21 Sep 2023 | by Leonard Miller, MD, FACS, FRCS

A nightly Retinoid is the second most important thing that you can do for your skin.

Although no one likes to hear this, aging is inevitable. It is a biological fact of life that starting around 25, your body begins to produce less collagen and elastin which are two of the most important things for keeping your skin looking and feeling young. The good news is that are lots of steps that you can take in order to slow down the process. It is my job as a Board-Certified Dermatologist to help you figure out which steps are right for you from selecting the most effective medical grade skincare products to choosing the right laser for laser skin rejuvenation. Every patient is unique. Having said that, there are two things that I always recommend for every patient regardless of gender or age:

  • Sunscreen
  • Retinoid

In fact, next to the daily use of a full spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen, a nightly retinoid is the second most important thing that you can do to keep your skin looking more youthful and vital. So, here is why it’s important to use a retinoid.

Retinoid vs. Retinol

Pretty much every patient who comes into my office thinks that a retinoid and a retinol are exactly the same product. This is actually not true. Retinoids and retinols are both Vitamin A derivatives, but they are chemically different compounds. A retinoid is only found in prescription strength products. As such, it delivers a much bigger punch in terms of efficacy. The downside is that it can also be more irritating.

A retinol is an over-the-counter product with a lower concentration of retinoid that is activated on the skin surface. These products are often less expensive and less likely to cause side effects such as:

  • Dryness
  • Redness
  • Peeling

But also, a retinol won’t do as much as a retinoid to improve your skin which is why I typically recommend the latter.

Retinoid = Forever Cream

In my book, a retinoid is your forever cream as it is the only skincare product that has been proven to remodel your skin and prevent wrinkles. Regular retinoid use can help improve:

  • Fine lines & wrinkles
  • Uneven pigmentation
  • Black heads
  • White heads
  • Acne
  • Pore size & appearance

A retinoid is so effective because it speeds up cell turnover and promotes your body to produce more collagen. As if that wasn’t enough, retinoid use stimulates the growth of new blood vessels. This improves your skin color, giving you that vital, healthy looking glow that we all love. While it will take 3-6 months of consistent use before you see your results, a retinoid is a really simple way to drastically improve the appearance of your skin. And when your skin looks better, you feel better — more confident, more energetic and more resilient to the vagrancies of life.

Downsides of Retinoid Can Be Easily Mitigated

Retinoids have unfortunately gained a bit of a bad reputation for irritating the skin. This is not unwarranted. However, any downsides of a retinoid can be easily mitigated. First things first, it is important to pick the right product for your skin. If you come in to see me and you have super sensitive skin, I am going to suggest a product that is more gentle such as the Alpharet® Overnight Cream. This is a retinoid that delivers results without drying out the skin (which is the root cause of irritation). Furthermore, I will typically start you off only using it every other night. Then, once your skin adapts to the new regime, we will bump it up to a nightly occurrence. Also, if you are prone to dryness and/or it is wintertime, especially if you live somewhere with radiator heat, I may have you apply a moisturizer on top of the retinoid. And yes, regular retinoid use is going to make your skin more sensitive to the sun. But since everyone should be using a sunscreen everyday anyway, this is moot. It is also why the adage that retinoids can not be used in the summertime is a total myth. This is an all-year, everyday product for everyone.

Retinoid for Every Age

While I do prescribe a retinoid for every patient, the only exception is if you are pregnant — avoid topical retinoids until after your baby is born. For my patients 16 or younger, I typically start them off on over-the-counter Differin as I find it to be the best thing for treating the most common teenager complaints of:

  • Acne
  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads

As the patient ages, I will transition he or she to Tretinoin or the Alpharet® Overnight Cream by Skin Better Science. I also adore the latter’s peel pads for patients of all ages. They are super gentle yet hugely effective for cell turnover. And at the end of the day, that is what we all want — to get rid of older, dead cells and make room for new, youthful cells.

To find out more about which retinoid is right for you and medical grade skincare at the Boston Center for Plastic Surgery, contact us today or call (617) 735- 8735 to schedule a consultation.

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