Skincare Ingredients 101: Retinoids and Retinization

Written by simplistic — October 26, 2021

Skincare Ingredients 101: Retinoids and Retinization

Ask any skincare professional what one of the most effective ingredients on the market is, and they’ll likely say topical retinoids. It’s one of the most results-driven treatments you can find, from treating everything from fine lines and wrinkles to hormonal acne. But there’s a lot more to retinoids than meets the eye, so let’s take a deeper dive into the different types of retinoids, including what they can do for your skin.

What Are Retinoids?

Retinoids fall under the umbrella of vitamin A derivatives classified into roughly four different categories: pure retinol, retinoic acid, retinol esters, and retinaldehyde. All retinoids have a similar effect on the skin, but the difference lies within their potency — it’s a myth that all retinoids are super-strong and irritating. Also, while they’re often touted for their anti-aging powers, the reality is, people of all ages can benefit from retinoids. Along with fighting fine lines and wrinkles and sunspots, retinoids are also an effective arsenal against blackheads, whiteheads, and other acneic breakouts

Retinoids vs. Retinol

In a nutshell, retinol is simply a specific type of retinoid. Over-the-counter products typically contain retinol, which is a weaker form. At the same time, retinoids commonly refer to stronger, prescription-level drugs like tretinoin (the generic name for Retin-A), adapalene, and tazarotene. For example, between retinol, retinoic acid, and retinyl palmitate, retinoic acid is the only one available by prescription. The other (OTC) retinoids are still efficient, but it takes longer to see results.

      How Do Topical Retinoids Work?

      There’s a lot of hype around retinoids being a top anti-aging ingredient, but did you know that they were originally used to treat and clear blackheads, whiteheads, and acne? It was only later that their incredible anti-aging properties were discovered. Retinoic acid (tretinoin) is known for treating teenage acne, but it’s also used to effectively treat acne in adults of all ages, races, and genders. 

      Here’s another misconception we’d like to clear up. Retinoids don’t “sweep” away dead skin cells. While it’s true that natural side effects include redness, peeling, and some level of (temporary) irritation, they don’t provide the same genuine exfoliation from ingredients like glycolic acid. Retinoids work at a much deeper level by stimulating collagen production, reducing pigmentation, treating acne-prone skin (including scarring), and improving the skin’s overall appearance for the long-term with regular use. 

      Of course, there’s no such thing as a “miracle product.” It takes approximately 12 weeks for retinoic acid to produce substantial improvements in the skin — and only if you’re committed to using it consistently.

      Are Retinoids Safe?

      All skincare ingredients carry a certain amount of risk depending upon your skin type, sensitivity level, allergies, etc., but some retinoids have a reputation for causing irritation. While this is true, there’s a method behind the madness known as retinization — and it’s actually quite normal. When you first start to use a retinoid you’re apt to experience redness, burning, peeling, dryness, and irritation. While this may sound undesirable, look at it as an adjustment period until your skin adapts to the treatment. 

      The secret is to introduce retinoids into your routine slowly, so perhaps you only use a product a couple of times a week in the beginning until your skin builds up a tolerance. If you’re using a prescription retinoid, speak to your dermatologist about crafting the best routine for your skin so you can limit irritation as much as possible.

      Retinoids in the Treatment of Skin Aging

      As aforementioned, retinoids are considered anti-aging powerhouses that can be compared to a non-surgical facelift. Along with reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles due to stimulated collagen production, they can also repair sun damage such as hyperpigmentation and rough patches. Prescription Retin-A (tretinoin) is one of the most popular product picks for aging skin. However, keep in mind that even a solid skincare routine and healthy lifestyle habits can promote radiant skin.

      Alternatives to Retinoids

      While retinoids are great, they’re not for everyone. Some skin types are simply too sensitive — especially if accompanied by a condition such as rosacea or eczema. The good news is there are retinoid alternatives such as mango butter, chicory root, lycopene, black elder, niacinamide, and squalene that also boast anti-aging effects (though it may take longer to see the results.) 

      SiO’s skin-smoothing patches are the perfect nighttime remedy to hydrate, plump, rejuvenate, and repair your skin while catching some z’s. Fine lines and wrinkles are less visible with one use, but even more so when applied regularly. The Wrinkle Rescue Pack — a brow to bust bundle — is composed of, medical-grade silicone patches that are contoured to fit and flex like a second skin while gently compressing to hydrate and treat wrinkle-prone areas. The aging process is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t slow down Father Time’s clock a bit — even without cosmetic procedures or retinoids.