Question about Retinoids: Are They Safe and Effective?

I recently received a great skincare question from the blog and wanted to share it along with my answer as I know many of you are wondering the exact same thing.

If you have any skincare questions you’d like me to answer, simply click on the “ask-the-esthetician” button to the right!

Hi! I really like you site, and how it offers natural alternatives and always stresses the importance of making the the skin beautiful from the INSIDE (through diet and lifestyle). And I am currently working on that. However I also have a question on the use of retinoids. Most dermatologists are recommending there use, however I am hearing reports that they thin out the skin, worsen the existence of noticeable veins, and break capillaries—if used for an extended period of time. And although initially these results won’t be seen, over time it peels off layers of skin and increases the rate of aging. However, others say that that the exact opposite is true. Do you think I should use retinoids? I am only 20, so it is not as if I need some kind of quick fix for wrinkles—rather I would like something that builds my immunity to wrinkles over time. The only reason I want to use retinoids, is to help with my existent sun damage—however I wouldn’t want to look “beautiful” now just so that later on it will look worse or make me dependent on them. I apologize about the long question; however, any help would be appreciated =)

Great question!  I’m happy to help. It can get confusing when it seems like you are receiving two opposite messages on skincare. Retinoids refer to topical Vitamin A. There are three parts that make up a vitamin: the ester, the alcohol, and the acid. RetinA is retinoic acid (the acid part of Vitamin A.) Retinol is the alcohol part of the vitamin. Retinaldehyde is the ester part.

Retinoids are affective in treating many forms of skin imbalances because the Vitamin A is readily accepted into the nucleus of the skin cells where it strengthens the cell functions and encourages more energy in the skin. That being said, the form and source of retinoid you use make a big difference in the results you get as well as the side effects.

Retinoic acid causes irritation in the skin when used, which can lead to inflammation, dryness, redness, sun sensitivity, etc. This will cause skin inflammation which could eventually exhaust and deplete the skin. RetinA (the name brand widely prescribed by dermatologists, made by Johnson and Johnson) is a synthetic form of retinoic acid. I do not recommend the use of RetinA for any skin condition for these two reasons: acidic form and synthetic source.

Retinol can be very effective for the skin if used in higher doses, but will still cause sun sensitivity. Usage of retinol is fine if limited to a short period of time and if you balance it with a natural sun block to protect, as well as other vitamins and antioxidants to noursih your skin.

Retinaldehyde is my personal favorite. It’s stronger than retinol but much more gentle. In small doses, it will not cause any skin sensitivity yet will provide wonderful results in skin strengthening. You will still want to wear a natural sunblock during your time outside, for general sun protection.

To sum up, Vitamin A is truly wonderful for the health of your skin. I do recommend it’s use for everything from Rosacea and Acne to fine lines and Pigmentation. Just remember to find the best form and source, and include other factors for best results: a whole food diet, lots of water, a natural sunblock, gentle products to clean and nourish your skin in addition to the Vitamin A.

I think you’d really like the Osmosis Skincare Line, as seen here.

**For these products, it is important to not combine them with products from other lines. They work best when used exclusively. Absolutely no synthetic ingredients, acids (AHAs and BHAs or retinoids from other lines should be used at the same time as these products.

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  1. […] most efficacious ingredients used in skincare today. I’ve mentioned Vitamin A many times, and explained the importance of choosing the correct form of the vitamin in skincare. The biggest reason I prefer to use Retinaldehyde over Retinol or Retinoic Acid is due to storage […]

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