Retinoids are chemical compounds which are related to ir derived from vitamin A. It is a general term for the entire vitamin A derivatives. Retinoids are usually used interchangeably with retinols but they are not the same. Consider this as your basic guide to retinoids that will have you telling the difference in no time at all.
How Retinoids work
When a retinoids is topically applied to the skin, it must be converted to retinoic acid which is an active form of vitamin A in order to work effectively. Tretinoin and isotretinoin are already active retinoids. This means they are readily absorbed which explains the significant side effects and irritations they are associated with. Here’s a fin fact: Retinoids convert to retinoic acid faster and slower on different skins. Retinoids are not exactly exfoliants but they speed up the turnover rate of skin cells.
Types of Retinoids
There are many different types of retinoids including but not limited to
- Retinol: Retinol is the most popular and studied retinoids. It is sold over the counter. It has been proven improve wrinkles, fade pigmentation, smoothen rough skin texture and improve the elasticity of the skin. Even though it well tolerated by most, retinol can be drying and irritating for some skin types.
- Retinaldehyde: Also known as Retinal, retinaldehyde works faster than retinol. This is because it is converted to retinoic acid by the skin pretty fast. It is believed to be more effective than retinol. It is especially effective at treating sun damage with fewer side effects. It also helps to increase skin elasticity and smoothness, reduce wrinkles and repair UV damage.
- Adapalene: Adapalene is a synthetic retinoid which does not need to be converted to retinoic acid to become active. It is readily available over the counter in small doses. Adapalene is mainly used to treat acne. It is also more tolerated than tretinoin. Adapalene also has been shown to treat UV damages and reduce wrinkles.
- Tretinoin: Tretinoin is most commonly known as Retin-A and it is a pure retinoic acid. It gets to work on the skin immediate without needing to be converted to retinoic acid. Peeling, redness, itching and swelling are common side effects of tretinoin. Tretinoin-induced inflammation which leads to hyperpigmentation is also a thing. Tretinoin is my favourite among all the retinoids and it is prescription only medication. It used to treat mild to moderate acne. It smoothes out the skin, fights hyperpigmentation and wrinkles.
- Isotretinoin: Isotretinoin is used to treat moderate to severe acne when all other medications have failed. It is also used to treat other skin conditions such as cancer. It is more common as oral medication. Its side effects range from temporary worsening of acne to depression. It also causes dry lips and an increase in sun sensitivity.
- Tazarotene: Tazarotene is a third generation retinoid that is available only on prescription. It is available in form of gels, creams and foam. It is used to treat psoriasis, acne and sun damaged skin.Common side effects include worsening of acne, increased sensitivity to sunlight, dry skin, itchiness, redness and in some cases extreme drying and cracking of skin.
Benefits of Retinoids
While erroneously classified as exfoliants, retinoids are not exfoliants. Retinoids speed up the rate of turnover of skin cells. In doing this, they help to clear acne, hyperpigmentation, psoriasis and other skin diseases. Retinoids are the only topical products know to help slow down the signs of ageing. They also work as antioxidants to neutralize cell damage.
Because retinoids increase skin’s susceptibility to sun burns, a broad spectrum SPF is to be always used in a routine with retinoids.
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