Prescription-strength retinoids (better known by brand names like Retin-A, Tazorac, Atralin, Ziana, etc.) and their over-the-counter cousin retinol (available in products like Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream and Neutrogena Healthy Skin Night Cream) may well be the most recommended products in the dermatological arsenal.
OK, I don't have statistics on this one - but I don't have a single colleague who wouldn't back me up on the wonders of retinoids! If you're not using one, though, and still need a little convincing, consider these excellent reasons to check out what you're missing:
1. Sure, just about every new facial cream these days claims to improve wrinkles - but retinoids are the only type of topical cream proven to do just that. Retinoids stimulate your skin to generate collagen and hyaluronic acid, two of the main components of your dermis, which give skin firmness and fullness.
But you don't have to take my word for it: In a study published in 2007, led by doctors at the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, 0.4% retinol (a concentration you can even find in many over-the-counter products) was applied to 36 subjects with a mean age of 87 up to 3 times per week. After 24 weeks, the improvement to retinol-treated skin was dramatic, and clearly visible to the naked eye.
2. While retinoids are stimulating skin to produce more collage and hyaluronic acid, they're also slowing the age-related loss of those crucial skin components. That means they're simultaneously preventing lines and wrinkles that haven't yet formed.
3. Of course, there's more to great skin than the absence of lines and wrinkles, and retinoids can also improve a variety of other skin concerns. Let's start with increased radiance: Retinoids are powerful exfoliators, meaning that they help slough off the dead skins cells on skin's surface. In so doing, they smooth skin's texture and reveal younger, healthier cells - leaving you positively glowing.
4. By speeding your skin's natural cell turnover, retinoids can also help fade patches of hyperpigmentation. Sun damage, conditions like melasma, and even minor cuts and bug bites can leave behind dark patches on the skin. Once the cause of that hyperpigmentation is eliminated, it can still take a while for dark patches to disappear naturally. Retinoids, however, will speed up the process by which skin replaces itself, hastening the return of a healthy, even skin tone.
5. Retinoids are also highly effective in decreasing oil production - in fact, they first came to the attention of the dermatological community for the treatment of acne. (Lo and behold, dermatologists found over the years that the skin of patients they'd been treating for acne had fewer wrinkles and dark spots than untreated skin. That's when retinoids' anti-aging benefits began receiving greater attention.) Because they also exfoliate the dead skin cells that clog pores and contribute to acne, retinoids offer a two-pronged attack against breakouts.
6. Finally, retinoids are the best way to get the most bang for your skin-care buck. Yes, a prescription for a retinoid or a good over-the-counter retinol product is an investment - but these wonder products are also the best way to prepare your skin for every other product you use. By sloughing off that top layer of dead skin cells, retinoids prepare skin to better absorb every other skin care ingredient you use.
One final note: As you can see, I'm a big fan of retinoids - but not for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding; they should not use these ingredients.
Wishing you great skin!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Baumann is author of the best-selling book, " The Skin Type Solution." To learn more about her revolutionary skin typing system, visit her Web site, SkinTypeSolutions.com.
All of Dr. Baumann's recommended skin care products are available online, and a portion of proceeds goes to The Dermatology Foundation.