Retinoids have been a staple in skin care for decades and are found in many products, especially anti-aging serums. Discover why…

What are they?

Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A naturally found in animals. It can be found in animal products such as chicken, beef, eggs, whole milk, and cheese, but it is also produced by the liver in humans too! 

Before going further, let’s answer the commonly asked question: “What is the difference between ‘retinol’ and ‘retinoids’?” Retinoids is the larger group name of this type of Vitamin A derivative in animals (in plants, Vitamin A derivatives are called beta carotene). Retinol is a type of retinoid that has the same function but is typically weaker and does not require a prescription. Other products that contain “retinoids”, such asRenova, may be prescription only and have a stronger effect.

What does it do?

The main function of retinoids is increasing cell turnover. This is great for anti-aging skin care because as we age, skin cell turnover naturally slows down, which can lead to rough texture, wrinkles & fine lines, and dull skin appearance. By increasing the production of skin cells, fresher, younger skin can be revealed.

It works best for:

*Aging skin – as mentioned above, the increased cell turnover improves skin texture and brings a brighter & more youthful appearance. Retinol also enhances collagen growth, which can reduce fine lines & wrinkles.

*Acne – this was retinol’s original dermatologic purpose! Retinol helps to unclog & keep pores clear, which helps acne medications to penetrate more deeply, and also helps to reduce acne scarring.

*Psoriasis – certain prescription retinoids have been shown to regulate the speed cell growth & the shedding of dead skin cells in psoriasis patients. How exactly this works is currently unknown.

Anything to watch out for?

The most common complaint about retinoids is that they can be drying and/or irritating to skin. Redness, flaking and peeling are also common, especially at first (skin usually adapts within 2-3 weeks). To minimize these types of issues:

*Use only the prescribed amount. Using more than directed will not make the retinoids work faster and can cause unnecessary irritation

*Start off slowly. Unless otherwise directed, start out using it once every 3 days. If it is very irritating, you can reduce use to once per week or use a milder formula.

*Moisturize! Moisturizing your skin can help reduce the dryness & irritation. While you should apply retinoids before the moisturizer for best results, if your skin is very sensitive you can apply them after the moisturizer. The product may be less effective, but the skin may tolerate this better. 


Retinoids can take many weeks to work. They are not a “quick fix” or overnight remedy, but rather a slow, gradual process.


With retinoids, always let your doctor know what other medications or health conditions you are taking prior to beginning a retinoid treatment because even non-prescription retinol can have a potentially negative effect. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use any form of retinoid. 

BLOG DISCLAIMER: Information on this blog is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose or treat any skin ailment. Please make an appointment with your physician for personalized medical advice. 


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