3 reasons to use retinoids

Do you ever wish you could go back in time, when your skin was flawless and glowy, without a wrinkle in sight? Retinoids products are the fairy godmothers that can grant you that wish. Sort of (there’s always a catch with fairy godmothers, ins’t there?).

If you’re 50, retinoids won’t take your skin all the way back to your 20s. BUT, no matter your age, they WILL reduce those pesky wrinkles, fade away those annoying dark spots and give your complexion a beautiful glow. Bonus points : if you’ve got acne, retinoids send it packing. Not convinced? Here are all the science-backed reasons you should use retinoids into your skincare routine – and the best products to get real results without breaking the bank:

What Are Retinoids?

Retinoids are forms of Vitamin A. “Retinoid is essentially a basic umbrella term for both over-the-counter retinol and prescription retinoids,” says NYC-based dermatologist Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin explains. The most powerful (and most irritating) are available by prescription only:

  • Renova
  • Retin-A
  • Retinoic Acid
  • Tazarotene
  • Tretinoin

The gentlest forms (don’t be fooled, they still pack a punch) are available OTC:

  • Hydrapinacolone Retinoate (Granactice Retinoids)
  • Retinaldehyde
  • Retinol
  • Retinyl Palmitate

Related: What Form Of Retinoids Is Right For You?

peter thomas roth retinol infusion pm night serum 01

Retinoids Benefits For Skin

Now you know what retinoids are, let’s find out why they’re the little fairy godmothers of skincare. Here the benefits of retinoids products for your skin:

1. Retinoids Prevent AND Reduce Wrinkles

Imagine… You’re trying to get rid of your acne and your wrinkles disappear, too! What a miracle! That’s exactly what happened in the 1970s. Doctors prescribed retinoids to acne patients and, during the treatment, they discovered these little molecules can do a lot more than that! Retinoids are the only thing (so far!) that has been scientifically proven to reduce wrinkles. How?

They stimulate the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen, the substances that keep skin firm. When you’re young, your body produces them in spades, but as you get older, it becomes lazy. Production can’t keep up with demand anymore.

Add to that sun exposure, pollution and all the many other things that destroy collagen and you’ve got the perfect recipe for wrinkles. Retinoids make sure collagen levels remain high, so those pesky wrinkles never have a chance to form in the first place. And if they’ve formed, all that extra collagen can erase some of the damage, minimising wrinkles and giving your skin a youthful appearance.

P.S. Retinoids don’t work overnight. With retinol, for example, you should expect to see the first results after two months. Prescription retinoids work faster.

Related: 8 Ways To Boost Collagen For Younger-Looking Skin

2. Retinoids Treat Acne

I’ve already given this away in point 1, but here it is again: retinoids make your acne fade away. Retin-A is the #1 treatment prescribed by derms to treat acne vulgaris (but the other ones do a good job at kicking acne in the butt, too).

Retinoids do this by speeding up cellular turnover (a fancy way of calling your skin’s natural exfoliating process). Your skin exfoliates on its own, but when you have acne or some other skin issue, it doesn’t do it as well. As a result, dead skin cells end up into your pores, clogging them up.

Once there, these dead cells mix with your excess sebum and form a mixture the bacteria P.Acne likes to feed on. Next thing you know, your skin is covered in pimples. By speeding up the skin’s natural exfoliating process, you make sure dead cells get off your skin instead of into your pores, stopping the acne-forming process in its tracks. The bonus? Unclogged pores look smaller, too.

Need help to create a skincare routine that tackles both acne and aging? Click on the image below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive the “Acne + Aging Skincare Routine” cheatsheet:

Related: How To REALLY Make Your Pores Look Smaller

3. Retinoids Fade Dark Spots Away

Popped pimples. Melasma. Sun exposure. Hormones. No matter what causes dark spots to turn up on your skin, retinoids send them packing again. How? Same way as they treat acne.

Retinoids speed up cellular turnover, a fancy way of saying they help skin exfoliate faster than it would on its own. As old, dark skin cells on the top of your skin give way to newer, more-even toned cells that were lurking underneath, your dark spots slowly fade away. Speeding up cellular turnover also makes your skin smoother and brighter. Win win.

Related: The Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: What Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone?

Retinoids Side Effects

Retinoids products can treat pretty much every skin woe, from wrinkles to acne and dark spots. But before you rush out and get your hands on a retinoid serum, a word of warning: Retinoids are awesome. In moderation.

Here’s the deal: retinoids are the most powerful weapon in your beauty arsenal. Like all powerful weapons, they have to be handled with care. Use them right, they’ll give you your best skin ever. Use them wrong, they’ll destroy your skin.

What do I mean by that? Retinoids can cause dryness, irritation, redness and flaking. You’ve guessed it, sensitive skin is most likely to experience these side effects. Everyone else, you may have a bit of redness or dryness, but there are ways to minimise them for you.

Who Should NOT Use Retinoids?

Retinoids products are a godsend for most skin types. But not everyone can use them. You should stay away from retinoids if:

  • You have sensitive skin: You could try a gentler alternative like Granactive Retinoid, but if even that causes side effects, retinoids are just not for you.
  • Pregnant women: Scientific studies show retinoids can cause birth defects in mice. For this reasons, doctors recommend women avoid them during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

How To Use Retinoids Products

How do you use retinoids products the right way, so you can enjoy all the wrinkle-reducing, acne-busting, skin-lightening benefits without any of the side effects? Here are my top tips (learned from dermatologists):

  • Start small: I get it, you want all the benefits immediately. But, retinoids can be irritating. If you have never used retinoids before, have sensitive skin, or use too much too often, they’ll make your skin all red and flaky. They can sting too. Save yourself the pain. Start with a small dose a couple of time a week and build your way up from there (check out my detailed post on how to do this with retinol here).
  • Use them at night: retinoids can make skin more susceptible to sun damage – the very thing they treat! (Ironic, isn’t it?). Better use them at night when the sun ain’t around.
  • Alternate them with exfoliants: Overexfoliation leads to dryness, redness, and irritations. Exfoliants… exfoliate skin. Retinoids promote skin’s natural exfoliation. It’s just too much in one night. Exfoliate one evening, apply retinoids the following one. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Related: How To Make The Most Of Retinoids (Even If You Have Sensitive Skin)

What Are The Best Retinoids Products?

If you want speedy results, go to a derm and ask them for a prescription retinoid. But to get started, OTC retinoids will do just as well. They’ll get your skin used to retinoids without (much) irritation (the adjustment period with prescription retinoids can be harsh!). Here are my fave picks:

  • MaeLove Moonlight Retinal Super Serum ($39.95): This retinal serum has a niacinamide + ceramide base to counteract the potential dryness and irritation from retinaldehyde. It also has fragrant oils that could irritate sensitive skin. But if your skin doesn’t react badly to them, it’s an effective and affordable option to consider. Available at MaeLove.
  • Skinceuticals Retinol 0.3 Night Cream ($62.00): This cream contains only 0.3% retinol but it packs an anti-aging punch. It comes in a moisturising base, but you need to use a separate moisturiser to counteract the dryness of retinol. Available at Dermstore and Skinceuticals.
  • Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Booster ($52.00): This high-strength 1% retinol booster has a moisturising base and plenty of skin-soothers to counteract the irritating effects of retinol. Use it on its own for maximum effect or dilute it with moisturiser if it’s too harsh for you. Available at Cult BeautyNet-A-PorterPaula’s Choice and SpaceNK.

The Bottom Line

Retinoids are the fairy godmothers that keep your skin looking its best: they reduce wrinkles, bust acne and fade dark spots. But, don’t go overboard. Too much of a good thing is never good!