:

  • Start slow - if you're new to retinoids, begin by using them once or twice a week to allow your skin to adjust.
  • Gradually increase frequency - after a few weeks of using retinoids once or twice a week without any significant issues, you can gradually increase the frequency.
  • Maintenance phase - once your skin has built tolerance, you can aim to use retinoids on most nights, as long as your skin continues to tolerate it well.
  • Listen to your skin - every individual's skin is different, and some may have more sensitive or reactive skin than others. It's crucial to pay attention to how your skin is responding and adjust your retinoid usage accordingly.

Why do retinoids cause purging?

The purging phase typically occurs within the first few weeks of starting retinoid treatment. It is important to note that not everyone experiences purging, and its occurrence varies from person to person. The severity and duration of purging can also vary, ranging from minor breakouts to more significant flare-ups.

The main reason behind purging is the exfoliating action of retinoids. They help unclog pores, promote the shedding of dead skin cells, and normalise the skin's cellular turnover rate. As a result, any existing clogged pores or trapped debris beneath the surface of the skin may be brought to the forefront, leading to the appearance of new breakouts.

While purging can be frustrating, it is often a sign that the retinoid is working effectively to clear out impurities and improve the skin’s condition. With continued use, purging should subside, and the skin should start to see the long-term benefits of retinoid treatment, such as improved texture, reduced acne, and a smoother complexion.

What types of retinoids are available?

Several types of retinoids are available, each with its own characteristics and potency. Most people connect the phrase retinoids with an over-the-counter retinol. While this is correct, there are many other topical retinoid skin creams and prescription retinoid variations that are much stronger and used primarily for acne treatments or to treat skin conditions. This includes topical tretinoin, retinyl palmitate, and retinoic acid. At Victorian Dermal Group, we stock the Dermacuetic Activ Retinol 0.5 and Activ Retinol 1.0 to improve the appearance and texture of all skin types. 

The benefits of using retinoids

  • Improved skin texture
  • Reduced acne and breakouts 
  • Diminished hyperpigmentation 
  • Increased collagen production 
  • Enhance skin radiance and reduce wrinkles
  • Successful treatment for skin aging 
  • Improved skin resilience 
  • Prevention of future skin damage 
  • Long-term anti-aging benefits 

For more information on using a retinoid to clear your skin, read our blog on whether retinoids work for acne.

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