A few months ago, I had a blemish that just wouldn’t go away. None of my usual remedies and go-to products were doing the trick. A friend told me that her dermatologist recommended she use retinol and that it worked overnight when she was in a similar situation. Now that I spend a lot of time in Israel, I’ve been avoiding products that make you more sensitive to the sun, but desperate times call for “desperate” measures…With that said, I started using Peter Thomas Roth Professional 3% Retinoid Plus (at Sephora for $82), and it actually did wonders! No, my blemish did not clear overnight, but it did begin to fade, which is a lot more than was happening with my various sulfur/benzoyl peroxide/salicylic acid-based products. Traditionally retinols are used to fight wrinkles, so I was curious to see if I used my PTR product longer if it could help in that respect as well. Before lathering it all over my face, however (versus just using it as a blemish-specific spot treatment), I wanted to speak with an expert, so I turned to dermatologist and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, Dr. Gross.
What’s the reason behind adding an ingredient like retinol into your beauty routine? What does it do for you? Who should use retinol?
Retinol works so dramatically well, it gives you visible improvement in minutes. Done right, retinol is a very, very powerful tool and applicable to everyone, whether in your 20s or 60s. There is no right or wrong age; anyone who is serious about anti-aging, be preventative or restorative, should have retinol in his or her anti-aging routine. I found a way to make retinol perform even better by adding ferulic acid. The serum is both quick-drying and super-hydrating. Whatever your aging concern is, your skin will globally look better with retinol. Continued use will treat discoloration and leave skin looking brighter, younger, and more alive.
Is there any difference between retinoids and retinol?
Retinoids is the name of the category of derivatives of vitamin A and an important part of the anti-aging arsenal. From a chemistry point of view, retinoids and retinol are different as they vary in chemical structure. They stimulate the production of new skin cells. They also help to fade dark spots resulting from photo-aging, hyperpigmentation, hormonal changes, and blemish scars. Retinol is the only non-prescription retinoid. Retin-A is a prescription-strength form of vitamin A that helps renew the skin, treats acne, and reduces appearance of fine lines and skin discoloration.
If you have sensitive skin, is there a certain way you should be using retinol? Are there any concerns you should be aware of?
If you are a first-time retinoid user or know your skin is sensitive, an over-the-counter retinol is a good place to start. Typically, anyone who does not have an underlying skin condition, such as eczema, can tolerate retinoids. If you are not seeing or if you are unhappy with your results after three months, it is time to see your dermatologist to discuss which prescription retinoid is right for you. But note, retinol is much more gentle than prescription retinoids, and I often find that while people can tolerate using retinol daily, they often need to stop prescription retinoids to allow the skin to calm down. In the end, the anti-aging benefit of an ingredient is the combination of how “strong” it is AND how “often” one can tolerate using it. Overall, retinol is a potent anti-aging ingredient and because it’s tolerated so well (unlike prescription-strength retinoid), using it every day makes for great results.
What are some retinol concerns that you should be careful about? Is there a time when you shouldn’t use one?
Based on the chemistry of the ingredients, which causes a drying effect of the oil glands, retinol can lead to redness and flaking. UV sensitivity is another mechanism that is based on increased uptake of the sun’s rays. The redder the skin, the more the skin absorbs the sun’s rays. Skin is already inflamed with baseline sun sensitivity; the sun’s rays can heighten this reaction. Always be sure to use SPF – even in the winter months and on cloudy days.
What are the most common types of products that include retinol?
Retinol can be found most commonly in anti-aging treatments, including serums, lotions, peels, creams, and moisturizers. My latest product, the new Wrinkle Recovery Peel, offers a new, enhanced delivery of retinol. The delivery method and concentration allow retinol to act in two ways: as a peel and an anti-ager. Use it in the evening and wake up to smooth, glowing skin.