Retinoids: What are they and how can they benefit the skin?
An overview of what are they, how they work and who should be using them
Here at Renude, we love seeing the results that retinoids can deliver to the skin when built into the right routine. Retinoids are one of our favourite groups of ingredients for their multi-functional benefits to the skin, so we wanted to share a little detail on what is so special about this particular ingredient family.
What are retinoids?
Rentoids are variations of Vitamin A, which is a vital nutrient used by the body to boost cell division, immunity, vision and promote healthy skin. Vitamin A is processed enzymatically in the liver from ingested beta-carotene (mostly from carrots, sweet potato and other red/orange veggies).
In skincare, we employ Vitamin A derivatives called retinoids to decrease signs of acne, aging and improve skin appearance. The retinoids family can be broken down, in increasing order of potency and irritation, into four main types: retinyl esters, retinol, retinaldehyde and retinoic acid. Only the first three retinoids are included in skincare products, while retinoic acid, the most potent and irritating retinoid, is only available via prescription.
What do retinoids do for your skin?
Retinoids are effective actives, known to stimulate collagen, accelerate cell turnover, soften wrinkles, fade pigmentation, treat acne and promote overall healthy skin. They are antioxidants which neutralize sun damage or pollution-induced free radicals in the skin to prevent the breakdown of collagen and protect against photoaging.
Retinoids are oil soluble ingredients which penetrate skin, going deep within the dermis, to function at a cellular level. Retinoids are enzymatically converted into retinoic acid, which is the active form of Vitamin A. Retinoic acid is able to bind receptors in the skin and initiate a cell signaling process or talking in the dermis to encourage younger and healthier cells to make their way to the surface of the skin.
Hyperpigmentation is caused by the increased presence of a molecule called melanin in certain skin cells. As retinoids promote rapid cell turnover, melanin-containing cells are sloughed off the skin surface, improving the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Additionally, retinoids inhibit the production of melanin in the skin to reduce hyperpigmentation and improve overall skin tone.
How should you use retinoids?
Topical retinoids are often formulated into serums, eye creams and night creams. Although photostable retinoids can be used any time of the day, non-photostable retinoids should only be used at night and we would usually recommend a retinoid in your PM routine.
As a general rule, retinoids should be introduced to the skin slowly, by applying a pea-sized amount to cleansed skin twice per week for the first two weeks, then building up to every other night, then to every night if tolerated. Formulations can be applied directly onto dry skin if tolerated, or to damp or moisturised skin to alleviate any dryness or sensitivity. If skin becomes irritated, decrease but continue use until skin has built up a tolerance to retinoids.
Retinoids should generally be paired with barrier-supporting ingredients such as ceramides, omega fatty acids and niacinamide, which work to support the natural lipid barrier and alleviate any of the drying symptoms commonly associated.
How long does it take to see results with retinoids?
Retinoids function at a cellular level so significant changes often take upwards of 3-6 months. Results are cumulative so will continue to improve over time. You should start to notice a visible difference in skin within 6-8 weeks as the epidermis renews itself. It is also important to note that you may not see equal benefits from vitamin A. You may see a marked improvement in acne and pigmentation but less improvement of wrinkles, for example.
Are retinoids right for your skin?
Vitamin A is suitable for all ages and skin types as part of a night time routine. Sensitive skin types should use more mild retinoids (either encapsulated or derivatives), while dry skin should follow use with intensively moisturizing creams. Vitamin A is not recommended for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Are there any side effects with retinoids?
Retinoids can cause irritation based on their strength and the frequency of usage. They can increase the photosensitivity of skin, so it is vital to wear SPF30 or above every single day to protect against sun damage. Other side effects of retinoids include skin dryness, peeling, redness, or a temporary worsening of acne (known as purging).
These effects are seen during the acclimatization period of retinoids and can be minimized by decreasing the strength of retinoid or frequency of application, or by supplementing the skin with hydrating agents. It is important to push through these side effects and allow your skin time to adjust and experience the full skin benefits of retinoids.