The Power of Retinoids
By Chelsea Campbell
If a dermatologist told you they had a topical treatment that increases collagen production and elastic tissue, softens fine lines, improves acne, reverses sun damage, and makes you look years younger, would you take it? Or would you snatch that magic youth potion out of his hands and take off running faster than he can say the word "prejuvenation"? We thought so.
Dermatologist Dr. Emil Tanghetti from Sacramento, California emphatically tells us, "It's pretty clear in the literature, the thing that works simply the best for prejuvenation and rejuvenation is a topical retinoid, there is no doubt at all. You should be on a topical retinoid, because if you're not, you're missing a great easy opportunity." Ok, we're sold.
What is a retinoid and how should it be used?
Simply put, a retinoid is a vitamin A derivative that has the power to improve collagen deficiency and repair and protect skin cells from UV exposure, leading to younger, healthier-looking skin. It is most commonly used to treat acne, psoriasis, wrinkles, melasma, and performs with pretty impressive results.
Dr. Tanghetti says that one of the most exciting effects of consistently using a topical retinoid is what it can do for the eye area, saying, "[Using retinoids] on the lower lids and crow's feet is an incredible opportunity for anti-aging because devices and fillers are tricky to use there." How can a retinoid help keep the eye area looking young, especially since that's one of the first areas to show signs of age?
- Using a retinoid around the eyes will renew elastic tissue and collagen, tightening skin and improving fine lines and wrinkles.
- It improves photodamage and pigmentation issues. "If you give me 12 months," says Dr. Tanghetti, "I can guarantee you're going to see results."
- "Dark circles are often due to the transparency of the muscle below," explains Dr. Tanghetti. "So if you put new collagen there, you often help mask that, and it helps improve the appearance of dark circles."
The potential downside to this otherwise miracle product is the fact that it can be a bit harsh to the skin, causing redness, dryness, and flakiness.
Here are Dr. Tanghetti's tips for minimizing irritation:
● Get guidance on how to use the retinoid from a dermatologist. "Some people do have side effects with things. If I just gave a patient a tube of tretinoin [a type of retinoid] without teaching them how to use it, they would automatically have a problem. My job, my facility's job, my staff's job is to teach patients how to use these products."
● Don't use soap cleansers when first introducing a retinoid. They're too harsh and drying, which will only amplify the initial phase of irritation from the medication.
● Moisturize before applying a retinoid. "If you moisturize before, you normalize the skin's barrier function. You allow a gradient absorption of the product so you don't over absorb and you minimize irritation."
● Know your product. "A lot of these cosmeceuticals are really "nothing" products with no data behind them. You can spend thousands of dollars on things with very little-to-no data on efficacy."
● "Lay off for a few days." Ease into a routine with a retinoid and don't apply it every day. However, Dr. Tanghetti does say, "No downtime, no benefits." Be prepared to need some time for your skin to adjust and recuperate. It means it's working!
Besides the fact that topical retinoids seem to be a miracle in a bottle, make sure to heed Dr. Tanghetti's advice and seek out a trusted dermatologist. "Failure with retinoids is usually not from the product, but how people are using the product."