Retinol, retinoids - do they mean the same thing? In this article, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about what retinols and retinoids are (hint: they’re not the same thing), why they’re useful, and whether or not you should be including them in your everyday skin care routine. As always, you should note that we’re not skincare experts and you should always consult with your dermatologist before adding anything to your existing skin care regimen.
Retinol vs. Retinoids: Are They the Same?
If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you’re curious about retinol and whether or not you should be including it in your skin care routine. A lot of the time, you’ll read articles and blogs that use the words “retinol” and “retinoids” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. According to professional dermatologist Melissa Levin, retinol and retinoids are both “vitamin A derivatives that ultimately get converted into retinoic acid.” Levin goes on to explain that the term “retinoids” is “essentially a basic umbrella term for both over-the-counter retinols and prescription retinoids.”
The main difference between retinols and retinoids is that retinols are typically available over-the-counter and contain a lower amount of the “active retinoic acid ingredient” while retinoids are typically given through a doctor’s prescription and contain a higher amount of the active ingredient also found in retinols. According to dermatologist Whitney Bowe, retinols are used typically to “promote skin renewal, brighten skin tone, reduce acne, and boost the collagen production." Due to retinols containing a lower amount of the active retinoic acid ingredient, it usually takes users a little longer to start seeing results compared to using prescription retinoids.
Why Should I Start Using a Retinol? The Benefits of Including This Product in Your Routine
Like we said at the beginning of this article, you should always consult your dermatologist or skin care professional before adding a retinol or retinoid to your everyday routine. Many people are starting to use retinols into their daily skincare routine in their mid-20s, although your 30th year has typically been the age when many women started using retinols or retinoids. Many women are starting to see early signs of sunspots, crow’s feet, and other signs of aging, prompting them to start a retinol regimen earlier.
The main piece of advice we see skincare experts and dermatologists giving is that if you choose to start a retinol, start slow and be gentle with the process. Whitney Bowe states that “balance is critical” when it comes to beginning a retinol regimen as a part of your skincare routine. Bowe also notes that retinol can cause irritation on the skin if you use too much of the product or if you use it too frequently. If you are planning on adding a retinol to your skincare ritual, Bowe recommends “starting off with a pea-sized amount of a low percentage over-the-counter formula (.01% to 0.03%)” two times a week and slowly increasing your usage/dosage in order to allow your skin to adjust to this new change.
Tips for Including a Retinol in Your Skin Care Routine
If you haven’t gathered this by now, we’re trying to tell you to be careful about adding a retinol to your skincare routine and make sure it’s something that you and your dermatologist feel comfortable with. As you make the slow transition to adding a retinol to your skincare routine, it’s important to know what signs to watch out for as well as knowing some basic tips so you can get the most out of your chosen retinol.
Watch Out for Side Effects
As you begin to use a retinol, it’s important to notice any signs of severe irritation. It’s normal to see mild signs of irritation, sensitivity to the sun, and dryness when adding a new retinol or retinoid to your routine, but when you start seeing more severe signs of irritation such as intense flaking of the skin, severe redness, and uncomfortable burning sensations, then it’s time to stop using your retinol and pay a visit to your dermatologist.
Only Use Your Retinol or Retinoid at Night and Always Wear Sunscreen
According to Whitney Bowe, “Retinol makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays and sunlight decreases the efficacy of the product,” which is why you should only be adding a retinol to your nightly skincare routine. Bowe and other dermatologists also recommend that you wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above every single day, regardless of whether or not you use a retinol, but especially if you just started incorporating one into your skincare routine. Spending extended amounts of time in direct sunlight while using a retinol will make your skin more susceptible to UV rays and long term sun damage.
Don’t Forget the Décolletage
Although the face is the main focus when it comes to fighting signs of aging, it’s important to not forget about your neck and décolletage area. These areas usually show signs of aging more so than on the face, so it’s important to think about these areas when applying your retinol or retinoid.
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