Plastic Surgery & Cosmetic Center

Retinoids: The Secret to Supple Skin and A Happy You

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Retinoids: The Secret to Supple Skin and A Happy You


One of the most common questions my patients ask me is “What do you use on your skin?” I respond with the same answer I’ve given women and men for over 15 years: Retinoids.

Retinoids are a large family of medications most commonly known by the brand name of Retin A™. It’s a medication many of us used for acne as teenagers (and is still used for the same purpose in some instances). In addition to its acne-battling qualities, retinoids are also one of the most researched and best-kept beauty secrets in dermatology.

Retinoids are one of the only compounds we know that actually build new collagen in the skin. Collagen decreases the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Now, we do have certain lasers that can accomplish this, but the daily use of retinoids as a maintenance therapy can be used for years to replenish collagen. The treatment decreases the size and appearance of the pores and improves the overall texture and smoothness of the skin. One of the most important benefits of retinoids is to serve as a mild skin exfoliate, which allows other medications and anti-aging products to penetrate deeper while keeping the skin fresh and rejuvenated.

Retinoids come in a few different forms: retinol, retinaldehyde, and retinal. Retinol is the weakest form and is sold over the counter in many of the most popular anti-aging creams ranging in price from $20-50 for a three-month supply. A quick scan of the ingredients at the local pharmacy and department store will indicate which products include retinol. This over-the-counter form does not cause much skin irritation or exfoliation and offers mild benefits.

A stronger form, retinal, can be dispensed by a physician with a special license, or by prescription at the pharmacy. This form is stronger and causes significant irritation in mature skin with less oil. Special formulations have been made by pharmaceutical companies with moisturizers to counter this drying effect. Even with the moisturizers, most adult women can only use these prescription products two to three times per week before the skin becomes overly dry. The prescription form ranges from $60-220, depending on whether you buy the generic or brand name forms with the moisturizers.

The third form, retinaldehyde, is sold through the physician’s offices. I use this treatment and it’s the one we carry at Janiga MDs. It is converted in the body to the stronger form of retinal as needed, allowing for great results without as much irritation as the prescription strength. This variety ranges in from $50-90 for a three-month supply.

It is important to understand that the prescription form is not indicated for pregnant or nursing women. With this understanding, I do not recommend any variation of retinoids for women carrying or nursing a child.

I recommend women use sunscreen, an antioxidant, and in some cases a bleaching cream to help skin retain its wrinkle-free elasticity. But if I could suggest only one product to apply in conjunction with sunscreen, it would be a retinoid as I believe – and studies support this – that it offers the most benefit for healthy, smooth and fresh skin. I have used them myself for over 20 years.

If you’d like to learn more about retinoids, please feel free to email me or call the office at 775-398-4600. As a physician and a retinoid disciple, I am able to provide you insight from both sides of the proverbial fence.

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