When you look at skin care formulas, many will feature retinol, retinoids or Retin-A. So what is retinol and why is it a major skin care ingredient? How does it help reduce wrinkles?
Retinol is derived from vitamin A, in the only effective form allowed in non-prescription skin care formulas. Retinol can indeed promote healthy skin and is a common ingredient in many anti-aging creams and lotions. Unfortunately confusion abounds about what is the truth and what is myth as to its power to reverse signs of aging skin.
Retinol is a safe, natural ingredient found in abundance in the skin care aisle of your local pharmacy. No prescription is required. Retin-A is a stronger prescription-only version, formulated for acne treatment. You might also encounter retinol in forms such as retinyl acetate, retinylpalmitate and retinaldehyde. These are weaker forms of retinol and are gentler, but often less effective in reducing wrinkles and rejuvenating skin. Only formulas with retinol itself will give you the same biochemical benefit as Retin-A without a prescription (visual improvement just takes longer).
How Retinol Improves Skin Health
Your skin absorbs retinol and it converts it into retinoic acid. This triggers receptors in skin cells and effects how skin cells function.
As cells age they repair themselves more erratically and aging skin develops dark spots and freckles. Retinol helps skin cells replace themselves more quickly, causing dark spots to fade and making pores less likely to clog.
Retinol also helps the skin create more collagen, which diminishes as we age, and which breaks down with sun exposure. Used regularly, retinol boosts the amount of collagen our skin forms, and can help new collagen remain intact for years.
In general, it takes six to 12 months of regular use for noticeable wrinkle reduction.
Retinol Usage Tips
Everyone’s skin is different, and yours may be more or less sensitive to retinol. Redness, dryness or flaking is normal during the first few days of use as your skin adjusts to the new stimuli. Here are some tips to help ease the transition:
- Because retinol breaks down in sunlight, it’s best to apply it at night or in conjunction with sunscreen of at least SPF 30 during the day. If you’re heading outside, wear protective clothing and limit your sun exposure.
- If you experience irritation, reduce your usage frequency. Switching from daily use to every-other-day gives your skin time to adapt.
- Use a moisturizer to help prevent dryness and reduce potential symptoms.
Ask your doctor about using an AHA exfoliant with your retinol-based wrinkle cream. Studies show that AHA exfoliants can greatly enhance retinol’s ability to revitalize and repair damaged skin.
Dr. Betty Keller keeps up-to-date on the latest findings to help you develop a plan for optimal health.
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