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Okay, fine…Let’s talk about Retinol…

I know I’ve made comments in the past and those that have been following along know I have my opinions when it comes to retinol (vitamin a). Since so many of you out there are using retinol or want to start using it (but don’t really know why, lol) this blog is for you.

First, let’s start with why someone may need a retinol:

1) The main reason we use retinol is to help stimulate cell turnover due to aging skin. That is the speed at which our body creates new cells.

2) Reduce cell buildup in oily/acne skin which causes the pores to become blocked.

Sounds good, right?

In theory….to understand who might need these, let’s break this down into two categories: “Age management” and “Acne.”

Age Management

When we are young, under 20, our skin produces a new cell once every approximately 30 days. During that 30-day process that new cell works its way up to the epidermis (surface of the skin) and sits on the skin for a little bit before naturally turning over and starting the entire process again.

Now, they say for each year over 20 you add an extra day. Therefore if you are me, it is now taking my skin 43 days to do what it used to in 30. If you are reading this and you are 50, your cells are taking twice as long, a whopping 60 days.

This is why as we age we start to feel like our skin looks duller, the texture of our skin rougher, our pores bigger, the fine little lines and crepey skin…. All the things we don’t want.

Knowing this, I know most of you are thinking “Ummm hello… clearly I need the retinol!!!”

Okay okay… You may benefit from Retinol, just not in the way you think.

Safe for daily use does not mean we need it every day. For me, since I only have 13 days to make up for, using a retinol every day would cause my cell turnover to accelerate faster than needed resulting in dry skin, irritation and redness….the most common complaints with consumers using retinol.

My personal rule of thumb…and this is backed by nothing else but my own personal experience….is to use retinol no more than ½ the time in days you need to make up. Therefore my 13 days is 6.5, let’s round it down to 6, in a month. With that being said, my skin could benefit from the use of retinol twice a week.

If I was 50, and I have 30 days of dead cells more than I should, I need 15 days of retinol, therefore I can use my retinol every other night.

Make sense?

With retinol, more is not always better.

Now let’s talk about acne skin….

I’m talking about true acne skin, teen acne, and those suffering from extremely oily skin. When our body, for whatever reason, procedures an excess of oil, dirt and dead cells can become clogged in our pores resulting in many forms of acne.

Did you know Accutane is a form of vitamin A that internally dries up oil production to try to eliminate acne in extreme cases. Now I personally never suggest the use of Accutane (unless in very extreme cases of cystic acne that cannot be managed in other ways), topical retinol can have a huge impact in clearing the skin.

This being said, you, unfortunately, do need to use the product to the point of possible irritation, dryness and redness, to try and stop that oil production. For this reason, it is personally not my go-to. For me, when it comes to acne, I prefer to try and treat the underlying cause. This can be taking a real look into diet, lifestyle, hormones and trying our best to create a more balanced environment for healthy skin development.

I personally don’t recommend retinol to most patients under the age of 40….

I just don’t! This is just the way I have worked for years now. I prefer other methods of cell turnover, mild exfoliation, and create an emphasis on keeping skin hydrated.

Most acne products are meant for people with an oil problem however most patients I deal with have dehydrated skin. Therefore using too many acids, or drying products just creates a cycle with a week or two of good skin for every week of bad skin.

With that being said, NOT ALL “RETINOLS” ARE THE SAME.

There are four main categories of “retinols”…I use the quotations because it is a very loosely used word and many people think they are getting the true benefits of retinol when they purchase a product but are letter disappointed with the results. All forms have the ability to alter the skin’s DNA, thus changing the overall appearance and improving things such as pigmentation, acne and fine lines and wrinkles, some just better than others. 

The kicker is that no matter what type may be packed into your skincare, our body can only use its most biologically active form, retinoic acid…aka prescription retinol. For the sake of this blog, we will focus on over-the-counter types.

Hopefully, this will help shed some light on variations in the market and what to look for.

Retinyl esters: This is the least potent form, and requires 3 steps to convert into retinoic acid in your skin making them gentle and with little risk of redness and irritation…BUT also require longer use to achieve major change in the skin due to this limitation. 

Types of retinyl esters you may see on your ingredient list: Retinyl palmitate, retinyl linoleate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl propionate. 

Retinol: This popular form is seen in many anti-aging and skin renewal creams. These products can help with cell turnover, promote exfoliation, prevent acne, improve discoloration and many more skin benefits. 

Retinol requires only two steps to convert in the skin and are much more aggressive. As I said above, these are generally not daily use especially for anyone younger and your skin may experience some negative side effects from trying to speed it up too quickly. 

Retinaldehyde: also known as “retinal” is the strongest of the over-the-counter retinoids, taking only one step to convert in the skin. This tends to be used to create rapid change in the skin, however with fast cell turnover can come a lot of redness, irritation and peeling. These products shouldn’t be used unless you are being followed by a skin specialist for a corrective treatment course. 

Retinoic Acid Esters: The new kid on the block is supposed to be a hybrid somewhere between retinol and retinoic acid on both efficacy and irritation. There are two forms retinyl retinoate and hydroxypinacolone retinoates (HPR). Unlike other forms, retinyl retinoate converts into both retinoic acid and retinol when it interacts with the skin, meaning it has both instant and delayed benefits. HPR binds directly to retinoid receptors without having to convert to retinoic acid. 

If I didn’t lose you along the way….

let’s just talk about what that means or more so my personal opinion on it. 

Most skincare products you will find at your local beauty or drug store will be in the first category called, retinyl esters. They aren’t necessarily bad but I wouldn’t hold your breath on seeing any life-changing results. 

The second category, retinol, is what you will find in skin care clinics like ours. To me, they are the happy medium. If used as I described above you can all but avoid any negative irritations. That being said, sometimes I want to kick-start my clients’ skin so I will have them use it more frequently. They will get red, irritated and even peeling skin which can be great for some time to accelerate in-clinic treatments but isn’t meant for long-term use. 

My favourite is Vivier. These are microencapsulated which simply means that the retinol is locked into the product and slowly released on your skin as you sleep. This slow release helps your skin absorb a higher amount while minimizing irritation. 

Okay okay, that’s all I am going to say. Hopefully, this gave you some good knowledge on how to use your retinol and what to look for when you are searching for skincare products. 

If ever you need help- Let’s talk!

As always,

Your skin revival

Alexis Fry

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