The masked hero vitamin A goes by many names - retinyl esters, retinaldehyde, retinol, retinoic acid, etc. The reason vitamin A is a masked hero is due to its many forms and strengths. Isotretinoin for instance is an oral acne medication which causes the skin to produce less oil and helps kill acne causing bacteria. But we’re not here to tell you about the oral type of vitamin A, we’re here to tell you about the topicals.
Retinoic acid (tretinoin) is the strongest form of topical vitamin A and is typically prescribed in a medical setting. All other retinol products convert to retinoic when on the skin, leading to lower irritation potential. Vitamin A in topical applications has been shown to slow the process of aging. Retinol products do this by altering the job of collagen production, making aged cells act like younger cells, which can help treat and prevent fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol also increases cellular turnover which replaces dead skin cells with fresh, new skin cells. This process assists in fading acne scars and discoloration such as sun damage. It also helps to prevent active acne and create a less dull, smoother epidermal skin layer. We love the Josie Maran Argan Beta-Retinoid Pink Algae Serum because it has the benefits of retinol, and with the addition of argan oil, it creates this beautiful, glowy skin surface.
Now every good superhero needs a sidekick and really, it’s pretty much a necessity for a vitamin A product. Even the strongest form of vitamin A, retinoic acid, typically has an emollient fatty acid in the mix to help hydrate the skin and potentially ward off the irritation that can come with these products. Non-prescription retinol products contain a variety of soothing agents and hydrating ingredients to condition the skin in order to prevent irritation. One of our favorite retinol products is the Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil. This product uses trans-retinoic acid esters to promote the effects of retinol with less potential for irritation. It also includes chamomile for soothing and blue tansy oil which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Unfortunately, retinol isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, you want to be a little more careful in the sunshine. Due to cellular turnover the outer layer of skin is more fresh and more photosensitive. We always recommend using an SPF (literally always, but especially when using a vitamin A product), and it also helps to use some sort of antioxidant in the morning to help boost the effectiveness of free radical scavenging during the day. With this in mind, a perfect time to use your retinol is in the evening. Retinol can also have other side effects like redness, flaking, discomfort, and burning when used in too high of concentrations. The tolerance for retinol varies from person to person so we recommend speaking with one of our licensed Estheticians to go over the options.
We’re also convinced we would be doing you a disservice by not mentioning vitamin A’s new rival, bakuchiol. Bakuchiol has shown promising results as being a more gentle retinol alternative. While not exactly producing the same results as retinol, it still has the ability to help with wrinkle definition and pigmentation, but without all of the potential redness, flaking, or dryness. Overall, bakuchiol is a great alternative to try if your skin is on the sensitive side or if retinol makes you a little uneasy. We love the addition of bakuchiol in the Boomerang Firming Eye Concentrate by Ghost Democracy. It’s sensitive enough for the eye area and doesn’t dry out the thin skin.