Retinoids, rentinol, Retin-A, Renova — you’ve probably heard of them before. They’re members of the growing family of anti-aging products on the market. Their names are similar (and part of that is smart marketing), but have you ever wondered how each one works?
All of the above products fall under the umbrella of “vitamin A derivatives.”
The gentlest member of this family is retinol, a vitamin-A derivative commonly found in over-the-counter skin care products like Philosophy’s Help Me Retinol Night Treatment and Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream.
Tretinoin, a retinoid, is retinol’s far stronger, souped-up cousin. It’s available by prescription only. Tretinoin creams like Retin-A and Renova are also referred to as topical retinoids. They’re frequently prescribed to treat acne.
While both Renova and Retin-A contain the same active ingredient, tretinoin, Renova is generally considered the more moisturizing of the two.
Why the fuss?
Healthy, youthful skin is smooth and resilient, supported by collagen and elastin. Skin loses its elasticity and strength as age and environmental damage (sun damage, chemical burns, etc.) occur, and the results are fine lines and wrinkles.
Vitamin-A derivatives have a molecular structure small enough to penetrate skin’s lower levels, where they strengthen and replenish collagen and elastin. Clinical research going back 20 years confirms the anti-aging properties of retinoids like Retin-A and Renova. They’ve been proven to smooth skin, unclog pores, regenerate collagen and may even prevent some types of skin cancer.
(Side note: Your girl *loves* scientific data. I was a biology major in college!)
While not as potent as retinoids, retinols still pack some anti-aging punch. Studies have shown their ability to moisturize, smooth, restore skin tone and color, and diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Things to think about when using retinoids or retinols
At night – If you plan to use them at night, apply product after cleansing but prior to moisturizing.
In the morning – If you plan to use them in the morning, add a broad spectrum sunscreen to your regimen because retinoids increase skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.
Things to avoid
1. Using too much product. Retinoids, in particular, are capable of burning skin if overused.
2. Using them in conjunction with products containing alpha hydroxy acids or bezoyl peroxide, either of which can reduce the effectiveness of retinoids and cause excessive drying.
3. Over-zealous waxing or exfoliation, which may irritate skin treated with retinoids.
Mark down the date in which you open a tube or jar of any vitamin-A product because they all lose potency over time.
My retinol experiment with Philosophy’s Help Me
I’ve been wanting to get on the vitamin-A train for a while now, but I didn’t want to jump right into the oh-so-potent retinoids.
Philosophy’s Help Me, when used at night, is supposed to minimize the appearance of fine lines and reduce discoloration and surface roughness. It also claims to keep pores clear. Retinol (not retinoid) in the product is encapsulated in a time-release technology Philosophy calls Microsponge, which stabilizes the retinol in the cream, releasing it gradually throughout the night.
For three weeks I used Philosophy’s Help Me Retinol Night Treatment ($45), alternating it with a benzoyl peroxide product every other night.
Here’s what I did on retinol nights:
1. Washed my face wish a gentle cleanser — Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple.
2. Used a small, pea-sized amount of Help Me on my face and neck.
3. Waited a few minutes before applying a layer of moisturizer.
And on benzoyl peroxide nights:
1. Washed my face with Purity Made Simple.
2. Swiped Clinique’s Mild Clarifying toner (contains salicylic acid, a betahydroxy acid) on my face and neck.
3. Waited a few minutes before applying a small amount of DDF’s Benzoyl Peroxide Gel 5% with Tea Tree Oil.
4. After letting the gel dry, I applied moisturizer.
Did this bad boy work?
The combo made my skin really clear, and I could actually see a tiny difference in the visibility of the expression lines on my forehead. I swear they seemed smoother and less visible. Also, the retinol didn’t worsen my naturally dry skin (always a good thing). I was also hoping the product would decrease the intensity of some of my hyperpigmenation spots, but I didn’t really see an improvement in that area (drat!).
I think that as an anti-aging product, Help Me works, but the effect is subtle. I am now convinced that retinoid/retinol products are the way to go when it comes to affordable anti-aging treatments, so after I finish this tube I’m going to visit the dermatologist to check out Renova (a retinoid).
Have any of you used Renova or Retin-A? What did you think of it?
Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,