Retinol to the rescue: Top serums, according to a dermatologist

Our very own Dr. Benjamin Barankin was recently quoted in the National Post discussing the powerful benefits of retinol.

If you have a skincare problem or concern, chances are there is a product or more specifically an ingredient to combat it, you probably just don’t know it. 

Over the past few years, there has been much more transparency around skincare ingredients, however, the information presented is often very surface-level. Retinol is one of those ingredients that is known to be great for the skin, but why is that and what does it do?

I had a chance to ask Dr. Benjamin Barankin, a Toronto dermatologist, Medical Director & Founder of Toronto Dermatology Centre just this and based on his answers I’ve learned that retinol or retinoids are “the best studied topical therapy for anti-aging”. “It causes faster turnover of the skin’s cells and boosts collagen resulting in reduced fine lines and wrinkles,” he said. Apart from the anti-aging benefits, the ingredient is also beneficial for preventing and treating acne and acne scars. Additionally, it is beneficial for evening out skin tone, pigmentation and smoothing the skin’s texture and giving it a nice glow.

While this all sounds great and enticing and according to Dr. Barankin, most people will benefit from retinol, there are some limitations to using this ingredient, which Dr. Barankin breaks down in our Q&A below. Now, if you do fit the criteria for being able to add this into your routine, make sure to check out our top retinol products before running to the store.

Q&A with Dr. Benjamin BarankinQ: What is retinol?

A: A retinol or retinoid is a vitamin-A-based product. It can be found over the counter (retinol), “medical-grade” strength retinol at dermatologist offices, and/or stronger versions by prescription (retin-A/tretinoin/adapalene/tazarotene/trifarotene).

Q: What does it do?

A: It is the best-studied topical therapy for anti-aging. It also treats and prevents acne, improves acne scars and gives the skin a nice glow. It causes faster turnover of the skin’s cells and boosts collagen resulting in reduced fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps even out skin tone and pigmentation and smoothens skin texture.

Q: Can everyone use it?

A: Most people will benefit from a retinol/retinoid, but the selection of which product and concentration is used should be carefully guided by your dermatologist, otherwise there can be dryness, irritation, redness and peeling to deal with. We generally advise to not use these products during pregnancy or breastfeeding because we know the effects of oral retinoids on a fetus are dangerous, and so out of an abundance of caution, we advise skipping the topical usage as well during pregnancy.

Patients with sensitive skin or rosacea should either avoid or use the mildest form possible. We often use it at night (since it can make the skin more sensitive to sun) and advise sun protection/sunscreen/hat in the mornings. We generally wouldn’t bother using it below age 10, but then for acne treatment and prevention and scar and pigmentation reduction during the teenage years, followed by anti-aging benefits starting in your 20s and pretty much for your entire life would be worthwhile. Over time, you want to try to increase the strength where possible to get even better results, while being careful to avoid irritation (just take a break for one to three days or be better about moisturizing).

Q: Is there a limit on how much should be used?

A: A thin layer should be applied, and in some cases (winter, people prone to dry skin or eczema or sensitive skin), we advise applying moisturizer underneath or on top of the retinoid to improve tolerability.

Q: Is it only effective while using, or does it carry continued benefits even after using?

A: It is beneficial while you use it and for a few weeks or sometimes months after as far as acne and anti-aging, although there can be long-term benefits when treating hyperpigmentation or melasma, as well as for acne scarring.

Credit: By Sidra Sheikh, National Post

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