Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is quite possibly the most effective over-the-counter treatment for great looking skin. Retinol has biological aspects and is produced in the body; therefore, it has precursors and derivatives. Successful commercial development of retinol began in the early 1970s and continues to remain one of the top forms of skin care treatment. From acne, acne scars, and skin rashes to wrinkles, age spots, and flaky skin, retinol can easily treat, or at least minimize the severity of nearly every skin condition. Expensive and invasive laser treatments or injections for skin problems are not a desirable option for most people; however, retinol creams are readily available in drugstores and many retailers, and range significantly in cost, starting at around five dollars. The cost of one retinol product versus another should not affect your decision when choosing one because a lower cost retinol cream may be more effective than a more expensive one. For decades, researchers have been discovering the properties and benefits of retinoids. Research has shown that the over-the-counter (OTC) retinol products (typically in the form of a lotion, gel, or cream) are just as effective as prescription retinol (or Retin-A). Although the concentration is not as high and it may take longer for visible results, OTC options are better for sensitive skin because the lower concentration of retinol minimizes irritation. While using retinol, it is important to use sunscreen liberally. Probably the number one rule while using retinol is the daily application of sunscreen. Not using sunscreen will basically undo what the retinol is accomplishing in skin repair. Retinol increases the skin’s sensitivity to sunburns in the specific area being treated and while there are just a few minor side effects associated with retinol, continuous and consistent use of the product reveals ageless skin.

Retinol and Wrinkles

Wrinkles are the result of oxygen molecules that have broken down the skin cells over time and retinol is an antioxidant that neutralizes these free radicals. Antioxidants are available in a various forms, but improving the overall texture, tone, and glow of the skin can be achieved with regular use of the antioxidant. Smoking, sun exposure, dryness, and natural aging contribute to rhytides, or wrinkles. By using a complete face care system, wrinkles can be delayed and minimized.

Natural Products Containing Retinol and Antioxidants

An alternative to the typical OTC or prescription products containing retinol, natural retinol alternatives are also readily available–rose hip seed oil, Frankincense oil, tara tree gum, chicory root to name just a few. Grape seed extract is also an antioxidant that is used in a variety of skin care products. It works like retinol to neutralize free radicals. It also has anti-inflammatory and skin healing properties. Many of these oils can be diluted in water and used as a rinse. Some of these can be found in drugstores and grocery retailers, but most commonly they are found in natural food and vitamin stores.

Acne Treatment from Retinol

Acne is a condition of the skin that happens when hair follicles and pores become filled with oil, dead skin cells, pollutants in the air, and other substances that are applied to the area. Acne includes blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and oily skin. Acne is considered a long-term condition that begins in children and continues to adulthood. Research indicates that the earlier it is treated, the less likelihood that it will be a prolonged skin condition. Retinol in the form of a lotion, gel, or cream effectively unclogs pores and follicles. It also prevents pores and follicles from being clogged and allows for other products to be more effective. Retinol for acne treatment, and other skin problems, is sometimes paired with a steroid or vitamin C and is also taken orally in the form of pills. Oral retinoids are used to minimize oil production, bacteria, and inflammation. Some people experience an increase in acne at the beginning of the treatment while the skin is adjusting.

How Retinol Helps with Skin Scars

If acne is persistent and goes untreated, severe deep scars may result. A scar occurs when blood vessels occupy the affected area, which gives the skin the pink appearance. Scars from acne, pox, accidents, or some other diseases of the skin can be treated through dermabrasion. Dermabrasion is the process of sanding down (planing) the skin with a rotating brush, which levels the scar with the surrounding area. Dermabrasion should only be used on fair skin as it may cause discoloration in others. Dermabrasion is not to be confused with microdermabrasion, which is the use of tiny crystals that are sprayed onto the skin while using a rotating brush to smooth the skin. Microdermabrasion is most often used for pigmentation or dull skin. After, or along with, the process of dermabrasion and microdermabrasion, retinol aids the process by reducing collagen synthesis and therefore reducing the significance of the scar.

How Retinol Improves the Appearance of Enlarged Pores

Enlarged pores are the result of aging, humidity, sun exposure, and heredity. Retinol and its derivatives, such as pro-retinol, can tighten pores and help them appear much smaller in size. Because retinol unclogs pores, that alone diminishes the appearance of larger pores. Clay masks work the same way in being able to minimize the appearance of pores temporarily, by detoxifying and refining the skin.

Retinol Improves Dark Circles

Dark circles under the eyes are most often caused by unrestful sleep or fatigue. Shadows from the eyelids and the natural thinning of the skin also cause deep, dark circles. The condition also runs in some families and is hereditary. No matter the cause, retinol is a collagen-building agent that brightens the natural tone of the skin and reduces the appearance of dark circles under the eye.

4 Basic Skin Care Steps and Where Retinol Fits In

Most people know there are four basic skin care steps, but where does retinol fit in? The first step is to cleanse, which includes a variety of cleansing wipes, face washes/cleansers, and cloths. The second step is to exfoliate, which includes a variety of either scrubs, microdermabrasion, or face peels. This is where retinol fits in. Retinol also removes dead skin and generates collagen, as well. Collagen is the one of the main structural proteins found in the connective tissues of the body. The third step is to moisturize and the fourth step is to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Sun exposure is #1 cause of skin damage and wrinkles.

Sun Exposure to the Skin and How Retinol Plays a Role in Reversing the Effects

The sun is the #1 cause of uneven toning and wrinkling of the skin. The skin naturally tries to compensate the effects of the sun by increasing the production of the pigment melanin, which gives the appearance of either a terrible burn or a beautiful glowing sun tan, depending on your sensitivity to the sun. The sun also causes stretching of blood vessels, which gives the skin pink or red spots. Areas of the skin that are most often exposed to the sun may result in dark gray, black, or brown moles that vary in size. Connective tissue (collagen) is broken down by the sun and causes deep wrinkles, sagging skin, and creases. Retinol builds collagen and helps to rebuild the structure in the connective tissues, thereby tightening skin. Retinol also restores the natural color of the skin and treats or minimizes severe pigmentation caused by overexposure to the sun.