Vitamin A goes by several names but she’s known as the golden child of anti-aging ingredients. Starting one in your 20’s, and definitely by your 30’s, can create an impressive impact on your complexion. One that might even prevent you from needing Botox early in life.
We love it because it increases cell turnover, helping with acne, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. As a cell-communicator it stimulates collagen and elastin production, thickening the skin and slowing down the aging process and filling in fine lines. It even helps your skin stay hydrated and increases that coveted glow.
Many of us, including myself, give up on Retinoid products due to irritation, sensitivity, and excess peeling. I have some guidelines for you though! After reading this article you’ll be less likely to have a bad experience and reap the benefits of using Vitamin A in your routine.
Vitamin A goes by a few names including Retinol, Retinoid, Retinaldehyde, and Retinoic Acid. All forms of Vitamin A are referred to as a Retinoid.
Technically a prescription from your dermatologist, like Retin-A, is a Retinoid or Retinoic Acid, a chemical compound related to Vitamin A. Over the counter Retinol is a form of Vitamin A, however, your skin must convert it to Retinoic Acid, and it may take several weeks to do so.
0.5% Retinol is similar in efficacy to 0.025% Retinoid
1.0% Retinol is similar in efficacy to 0.05% Retinoid
What this means is prescription Retin-A will gain results much more quickly than an over the counter product. The downside is the likelihood of increased sensitivity, irritation, peeling skin, etc. By comparison, an over the counter product will usually be more gentle with slower results. Either way, the end result is the same, just at different speeds of accomplishment.
That said, many over the counter retinoids are still too strong for most skin. Every skin type is different and finding the right Vitamin A product for you will be a game of trial and error. In this case, sensitive skin loving Retinaldehyde might be a good option for you.
Retinaldehyde converts to Retinoic Acid much more quickly than Retinol, meaning it’s even more gentle and ideal for delicate skin types. Having sensitive skin, I can’t use many Retinoid products without feeling incredibly dry. I couldn’t use them frequently enough for me to feel like I was getting much benefit, although it was better than nothing.
That all changed when I started using Preservation Serum, formulated with my favorite form of Vitamin A: retinaldehyde. It’s become a favorite because I can use it nearly every day without any dryness, irritation, or sensitivity, something I’ve never been able to get away with until now. If you’re someone who struggles with finding a Goldilocks zone with retinoids, definitely put retinaldehyde next on your ‘to try’ list! However, if you want to give your current retinoid another try, keep on reading.
My #1 Tip: BUILD UP YOUR TOLERANCE
When I was in the treatment room I never started a client on 1% Retinol, ever. Slow and steady is the name of the game! Starting at higher concentration means you’re more likely to experience sensitivity. While there are some who can start higher without any issues, the majority can’t. Typically, most of my clients started with a 0.5% Retinol and built up from there.
No matter the formula you choose, the schedule looks something like this:
First 1-2 weeks apply Vitamin A 2x week
Weeks 3-4 increase to 3x week
Weeks 5-6 alternate every other night
Finally, weeks 7-8 increase to every night
Not everyone will make it to using Retinol every evening and that is okay! If you experience irritation, sensitivity, or excessive peeling, back off. Your sweet spot may have been the frequency you were using prior to adding an extra night. The ideal situation is finding a product and schedule that causes the least irritation and dryness.
Keep seasons in mind, too. Humid, summer months will allow higher frequency than dry, cold winters. After 3 months of using 0.5% you can entertain the idea of moving up to 1%, but you shouldn’t consider it necessary. It all comes down to what your skin can tolerate the most frequently without harsh side effects.
I suggest adding Retinol to your PM regimen instead of AM for two reasons:
1. It adds extra time to your routine and we may not be willing to do so in the morning
2. Depending on the products you’re using throughout the week, the evening is the easiest way to remember where to fit in your Retinoid
If you’re using AHA/BHA treatments avoid using them the same evening to avoid additional sensitivity. As you build tolerance, you can entertain using AHA/BHA and Retinol in the same routine but I don’t suggest beginning there.
Always apply to dry skin, as applying to damp skin allows the product to absorb faster, increasing the chance of irritation. It can be applied to your face, neck, décolleté, and hands… just remember to be diligent with SPF as photosensitivity increases!
1.) Cleanse, tone and wait for your skin to dry
2.) Apply pea-size amount to skin
3.) Wait at least 20 minutes for traditional Vitamin A products, like Retin-A or Skinceuticals 0.5%, to absorb
4.) Apply serums, oils, and/or moisturizer
I highly, highly suggest applying a nourishing moisturizer or oil over your Retinol. Adding moisture back into the skin will decrease sensitivity. My absolute favorite moisturizer for Vitamin A evenings is Nourishing Cream, it’s great for keeping the skin barrier healthy and balanced, locking in much-needed hydration.