What does “Retinize the skin” mean? It's basically a more interesting and shorter term to use when referring to the process of acclimation to topical Vitamin A (Retinoids) treatment. This is known as Retinization. Once your skin has adapted to a retinoid, your skin is considered “retinized”. This process usually comes with side effects if you are using a prescription strength Retinoid or over the counter (OTC) vitamin A in some cases. These side effects may include redness, flaking or sloughing skin, mild to extreme irritation, a spicy feeling or burning sensation and an increased sensitivity to other products such as AHA’s. Side effects are temporary and subside once the Retinoid has been discontinued. Side effects can also be avoided with a careful approach and precise method I’ve developed over the last 16 years as an esthetician.
Retinoid Myth / Fact: Retinoids do not cause your skin to become more sensitive to UV light. That's right, you can and still should use a retinoid year round. In general all retinoids will degrade in UV light but they don't cause your skin to burn faster than it would naturally. There is some debate on Retinyl Palmitate creating free radicals when exposed to UV Light unlike other retinoids. To be on the safe side use Retinyl Palmitate only at night.
Benefits of retinoids: The most effective topical ingredient in all of skin care for wrinkles/ photo-aging is retinoic acid (RA). This is the purest and most bioavailable form of Vitamin A. Other than tretinoin, most retinoids need to convert metabolically inside skin cells to be effective. Once absorbed by the cell RA will cause skin cells to act in a healthy normal way. Sun damage over the years causes unhealthy cells that malfunction. The best way to fix those malfunctioning cells is long term consistent use of a retinoid. Retinoic Acid also upregulates collagen I, III and IV production and downregulates MMP, a specific enzyme that attacks and destroys collagen. Acne also benefits from RA by creating less build up within the follicle and normalizing the rate at which skin cells multiply. Another significant benefit is the improved action of other cosmetic ingredients. When you have healthy acting skin, other ingredients like peptides and vitamins will absorb faster and be utilized more efficiently.
- Throw away any cleansers that have SLS or other stripping surfactants like bar soap (yes even Dove™ soap). Discontinue use of any cleansers that have AHA’s or BHA’s. a. Stop cleansing in the morning. Splashing with water is usually all the cleansing you need. Cleansing the skin twice daily is not necessary and can actually make your skin more sensitive over time. Your skin is not exposed to environmental pollutants or sunscreen chemicals while you're sleeping. Your evening products should be fully absorbed by the morning so there is nothing to actually cleanse. If you are using oil rich products on the skin the evening prior.
- Use the ice cleansing method. This is a quick and easy way to mitigate inflammation and calm the skin. If your skin's natural barrier is compromised and the surface of your skin feels irritated easily, you’ll want to start by using 1 or 2 ice cubes and gently massaging the skin in circular motions, at least once per day. The key to a strong barrier function is moisturizing with Ceramides and other moisture building ingredients like fatty acids. Even if you have oily skin, it is critical that you moisturize so your sebum and water content will balance in the skin and create a healthy functioning barrier.
- Ok, you have a strong barrier now, let's not mess that up. Choose a Retinoid that is appropriate for your skin. If you have a prescription from your doctor but they only told you to apply it every night, and the dose isn’t correct, chances are you’ll develop irritation and need to discontinue. First, check the type and percentage. Check out my guide to choosing a Retinoid for your skin type.
- Breakouts can happen with acne prone skin in the first 2-4 weeks of retinization. Usually the breakouts aren't severe and they go away fast if you don’t pick at them. If this happens, use the ice cleansing method morning and night to help calm the inflammation and bring fresh oxygen (healing) to the area. Make sure you are using a moisturizer everyday, especially after cleansing the skin. If you have persistent acne you made need to use benzoyl peroxide first to normalize your skin.
- For non-sensitive, combination or oily skin start with Chart 1A. For sensitive or dry skin begin with Chart 1B. If you are using a prescription retinoid start with Chart 1B. Especially if you are using a higher percentage of .05% or .1%. When I was working under a physician and sold Retin-A, I rarely prescribed more than .025% to a first time user. The exception being extremely oily and thick skin.
Always a Retinoid in the evening. Follow the chart for best results. If you have very sensitive skin you can repeat week 1 and 2 for 4-6 weeks so your skin will slowly acclimate. This ensures even the most sensitive skin can use a retinoid. You may not be able to use a retinol every night. You’ll still see benefits if you use the retinol every other night. Less is more when it comes to retinoid usage. I often take one day off every week to allow my skin to rest. If you plan on starting with Retinyl Palmitate you don't need to acclimate as this is a storage form of retinol and does not cause irritation when using the lowest dose.
Always use a small amount, about the size of a pea, especially tretinoin. Retinoids are very concentrated and don't require a lot of product. Begin application with fingertips, dot a small amount on forehead, outer cheeks, chin, and top of nose. Stay on the outside edge of the face. Massage into the skin with fingertips. Apply a moisturizer. A basic inexpensive moisturizer like CeraVe will work fine. If you apply directly around the mouth and sides of nose you will most likely experience the side effects previously mentioned. Another tip is to put a thin layer of vaseline around the nose and upper lip, then apply your retinoid, followed by moisturizer everywhere.