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Retinoids, Retinol and Skin Health

by Julie Williams |

Retinoids has been a big buzzword in the beauty industry in recent years. With some dermatologist even calling it ‘magic’, but what exactly is it and should you use it?

What Are Retinoids?

A lot of people get confused between Retinol and Retinoid. Retinoid is the umbrella term for the entire range of vitamin A derivatives. While retinol is just one of several types of retinoid but is more commonly discussed among beauty and skin experts. 

Retinoids are a synthetic derivative of vitamin A, the group of fat-soluble vitamins common in carrots, eggs and sweet potatoes. It has been proven to slow down your body’s aging process, by speeding up skin cell creation, keeping your skin smooth and fresh. 

The most important thing to know about retinol and retinoids in general is because it essentially tricks your skin into speeding up the cell regeneration process, you have to build up a tolerance to it. Yes, you read that right. That is why there is such a variety of retinoid products with varying percentages on the market.  

When starting out, it is recommended that you start with Retinyl Palmitate, the lowest strength before moving on to Retinol a higher strength retinoid.  

The 4 types of retinoids include:

  • Retinyl palmitate -the weakest of the retinoids and also known as retinol esters
  • Retinol -the next strongest and most tolerable
  • Retinaldehyde -even stronger again
  • Adapalene -the strongest over-the-counter option that's also specifically formulated to treat acne

How Retinol Works:

Rather than just removing dead skin cells as many other anti-aging products do, retinol sinks deep into your skin, going beyond the outer layer of skin into the dermis. 

Once in the dermis, retinol helps to boost the production of collagen and elastin. While also exfoliating the outer skin layer, to help stimulate cell turnover, giving an improved skin texture and reduced appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, acne and enlarged pores. 

Your skin essentially re-grows from the inside out. 

How Retinyl Palmitate Works: 

While very similar to retinol, retinyl palmitate has slightly different effects, but most importantly it is far less irritating on the skin. Retinyl Palmitate also acts both on the surface of the skin and within deeper layers of the skin. Speeding up skin cell turnover and boosting collagen production in the deep layers of the skin. It is the conversion process which reduces its effectiveness as it takes longer.  Retinol also goes through a conversion process when applied to the skin but it is more direct.

Now this slightly longer conversion process is not necessarily a bad thing, as retinoids can cause skin irritation, it is best to start with a low strength product to allow your skin time to adjust. Retinyl Palmitate is more comfortable to use consistently and continually over time, hence it is recommended for beginners. 

If you are a beginner to the world of retinoids, we recommend that you start with the gentlest form, retinyl palmitate. Experts suggest using this for at least a year before moving up to the higher strength retinol. 

When To Use it?

It is advised that you use retinoids of any kind only as part of your night-time skin routine, applying just a pea size amount of your retinyl palmitate or retinol product. 

When starting out using either retinyl palmitate or retinol, start with small amounts and percentages, using it just once or twice a week to begin with and gradually increasing from there.  This gradual introduction to retinoids will help to minimise any redness, dryness, and flaking. Once your skin has become accustomed to it, to get the best results, it should be used daily. However, it will take several weeks to see clear results. Applying it, 30 minutes after washing your face is also believed to reduce any skin irritation. Linda Blahr, Head of National Training at SkinCeuticals states “For optimal results, wait at least 30 minutes before applying other skincare products.” 

Who Are Retinoid Products Suitable For?

Retinoids are known to have some side effects, so it is important to read up on them before you incorporate them into your skin care routine. 

The most common side effect would be irritated and dry skin, especially after your first use. This is simply because retinoid products such as, retinol or retinyl palmitate causes the skin to shed cells faster than normal, and it will take time for your skin to adjust. Other side effects do include redness, itchiness and peeling of the skin, but as your skin gets used to this new product, for most people these issues will not be ongoing. If you have been using a retinoid product for a few weeks and are still seeing some of these side effects, then perhaps the product you are using is too strong and you may need to find a reduced strength product. 

A reminder that the lowest strength is retinyl palmitate, followed by retinol which is stronger. 

If you suffer from eczema, it can aggravate the condition, so it is best to avoid using products that contain retinoids. Likewise, if you have sensitive skin, be extra cautious as it may take your skin longer to adjust to the ingredients. 

If you live in a hot country or are regularly exposed to the sun, it is important to know that this does pose great risks when using retinoid products. It can worsen side effects causing increased dry skin and irritation. It can also reverse the effect of the product and cause wrinkles and age spots rather than reduce them. Applying a strong sun cream daily, will help to limit direct sun exposure as much as possible and limit the risk of skin irritation. 

It is widely stated that retinoids of any concentration level, should not be used if you are pregnant, as it may increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects. If you are using retinoid products and are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant, it is best to discuss this with your doctor. They will advise what is best for you. 

Retinoid products have been proven to treat the following skin issues: 

  • acne
  • scars
  • wrinkles
  • fine lines
  • enlarged pores
  • sun damage
  • uneven skin texture

 Which Retinoid Type Is Best?

There is no doubt that retinol is the most talked about form of retinoid and is the most common type for over the counter sales. However, for less skin irritation and side effects, retinyl palmitate is always the best retinoid product to start with. 

While there is a wide range or retinoid products on the market, the concept remains the same. The only difference being their concentration or strength level and delivery method. The most common delivery method is in anti-aging products such as creams, moisturisers and serums.

All of our products (except the masks) in the JuneCell range contain Retinyl Palmitate which is the ‘weakest’ but also the safest in terms of all types having the same impact over time. Truth Treatments however we have a Retinol 1% Gel which we highly recommend as a starter product. Use once every 10-12 nights initially and build up to once every 5 days working within your tolerance level - remember what sometimes passes for irritation can be skin stress that acts as a precursor to the growth of new cells and connective tissue, similar to the way weight lifting and exercise works. Think of it as a work out for your skin.

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