Everything You Need to Know About Retinoids

Retinoids are substances that have the same effect as vitamin A. People currently use them for medical and cosmetic treatments, although many ignore their contraindications and side effects.
Everything You Need to Know About Retinoids

Last update: 17 June, 2021

Retinoids are compounds of natural or synthetic origin that have the same biological activity as vitamin A. Dermatologists prescribe them to treat skin conditions either for medical or cosmetic use.

Medical retinoids can be up to 20 times more potent than those of natural origin. Retinoic acid, tretinoin, and isotretinoin are common among prescription retinoids. Retinol is the only one available for cosmetic use.

How do they work?

Retinoids are substances that increase the thickness of the epidermis and decrease oil production. For this reason, these compounds offer similar benefits to hydroxy acids.

It’s important to take into account the concentration when using cosmetic retinoids. This is because their efficacy and possible adverse effects are related to the concentration.

In addition, hydroxy acids and retinoids have exfoliating properties. Thus, it’s normal to feel a stinging sensation on the skin after applying them.

In fact, it’s possible to differentiate between an adverse effect and the itching of the exfoliating effect in the duration of the same. For one, a side effect won’t disappear after a few minutes but the itching that’s a consequence of exfoliation does.

Prescription retinoids

Be sure you use safe contraceptive methods if you’re undergoing treatment with prescription retinoids. Oral retinoids such as acitretin, alitretinoin, isotretinoin, and tretinoin affect fetal development. For this reason, women must be sure they aren’t pregnant at the beginning of treatment, and during and after.

The periodicity of the control of the absence of pregnancy should be up to one month after the end of the treatment depending on the retinoid you use. This is the case for treatments with alitretinoin and isotretinoin. Skip treatment with topical retinoids during pregnancy and while you’re planning it.

Two people concerned about some pills.
Don’t use prescription retinoids during pregnancy.

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Cosmetic retinoids

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, and people commonly use it as an anti-aging ingredient. Vitamin A is one of the most effective cosmetic retinoids for reducing fine lines, spots, and wrinkles.

This compound stimulates collagen production and cell renewal. It stimulates cell renewal, which tends to slow down over time, especially after the age of 30. Furthermore, this cosmetic substance also helps remove dead cells from the superficial layers of the skin, oil, and dirt accumulated in the pores.

How to use cosmetic retinoids

Most people experience irritation or redness during the first few weeks of using a retinoid treatment. The skin becomes used to the compounds and becomes more tolerant after this time.

Professionals advise applying it every other day and gradually, so the skin can progressively get used to it when starting treatment. They also advise using it in low amounts, especially if the skin is sensitive.

What are the applications of this drug?

Dermatologists prescribe retinoids to treat many different skin conditions. These include acne, clogged pores, stimulation of collagen and elastin production as well as the reduction of expression lines, hyperpigmentation, and photoaging.

One can use it to treat any part of the body, including mucous membranes. In fact, some beauty centers do retinol peels on the lips and genital area.

A person undergoing a peeling with retinoids.
Some peelings us retinoids.

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When’s the best time to use them?

The use of retinoids in summer has always been discouraged. However, there are now preparations with active ingredients formulated as liposomes. This formulation makes it possible to use them for cosmetic use during the summer, although you must remember to apply sunscreen daily.

Using retinoids?

Doctors only prescribe retinoid treatments when considered absolutely necessary. Also, they must inform women of childbearing age about the risk of congenital malformations and miscarriages associated with the use of this type of medication.

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