In this Article
What Are Topical Retinoid Creams Used for
Is Retinol or Retinoid Better for the Skin
What Do Topical Retinoids Do for the Skin
Do Retinoids Exfoliate
Topical Retinoids Acne Treatment
How Do Retinoids Help Hyperpigmentation
Do Retinoids Really Reduce Wrinkles
What Skincare Products Are Retinoids Found in
When To Use Retinoids
How Often Should I Use Retinoids
Are Retinoids Safe
Do Retinoids Thin the Skin
Can I Use Retinoids with Salicylic Acid or Glycolic Acid
Can I Use Azelaic Acid with Retinoids
What Are Oral Retinoids
Treating Your Skin Every Day
When it comes to skincare, there are many products and treatments that become buzz words.
Many of them either sound like something from a chemistry lab (which essentially, they are, and not always in a good way) or like something completely made up by someone bored or after a quick buck (snail slime facials, we’re looking at you!)
Many of the ingredients in skincare products are surrounded in mystery, causing confusion and doubt over whether they should be used or not.
One such ingredient is a group of skincare ingredients called topical retinoids (topical meaning something that is applied topically, or to the skin).
So what are retinoids for? How do topical retinoids work and how effective are they? Here’s everything you need to know about retinoids for the skin.
What Are Topical Retinoid Creams Used for?
Retinoids are a group of compounds that are derived from vitamin A. They can sometimes be referred to as retinoic acid, but most of the time, you’ll see them listed on skincare products such as topical retinoid creams, as retinoids.
They’re usually topical, in that they’re applied directly to the skin. Most of the time, when used for problem skin rather than cosmetically for ageing skin, they’re issued on prescription.
Common topical retinoid creams used to treat skin conditions are tretinoin and adapalene, both available from your GP or skincare doctor.
Is Retinol or Retinoid Better for the Skin?
Retinoids are not to be confused with a similar sounding ingredient - retinol.
Although retinol is also derived from vitamin A, it has a weaker effect on the skin and is often used in anti ageing skincare products to help promote younger looking skin.
Retinoids, on the other hand, are used to help treat problem skin conditions such as acne. They can also be used to lighten patches of skin that have been darkened by hyperpigmentation problems.
When used professionally, retinoids are also found in skincare products designed for use in beauty salons and skin clinics by qualified therapists to help promote younger looking skin.
So, to recap, retinols are weaker derivatives of vitamin A, used in regularly available skincare products designed to be used at home to help support ageing skin.
Retinoids are stronger derivatives of vitamin A, found in prescription strength skincare products to manage skin conditions such as acne. They can also be found in anti ageing skincare products, designed to be used by professionals in salons, for their anti ageing effects.
What Do Topical Retinoids Do for the Skin?
All retinoid products (and retinols, to a lesser extent) work by effectively removing dull, dead skin cells from the surface of the skin.
This then prevents this cellular debris from blocking the pores and causing blackheads, whiteheads and pustules that are common in acne prone skin.
Therefore topical retinoids for pores are meant to clear the skin of the debris that can trap dirt, sebum and bacteria inside the pores and cause breakouts.
Do Retinoids Exfoliate?
Yes! Retinoid skincare products are very effective at removing dead skin cells, skin flakes, dirt, grime, oil, old makeup and cellular debris that can all block pores.
A mechanical exfoliant, such as a face scrub or exfoliating brush does exactly the same job, but not as effectively as a chemical exfoliant such as skincare products containing retinoids.
Topical Retinoids Acne Treatment
Since retinoid products are good at exfoliating away dead skin cells, they help to manage acne prone skin by helping to keep the pores clear.
Acne spots and breakouts are often caused by blocked pores, so the less cellular debris building up on the skin that can block the pores, the less likely acne breakouts will be if using topical retinoids for acne.
How Do Retinoids Help Hyperpigmentation?
Retinoids are also effective at helping to treat areas of hyperpigmentation in the skin. They work by encouraging the faster renewal of skin cells, pushing new skin cells to the surface of the skin to replace old ones.
When the skin is renewed, the pigmentation is more even, helping to lighten areas of skin darkened by hyperpigmentation.
Do Retinoids Really Reduce Wrinkles?
Yes, retinoid skincare products can be effective at smoothing out the skin and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. They work in much the same way as retinoids for clearing acne prone skin, by stimulating a faster process of skin renewal which pushes new, youthful skin cells to the surface of the skin.
What Skincare Products Are Retinoids Found in?
Retinoids are found in a variety of skincare products, including face washes, cream cleansers, cleansing foams, creams and ointments.
Some products with weaker concentrations of retinol (not retinoids) are available to buy for use at home. However, stronger retinoid based skincare products are available for use by professionals in beauty salons and skin clinics. They’re also available on prescription from your GP or skin specialist.
When To Use Retinoids
Here at Sönd, we believe in the power of treating non conformist and stressed out skin with a holistic approach, including looking at our diet and lifestyle activities such as quality of sleep, stress management and how often we exercise.
A healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle can have significant benefits for our skin.
However, if making diet and lifestyle changes doesn’t help, and you’re still suffering the effects of acne spots and breakouts or hyperpigmentation problems, then you may benefit from topical retinoids.
Many people try to manage their skin holistically to no avail. If this is you, don’t assume you’re doing something wrong. Sometimes, genetics and hormonal causes of breakouts are too complex to manage without extra help.
Using a retinoid based skincare regime may well be the answer to your skin problems.
How Often Should I Use Retinoids?
If your doctor has prescribed you topical retinoids, they will advise you how frequently and for how long to use them, depending on your skin type and the severity of your acne or hyperpigmentation.
Topical retinoids are relatively strong, and therefore are designed to be used sparingly. You will usually be advised to use them for around six weeks.
Are Retinoids Safe?
On the whole, using retinoids on your skin, as long as they’ve been prescribed by your doctor and you follow the instructions carefully, are safe.
Their main side effect is making the skin more sensitive to the sun. So when you’re using them, you should take steps to protect your skin from the sun. They can also cause a mild warming sensation on the skin, or mild itching, burning or peeling. These side effects will usually disappear after two to four weeks.
Less commonly, topical retinoids can cause a darkening of the skin in small patches, called hyperpigmentation. This can be permanent. If you begin to notice a darkening of the skin where you’ve been applying topical retinoids, speak to your GP or skin specialist.
Do Retinoids Thin the Skin?
It’s a common misconception that topical retinoid skincare products thin the skin. Many people think that they do, because they can cause the skin to peel, hence thinking that the skin is thinning.
But this isn’t the case. In fact, retinoids can help to plump up the skin, due to its positive effect on boosting the production of collagen, which helps to keep the skin looking plump and smooth.
Can I Use Retinoids with Salicylic Acid or Glycolic Acid?
Salicylic acid and glycolic acid are both types of alpha hydroxy acid (or AHA), a type of fruit acid. They’re useful in the treatment of acne, helping to clear the pores from debris that can block them.
However, it’s not advisable to use retinoids at the same time as AHAs such as these, as they both have an exfoliating effect. When combined, they can lead to excess irritation, skin redness and peeling.
Can I Use Azelaic Acid with Retinoids?
Azelaic acid is a medicated skin treatment gel that is often used to treat acne when topical retinoids have failed to work or are causing unpleasant side effects.
It acts as an exfoliant, like retinoids do, and also helps to kill the skin bacteria that can cause acne breakouts. It’s unlikely that you’ll be prescribed azelaic acid treatment at the same time as a retinoid treatment, it’s usually one or the other.
What Are Oral Retinoids?
Isotretinoin is an oral retinoid tablet used to treat severe acne. Like topical retinoids, it’s derived from vitamin A. It’s often referred to as Accutane.
It works by clearing the pores, helping to prevent excess sebum (oil) production, killing the acne causing skin bacteria and reducing inflammation in skin affected severely by acne.
However, Isotretinoin can cause many side effects, including skin inflammation, conjunctivitis, blood in the urine and kidney and liver problems.
For this reason, it’s only ever prescribed as a final treatment for severe acne, when all other medications and creams have failed. It’s not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women as it can lead to birth defects and developmental problems.
Speak to your GP if you think you might need Accutane treatment.
Treating Your Skin Every Day
Here at Sönd, we know first hand what it’s like to have skin that misbehaves, as acne sufferers ourselves. That’s why we developed our range of alkalising skincare products, designed to support the needs of non conformist skin.
Whether you’re using topical retinoids or not, try our range of nourishing cleansers, toners, serums and moisturisers, to give your skin the treat it needs to remain healthy, every day.
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.