A Dermal Therapist Answers Everything You Want To Know About Vitamin A
Yadira Galarza Cauchi
Retinoids (aka vitamin A) are a very hot skin care topic atm (almost as hot as Bennifer) (almoooost). Everyone wants to try them and other ingredients want to be them. But does that mean they'll work for your skin type? Let’s delve into it this a little further and figure it all out.
What Are Retinoids?
You see, the retinoid family is full of compounds that are derived from vitamin A. That’s right there are many different types of vitamin A and retinoids is essentially the umbrella term. Although it is a damn popular skincare ingredient because it’s the only one with significant clinical science to back up its anti-ageing claims. And I promise when you start on the right one for your skin type and you start to see the benefits you’ll get the hype.
What Are Their Benefits?
Retinoids have countless benefits. They can:
- Slow down the breakdown of collagen
- Fade pigmentation/age spots
- Minimise the appearance of wrinkles
- Help with pore size
- Minimise acne spots
- Make you dinner
...Okay, they can’t do the last one, but you get the idea!
They essentially work by improving skin cell renewal and stimulating collagen production. However, there are two different groups, prescription (tretinoin, isotretinoin) and non-prescription (retinol, retinaldehyde, retinol esters).
Are you confused now? Let’s break it down a little more.
What is the difference between prescription and non-prescription retinoids?
Ok I’m going to get a little science-y here so hold on…because the main difference is that prescription retinoids are already retinoic acids, while non-prescription needs to be converted into retinoic acid by the skin.
Retinoic acid is bio-available to the skin. You still with me?
So retinols/retinaldehyde/retinol esters have more steps to convert into retinoic acid at a cellular level than a prescription strength vitamin A which is already a retinoic acid. And we need it to convert to a retinoic acid to get all the studied skin benefits!
Still lost? Let’s make the conversions easier to understand:
Retinaldehyde = one conversion.
Retinol = two conversions.
Retinol esters = three conversions.
Pheeeew did you get all that? Gold star!
How To Incorporate A Retinoid Into Your Routine
Now I bet you’re wanting to try a retinoid RIGHT NOW? Well, HOLD UP, because while retinoids are a great ingredient to throw into your skincare routine people tend to go a little loco on them and go way too hard, too soon. In fact, while they are a great ingredient to add into a routine, they are also an ingredient that can cause a lot of damage to the skin when used incorrectly.
Do Retinoids Come With Side Effects?
Yes, that’s why it’s important to find the correct dose for your skin type. Redness and irritation are common issues that tend to pop up for people, hence why it’s better to start with 1-2 times a week and build up your skin’s tolerance. Below are a few common mistakes people make when using vitamin A in their routines.
Three Common Mistakes People Make With Retinoids
- You start with the strongest strength: there’s no need to start with the strongest strength. A low strength retinoid can still deliver great results. Slow and steady is key – especially for more sensitive skin types.
- You’re not wearing SPF: you need to be wearing SPF every day regardless, however it is more important when using a vitamin A in your routine as this ingredient will make your skin more sensitive to the sun and put your skin at risk of burning. SPF will help mitigate these effects – although I’d cover up and wear a hat too.
- You slather your face with your vitamin A: big mistake, you only need a pea sized amount of this ingredient. We all know the size of a pea, yeah?
Ingredients To Use And Avoid With Retinoids
Finally, retinoids are best used at night, post cleansing as your treatment serum or as your moisturiser (if the ingredient is in your night cream.) I recommend to keep it simple. So double cleanse, vitamin A, moisturiser. However, niacinamide is also a great ingredient to add to your skincare routine as it can help buffer some of the irritation that often happens when people first start using this ingredient.
It’s also recommended that people avoid exfoliating on the same night, as it can be too much for most skin types. However, there are many clinical products on the market formulated with both and can be tolerated by some. So listen to your skin – and your dermal therapist.
Now onto the fun stuff… retinoid recommendations. Below are a few firm favourites of mine. However, if you are a sensitive skin type or are still unsure whether a retinoid is best for you, please book yourself in for a consultation with a dermal therapist for a skin chat and assessment.
Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3 - $87.00
A great introductory retinal at a great price point. This product is stronger than a retinol but very safe for beginners to try.
PCA Intensive Brightening Treatment - $168.00
If pigmentation is a concern you can tackle to concerns with this one product. It’s a retinol that’s formulated with additional skin lightening antioxidants. Plus, the added niacinamide helps with irritation. Pricey, but worth it.
Paula’s Choice Retinol Treatment - $79
A nice retinol at a fab price point. Very gentle, when used correctly. Remember start slow and a pea sized amount only.
One last note: unfortunately, retinoid use is not recommended during pregnancy/breastfeeding so it is best avoided during this time.