COSMEDIX’s Guide to Using Retinol for Acne

What is retinol?

Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that has been called the gold standard of anti-aging. It is used to help improve the look of skin for a healthier and younger-looking appearance. It also has been proven to improve the look of skin of those that suffer from some forms of acne. Your tolerance for retinol depends on your skin type and condition. Over-the-counter topical formulas range from SkinMedica’s Retinol Complex 0.25 to The Ordinary Advanced Retinol 2%. When starting a retinol regimen, it is important to not start above 2% retinol formula without consulting a dermatologist or aesthetician. Skin types that are darker, thicker, and tougher will be a bit more tolerant of retinol. COSMEDIX’S Refine Rx contains a 12% retinol complex. It is only available at select spa partners after a professional evaluation.

What does it do?

Retinol helps stimulate the skin’s natural metabolism and helps encourage collagen production. This means that retinol stimulates the skin’s natural renewal system growth, death, exfoliation, new skin cells which helps the skin slough off old, rough skin cells so fresh, healthy skin can surface. This visibly reduces the appearance of sun damage, brown spots, lines, wrinkles, acne blemishes and large pores while improving the skin’s texture and tone for a smoother, clearer, more even-toned look.

What is Retin-A?

Retin-A is more potent than retinol and requires a prescription. It can improve cell turnover in the epidermis, which leads to fewer clogged pores, less breakouts, smoother skin and smaller pores. Those with severe acne may opt for Retin-A for faster results, but this option isn’t a cure-all for all acne. Retin-A works best on acneic skin with clogged pores, whiteheads, blackheads and closed comedones. Retin-A may cause more irritation and inflammation for those with sensitive, red, sore or inflamed skin.

What is a retinoid?

The term retinoid is a medical classification for Vitamin A-based molecules.

What is retinoic acid?

Retinoic acid is the acid form of Vitamin A also known as tretinoin. When retinol is absorbed into the skin and combines with certain enzymes, it converts to retinoic acid. It is often considered to be more effective in this form. Those with severe acne may have considered taking an oral pill that contains retinoic acid such as Accutane. The side-effects of such treatment can be severe and must be closely monitored by a physician. Products with an AGP Complex (short for arabinogalactan-proteins) help deliver retinol into the skin so it can convert to retinoic acid for optimal results without losing potency.

What is encapsulated retinol?

People with super-sensitive skin conditions including rosacea, eczema and inflammation caused by acne may not be able to tolerate traditional retinol treatments. COSMEDIX’s microencapsulated retinol formulas, such as Serum 16, are enriched with Vitamin E to help reduce irritation for those who have drying and sensitizing skin conditions but still want the acne-improving and age-defying results of retinol.

When should you use retinol?

Apply retinol at night and follow the instructions of your chosen product.  It’s usually a pea-size amount applied two or three times a week on the face and neck. If redness or irritation appears the next day, wait until skin returns to normal before reapplying. Two nights on and one night off is a good cadence for healthy results. After 30 to 60 days of use, stepping up the retinol level is recommended for optimized results. Consult your aesthetician for a recommended retinol regimen.

What is the downside?

Skin is more sensitive to light and thus sensitive to sunburn while using retinol. Sun protection is necessary. A high SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen most be worn every day to protect the skin. In warmer months and during peak times of the day, a hat is suggested to keep the skin from burning. Also, retinoids are not recommended during pregnancy or while nursing. Discuss your retinol use and skin goals with your dermatologist before using a product that contains this ingredient.