If you're starting to see the first visible signs of aging in your skin -- whether they are fine lines, pigmentation or changing skin texture -- you'll be glad to know that there is a tried-and-true, clinically proven remedy that can help you erase them: retinoids. These vitamin A derivatives have been shown in countless studies to work in skin at a cellular level, smoothing wrinkles, improving skin structure, texture and tone, and fading skin discolorations, among other beneficial effects, and are considered the gold standard in anti-aging skin care.
The only real downside to using retinoids is that they can cause dryness and irritation, a side-effect that causes many people to give up on them. However, if you pick the right products for your skin type and learn how to use them properly, you can avoid those problems. The best way to do that is to work with a skin care specialist.
Here is how you can get the most out of retinoid use for smoother, younger looking skin.
Advice For Retinoid Beginners
If you're trying retinoid treatment for the first time or have very sensitive skin, an over-the-counter product may be the best place to start. Since they are formulated with weaker retinoids than prescription products, they can help skin acclimate to retinoid use with less chance of dryness and irritation. Non-prescription products can be found at your local drugstore or department store, or can be obtained from a skin care specialist – often the best way to go in terms of quality and effectiveness.
Retinoids in over-the-counter products vary in type and strength, with retinol the ingredient to look for if your skin isn't prone to sensitivity, since it is the strongest non-prescription retinoid. Quality products will have a concentration of retinol of at least 0.1 percent. For sensitive skin, products that contain retinaldehyde – a gentler, but still very effective retinoid – may be your best bet. Additionally, as you're starting out with a retinoid product, using it two or three times a week at first and slowly working your way up to everyday use can help your skin adjust without side effects. With a quality non-prescription product, you should start seeing a difference in the appearance and condition of your skin with about 8 to 12 weeks of consistent use.
Need More? Step Up To Prescription-Strength
If you've already been using over-the-counter retinoids and are looking for more powerful anti-aging results, see your skin care specialist for a prescription-strength retinoid. The active ingredient in these products is retinoic acid, which is the strongest, most effective retinoid available – about 10 to 15 times more potent than over-the-counter versions. Commonly used prescription products include tretinoin, Retin-A, Renova and Avage, among others. These products may be formulated as creams or gels, and can offer improvement in skin issues ranging from fine lines and wrinkles to serious sun damage. Your skin care specialist will decide which of these products best suits your needs, according to your skin type and treatment goals, and monitor your skin's response to treatment over time. Prescription-strength products typically begins to produce visible changes in the skin within 4 to 8 weeks.
These are just general guidelines. For more specific recommendations on choosing the best products to address your skin concerns, see a skin care specialist for an evaluation. Often, starting with a good examination of your skin type and condition yields faster, more cost-effective results than muddling through on your own, saving the time and money you would otherwise spend working out a good skin care routine through trial and error.