Retinoids Types and How to Use them Effectively

Retinoids are concentrated forms of Vitamin A, and they are among the very few substances that have actually been proven to work against the effects of skin aging, as well as other skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis.

If you’ve started to worry about fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging your skin might begin to show as the years go by, then you should definitely take a look at the benefits of retinoids for the skin, as they may be the perfect solution for you to maintain your youthful looks.

You need to be careful when it comes to using various forms of retinoids, as they are very powerful substances and may cause undesired effects if they are not applied properly. There are many over-the-counter skin care products that contain retinoids and they may be gentler than the medical grade options, but you should still be mindful of the instructions on the labels in order to avoid any irritation or other side-effects.

The best way to start enjoying the benefits of retinoids is to see your dermatologist and learn all about your skin type and the conditions you may have. You’ll then know what type of skin care routine you should adopt. Retinoids can have amazing effects, but high concentrations should be used with caution.


Retinol is famous for its anti-aging properties, which makes it the most popular ingredient among retinoids. What makes our skin age is the lack of collagen; the production of this protein in our bodies is terminated once we reach a certain age, and that’s when fine lines and wrinkles usually start to show. Well, retinol protects the collagen in your body by preventing matrix metalloproteinases from occurring, and thus, it keeps your skin cells young and moisturized.

After retinyl palmitate, retinol is the least powerful form of retinoids. However, it’s very potent if used properly and dermatologists advise to use it only during the night and to apply it in thin layers. You can apply retinol creams during the day as well, but only if you combine it with sunscreen; the usage of this retinoid makes your skin extra-sensitive to sunlight.

You should also keep in mind that retinol can cause side-effects such as redness and irritation. Women who are expecting or breastfeeding should stay away from this substance because it’s unhealthy for the baby and can cause different defects.


What makes tretinoin so powerful goes beyond its anti-aging potential; it has a very positive effect on skin conditions such as acne and photodamage. This form of retinoids, also known as all-trans retinoic acid, is a combination of the carboxylic acid group on the one side and a beta-ionone ring on the other, which are bound by a polyunsaturated carbon chain. Being one of the strongest retinoids, tretinoin can’t be found over the counter; you will need a prescription in order to purchase it.


When you have a severe acne condition and no other medication can help you solve the problem, isotretinoin is what you need. Acne is caused by the extra production of sebum – this type of retinoid affects the source of the problem and decreases the release of this oil.

However, before you start applying it to your skin, it’s necessary to consult your pharmacist or dermatologist because only an expert can provide you with proper instructions. Usually, patients are instructed to take isotretinoin capsules twice a day for four to six months.


Being the most powerful among retinoids in the group, tazarotene should be used with caution. Considering the fact that this cream can affect other skin conditions as well, you should follow the precise instructions that your medical expert gave you in order to avoid any damage.

If you’re expecting or breastfeeding, if you have allergies or other skin problems, or if your skin is very sensitive when exposed to sunlight, you shouldn’t be using this retinoid.

However, if none of the things we’ve mentioned is a problem for you, tazarotene can be very helpful when it comes to getting rid of acne or psoriasis. This cream is meant of external use only and it should be applied in very thin layers on skin that’s clean and dry.


A gentler form of Vitamin A is retinaldehyde, which is available over the counter. What makes this type of retinoid popular is that it is quite effective; it takes only one conversion for your body to turn retinaldehyde into retinoic acid which is actually what your skin needs in order to iron out the manifestation of aging and make wrinkles disappear. In addition, this powerful anti-aging agent is also helpful when it comes to other skin condition such as acne.


Another member of the retinoids family is adapalene and its primary use is the treatment of acne. It works by speeding up the process necessary for you skin to heal when pimples appear by encouraging skin development and having a mighty calming effect on inflammation.

If you have other skin issues like burnt areas, or if you’re highly sensitive to sun in general, you should stay away from this medication and instead go with a gentler version of retinoids.

Retinyl Palmitate

This type of retinoid is a combination of retinol and a substance usually used for cleansing – palmitic acid. In this group, this is the weakest one, but if you find a product that contains this form of retinoids in high concentration, it will manifest results similar to retinol.

The general problem with this retinoid form is that it’s bound to a fatty acid, because retinyl palmitate has a higher density. This wouldn’t be an issue if you have a clear insight regarding the percentage of concentration of the retinol, but it is usually not indicated on the package.

Now that you’ve learned all about the different kinds of retinoids and the most common uses for each type, I can understand if you are still unsure about which approach is actually right for your skin. It’s therefore important for you to consult a medical professional to find out exactly what kind of retinoid-based treatment you should go for – if any – because while you may be able to identify the appropriate version of the Vitamin A compound that you’d need, you’re still going to have to go through a guessing game to figure out the right concentration of the substance and the frequency of application. So, to avoid having to waste time trying out various treatments or suffer through unwanted side-effects, pay a visit to your dermatologist first.

The most important thing you need to keep in mind about retinoids is that they increase your sensitivity to sun damage, so you’ll be advised to either apply your treatment at night or use a sunscreen product if you’re applying it during the day.

If you do decide to start a retinoid-based treatment, you’ll certainly see some improvements – but the best results will come when your lifestyle is also healthy, meaning you should eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly and get rid of harmful habits such as smoking, as all of these factors significantly influence the way your skin looks and how you feel in general.

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