The Skincare Benefits of Niacinamide

One of the ultimate skincare workhorses, niacinamide is an ingredient that benefits all skin types and can easily be incorporated into your skincare routine. Here’s the lowdown on this potent multitasker.

What is it and what does it do?

Niacinamide is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3. It is essential in a balanced diet, but also has significant benefits in skincare, and for good reason. Niacinamide is used for its potent anti-inflammatory properties as well as its ability to regulate the production of oils, strengthen the skin barrier, improve microcirculation, tackle hyperpigmentation, and reduce damage from sun exposure.

Sounds too good to be true, but all of these benefits are not just marketing speak – there are a range of studies that reveal the potential niacinamide holds within the cosmetics industry. In fact, a double blind study in 2013 showed the ingredient to be just as effective at treating moderate acne as topical antibiotics. While there is still much research to be done, the results so far support the claims that niacinamide is a powerhouse ingredient.


Niacinamide is shown to reduce triglycerides (a type of fatty acid) which then leads to less production of sebum – the skin’s natural oils.  Pores can become blocked when too much sebum is created, leading to congested skin and acne. By controlling and balancing the skin’s oils, niacinamide is able to minimise breakouts. The ingredient has also shown great anti-inflammatory properties that help fight back against blemishes.


Trials have shown significant improvement in hyperpigmentation, roughness, redness and the effects of rosacea when formulas containing 2-5% niacinamide were applied topically. Not only that, but the ingredient was able to block the cells responsible for these skin reactions and inhibited them by 35-68%. The changes were visible in just four to eight weeks, meaning this is an ingredient that shows real results in very little time.

Skin Aging

Niacinamide has been shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin texture, and boost elasticity when applied topically. Niacinamide was recorded as having a 54% increase in collagen production, and the research done so far demonstrates that a formula containing 5% niacinamide can lead to visible changes in the skin.


Significant increases in softness, hydration, and overall suppleness have been recorded in various tests, and niacinamide has a clear impact on the skin’s barrier. Over four weeks of applying a formula with 2% niacinamide, it was shown that 96% of people tested demonstrated a positive change in the functioning of the outermost layer of the skin. The study proved there was less water loss when using niacinamide (meaning fewer cases of dehydrated skin) as well as an increase in fatty acids and ceramides – two parts of the skin that are essential for maintaining moisture.

Is it right for me?

Niacinamide is suitable for pretty much all skin types thanks to its multi-tasking benefits, though do always remember to patch test before applying a new product.  The ingredient has been proven to be more gentle than other skin treatments that target hyperpigmentation, acne and fine lines, so if you are looking for a formula suited for sensitive skin, this is the one to try.

Niacinamide is uniquely compatible with other active ingredients, so there should not be any conflicts when it comes to layering your skincare products. 

Which Radiance Beauva’s product contain niacinamide?

B35 Serum contains 4% niacinamide

Reasons to Add Vitamin C Serum to Your Skin Care Routine

What’s a vitamin C serum?

If you have your head in the skin care game, you’ve likely heard of vitamin C serums.

Vitamin C is touted as one of the best anti-aging ingredients on the market — and the key to maintaining a smooth, even, and glowy complexion.

Although you’re probably getting vitamin C in your diet, there’s no way to guarantee it’s going straight to your skin. Using serums and other topical products is the most direct way to reap these benefits.


There are plenty of benefits to using vitamin C on your skin. They include:

  • safe for most skin types
  • hydration
  • brightening
  • reduce redness
  • reduce hyperpigmentation
  • reduces the appearance of under-eye circles
  • promotes collagen production
  • may help prevent sagging
  • may protect against sun damage
  • may soothe sunburns
  • may help wound healing

1. It’s safe for most skin types

Vitamin C has an excellent safety profileTrusted Source. Most people can use topical vitamin C for an extended period of time without experiencing any adverse reactions.

In rare casesTrusted Source, people who have hypersensitive skin may experience minor irritation.

2. It’s hydrating

According to a 2017 research review, most healthy skin and organs contain high concentrations of vitamin C, suggesting that vitamin C accumulates in the body from circulation.

Review authors noted that topical vitamin C penetrates the skin best in the form of ascorbic acid.

Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, another vitamin C derivative used in skin care, has been shown to have a hydrating effect on skin, according to a 2013 reviewTrusted Source. It decreases transepidermal water loss (TEWL), allowing your skin to better retain moisture.

According to a 2019 studyTrusted Source, an antipollution, antioxidant serum containing Deschampsia antarctica extract, ferulic acid, and vitamin C reduced TEWL by 19 percent, improving the skin barrier function.

3. It’s brightening

Vitamin C can help fade pigmentation (more on this below!) and smooth the skin’s surface to reduce dullness. This gives skin a youthful glow.

A 2017 reviewTrusted Source notes that vitamin C application has been shown to impede melanin production, the pigment responsible for skin color. This can help fade dark spots and general dullness that prevent you from getting that dewy glow.

4. It helps reduce redness and even out your skin tone

Vitamin C has also been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory agent through its antioxidant capacity, according to a 2015 reviewTrusted Source. This means it soothes your skin and reduces puffiness, letting your face shine through.

Vitamin C’s anti-inflammatory action may helpTrusted Source:

  • neutralize free radicals that cause oxidative damage
  • optimize the immune system to discourage inflammatory immune response

The anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin C can also help reduce redness, which in turn can create a more even complexion. The combined reduction of dark spots, redness, and irritation make for a clear, smooth skin tone.

5. It helps fade hyperpigmentation

Since it impedes melanin production, vitamin C can actually fade hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation — including sunspots, age spots, and melasma — occurs when melanin is overproduced in certain areas of the skin. It can also happen in areas where acne has healed.

Vitamin C inhibits melanin synthesisTrusted Source by downregulating the activity of an enzyme known as tyrosinase. It’s widely used in dermatology for depigmentation of hyperpigmented spots on the skin.

It’s also been used for treatment of gingival melanin hyperpigmentation (gum hyperpigmentation), though studies are limited.

6. It reduces the appearance of under-eye circles

Vitamin C serums can help smooth out fine lines by plumping and hydrating the under-eye area.

Although vitamin C is more effective at reducing overall redness, some people say it can help alleviate discoloration associated with under-eye circles.

According to a small 2009 studyTrusted Source, vitamin C in the form of 10 percent sodium ascorbate was found to improve dark circles of the lower eyelid after 6 months of use by thickening the eyelid dermis and concealing dark coloration due to congested blood.

Some other ways to help get rid of under-eye bags include using a cold compress and adding retinol to your skin care routine.

7. It promotes collagen production

Collagen is a naturally occurring protein that depletes over time. Lower levels of collagen can lead to fine lines and wrinkles.

Vitamin C is well known for boosting collagen productionTrusted Source through the process of collagen synthesis. In fact, collagen synthesis can’t happen without vitamin C.

This is because vitamin C is the essential cofactor for the two enzymes required for collagen synthesis:

  • prolyl hydroxylase, which stabilizes the collagen molecule
  • lysyl hydroxylase, which provides structural strength

8. It may help prevent skin sagging

Collagen production is tied to skin elasticity and firmness. When your collagen levels begin to drop, your skin may begin to sag.

Applying a vitamin C serum may boost collagen production, resulting in an overall tightening effect, reports a 2017 reviewTrusted Source. This is true for sagging due to natural aging, oxidative stress damage, or extreme weight loss.

This means it can help reduce the appearance of sagging skin, making your skin look firmer and more toned.

9. It protects against sun damage

Excessive exposure to oxidant stress via pollutants or UV irradiation is associated with depleted vitamin C levels in the skin. Vitamin C levels are also lower in aged or photodamaged skin, though researchers are unsure whether this is a cause or effect.

Sun damage is caused by molecules called free radicals. These are atoms with a missing electron. Free radicalsTrusted Source search for other atoms from which they can “steal” an electron — and this can lead to significant damage to the skin.

Vitamin C is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect healthy skin cells by “giving” these free radicals an electron, rendering them harmless.

10. It may help soothe sunburns

In addition to minimizing redness, vitamin C accelerates cell turnover, according to a 2013 reviewTrusted Source. This replaces the damaged cells with healthy new ones.

Topical application of vitamin C, in combination with vitamin E and other compounds, has also been shown to reduce injury due to UV irradiation (aka sunburn), notes the above 2013 review. This combination also decreases the inflammation induced by excessive UV exposure.

It’s important to note that researchers found that vitamin C alone is only minimally effective at reducing sunburn on its own.

11. It generally helps boost wound healing

Given its effects on sunburn, it should be no surprise that vitamin C application can speed up overall wound healing. Healthy wound healing reduces your risk of inflammation, infection, and scarring.

A 2017 reviewTrusted Source found that vitamin C supplementation had a positive effect on gene expression in human skin fibroblasts, including:

  • increased mitogenic stimulation, or cell proliferation
  • increased cell motility, or the spontaneous movement of a cell from one location to another by consumption of energy
  • faster repair of damaged DNA bases

This is in part because wound healing is associated with collagen formation, and vitamin C boosts collagen production.

How to use a vitamin C serum

Although topical vitamin C is generally well tolerated, all skin products have the potential to cause side effects. You should always do a patch test to assess your risk of allergic reaction. Here’s how:

  1. Select a small area of skin that’s easy to conceal, like your forearm.
  2. Apply a small amount of product and wait 24 hours.
  3. If no side effects occur, you can apply to your face. Discontinue use if you develop a rash, redness, or hives.

When it’s time for a full application, follow the instructions on the product’s label.

Vitamin C serum is typically applied once or twice per day. A good rule of thumb is to cleanse, tone, apply vitamin C serum, and then moisturize.

It can be safely used with other active ingredients, although using alongside niacinamide may make vitamin C less effective.

According to a 2020 reviewTrusted Source, a combination of tyrosine, zinc, and vitamin C was shown to increase the bioavailability of vitamin C 20 times than just vitamin C alone.

Potential side effects and risks

Although irritation is unlikely, you should always do a patch test before full application. This is the only way to determine how your skin will react to the serum.

If your skin is especially sensitive, avoid products with L-ascorbic acid. Products with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate may be less likely to cause irritation.

Everything You Need to Know About AHAs

What are AHAs?

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are a group of plant and animal-derived acids used in a variety of skincare products. These include daily anti-aging products, such as serums, toners, and creams, as well as occasional concentrated treatments via chemical peels.

There are seven types of AHAs commonly used in products available throughout the skincare industry. These include:

  • citric acid (from citrus fruits)
  • glycolic acid (from sugar cane)
  • hydroxycaproic acid (from royal jelly)
  • hydroxycaprylic acid (from animals)
  • lactic acid (from lactose or other carbohydrates)
  • malic acid (from fruits)
  • tartaric acid (from grapes)

Research on the uses and efficacy of AHAs is extensive. However, out of all the AHAs available, glycolic and lactic acids are the most promisingTrusted Source and well researched. These two AHAs are also less likelyTrusted Source to cause irritation. Because of this, most over-the-counter (OTC) AHAs contain either glycolic or lactic acid.

AHAs are primarily used to exfoliate. They can also help:

  • promote collagen and blood flow
  • correct discoloration from scars and age spots
  • improve appearance of surface lines and wrinkles
  • prevent acne breakouts
  • brighten your complexion
  • increase product absorption

1. They help exfoliate

AHAs are primarily used to exfoliate your skin. In fact, this is the foundation for all of the other benefits AHAs offer.

Exfoliation refers to a process where the skin cells on the surface shed off. This helps remove dead skin cells but also makes way for new skin cell generation.

As you age, your natural skin cell cycle slows down, which can make dead skin cells build up. When you have too many dead skin cells, they can accumulate and make your complexion look dull.

Dead skin cell accumulation can also enhance other underlying skin issues, such as:

  • wrinkles
  • age spots
  • acne

Still, not all AHAs have the same exfoliating power. The amount of exfoliation is determined by the type of AHA you use. As a rule of thumb, the more AHAs contained in a product, the more powerful the exfoliating effects.

3. They help promote collagen production

Collagen is a protein-rich fiber that helps keep your skin plump and smooth. As you age, these fibers break down. Sun damage may also accelerate collagen destruction. This can result in sallow, sagging skin.

Collagen itself is in the middle layer of your skin (dermis). When the upper layer (epidermis) is removed, products such as AHAs can go to work on the dermis. AHAs may help promote collagen production by destroying old collagen fibers to make way for new ones.

4. They help reduce the appearance of surface lines and wrinkles

AHAs are known for their anti-aging effects, and surface lines are no exception. One 2015 studyTrusted Source reported that 9 out of 10 volunteers who used AHAs over a three-week period experienced significant improvements in overall skin texture.

Still, it’s important to remember that AHAs work for surface lines and wrinkles only, not deeper wrinkles. Professional fillers from a doctor, as well as other procedures such as laser resurfacing, are the only methods that work for deep wrinkles.

5. They promote blood flow to skin

AHAs have anti-inflammatory properties that can help promote blood flow to the skin. This can help correct pale, dull complexions. Proper blood flow also ensures that skin cells get the necessary nutrients needed via oxygen-rich red blood cells.

6. They help minimize and correct discoloration

Your risk for skin discoloration increases with age. For example, flat brown spots, known as age spots (lentigines), may develop as a result of sun exposure. They tend to develop on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun most often, such as your chest, hands, and face.

Discoloration may also result from:

  • melasma
  • post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
  • acne scars

AHAs promote skin cell turnover. New skin cells are evenly pigmented. In theory, long-term use of AHAs may reduce skin discoloration by encouraging the old, discolored skin cells to turn over.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends glycolic acid for discoloration.

7. They help treat and prevent acne

You may be familiar with benzoyl peroxide and other acne-fighting ingredients for stubborn blemishes. AHAs may also help treat and prevent recurring acne.

Acne pimples occur when your pores are clogged with a combination of dead skin cells, oil (sebum), and bacteria. Exfoliating with AHAs can help loosen and remove the clog. Continued use may also prevent future clogs from forming.

AHAs may also reduce the size of enlarged pores, which are commonly seen in acne-prone skin. Skin cell turnover from exfoliating glycolic and lactic acids can even reduce acne scars. Some acne products also contain other AHAs, such as citric and malic acids, to help soothe inflamed skin.

And AHAs aren’t just for your face! You can use AHA products on other acne-prone areas, including your backside and chest.

It can take two to three months before you start to see significant acne improvements. It’s important to be patient while the products work to relieve acne over time. You also need to use the products consistently—skipping daily treatments makes it take longer for the ingredients to work.

8. They help increase product absorption

In addition to their own distinct benefits, AHAs can make your existing products work better by increasing their absorption into the skin.

For example, if you have too many dead skin cells, your daily moisturizer just sits on top without hydrating your new skin cells underneath. AHAs like glycolic acid can break through this layer of dead skin cells, enabling your moisturizer to hydrate your new skin cells more effectively.

How much AHA is needed?

As a rule of thumb, the FDATrusted Source recommends AHA products with an overall AHA concentration of less than 10 percent. This helps prevent side effects from AHAs.

You shouldn’t use products that are more than 15 percent AHA.

Daily use products — such as serum, toners, and moisturizers — contain lower AHA concentrations. For example, a serum or a toner might have a 5 percent AHA concentration.

Highly concentrated products, such as glycolic acid peels, are used less frequently to reduce your risk of side effects.

Are side effects possible?

If you’ve never used AHAs before, you may experience minor side effects while your skin adjusts to the product.

Temporary side effects may include:

  • burning
  • itching
  • blisters
  • dermatitis (eczema)

To reduce your risk of irritation, the Cleveland Clinic recommends using AHA products every other day. As your skin gets used to them, you can then start applying AHAs every day.

Also use extra caution when going out in the sun. The peeling effects of highly-concentrated AHAs may make your skin more sensitive to UV rays for up to one weekTrusted Source after use. You should wear sunscreen daily and reapply more frequently to prevent sunburn.

You should consult your doctor before use if you have:

  • freshly shaved skin
  • cuts or burns on your skin
  • rosacea
  • psoriasis
  • eczema

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also consult their doctor before use.

What’s the difference between an AHA and a BHA?

Unlike AHAs, BHAs are primarily derived from one source: salicylic acid. You may recognize salicylic acid as an acne-fighting ingredient, but this isn’t all it does.

Like AHAs, salicylic acid helps to exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells. This can help clear blackheads and whiteheads by unclogging pores made from trapped dead skin cells and oil in the hair follicles.

BHAs may be just as effective as AHAs for acne, texture improvements, and sun-related discoloration. Salicylic acid is also less irritating, which may be preferable if you have sensitive skin.

If you have more than one skin concern, you might experiment with both AHAs and BHAs, but you should approach with caution. AHAs may be more appropriate for age-related skin concerns, while BHAs might be best if you have sensitive, acne-prone skin. For the latter, you might consider using BHAs every day, such as a salicylic acid toner, and then use a weekly AHA-containing skin peel for deeper exfoliation.

When using multiple products for your skin, it’s important to incorporate them into your regimen gradually. Using too many AHAs, BHAs, and chemicals at once can cause irritation. In turn, this can make wrinkles, acne, and other skin concerns more noticeable.

The bottom line

If you’re looking for significant exfoliation, then AHAs may be the right products for you to consider. You can opt for daily exfoliation with AHA-containing serums, toners, and creams, or do a more intense peel treatment once or twice a week.

AHAs are among the most-researched beauty products because of their strong effects, but they aren’t for everyone. If you have preexisting skin conditions, talk to your dermatologist or skin care specialist first before trying these types of products. They can help you determine the best AHA for your skin type and skin care goals.

Tretinoin: Benefits, uses, side effects, and how it compares to retinol

Tretinoin can effectively treat acne, according to studies. However, some people, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, may wish to choose similar drugs that treat acne with fewer harmful side effects.

This article looks at what tretinoin is, its uses, benefits, effectiveness, side effects, how it compares to retinol and adapalene, and what to discuss with doctors before taking this medication.

What is it?

Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A, known as a retinoid. It is a common ingredient in prescription-strength acne treatments.

In addition to fighting acne, it may also help improve fine lines and dark spots resulting from sun damage.

Tretinoin is the generic name for several synthetic forms of vitamin A, such as:

  • Atralin
  • Avita
  • Refissa
  • Renova
  • Retin-A


Tretinoin comes in topical forms, such as gels and creams, or as an oral medication called isotretinoin.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves topical forms of tretinoin for treating acne vulgaris.

The FDA also approves the use of oral tretinoin, or isotretinoin, to treat severe nodular acne.


Tretinoin may provide the following benefits:

  • reducing the appearance of fine lines and dark spots
  • improving skin texture
  • reducing the frequency and severity of acne outbreaks
  • clearing up existing acne

Retinoids, such as tretinoin, stimulate the generation of skin cells, meaning they grow and divide quicker. This accelerates the removal of dead skin cells and keeps the pores clear of bacteria and other irritants.

According to a 2016 review Trusted Source, topical tretinoin increases collagen production and stimulates skin cell production. Both of these effects may help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

A 2017 review Trusted Source states that tretinoin also blocks several of the inflammatory pathways involved in acne, which may help clear up existing acne lesions and prevent future acne outbreaks.


Scientists have widely studied tretinoin for treating acne and sun-damaged skin.

One 2017 reviewTrusted Source cites clinical evidence that supports the use of topical tretinoin peels for sun-damaged skin.

According to a 2019 studyTrusted Source, a lotion containing 0.05% tretinoin effectively reduced inflammatory and noninflammatory acne lesions in adolescents aged 12–18 years.

Another reviewTrusted Source found that topical and oral tretinoin are effective treatments for inflammatory acne in adults and adolescents.

Tretinoin also appears to be effective when used alone or in combination with other acne treatments, such as

  • azelaic acid
  • benzoyl peroxide
  • clindamycin

Side effects

Despite its effectiveness, tretinoin can have side effects, such as:

  • red, dry, or peeling skin
  • burning or itching near the application site
  • skin that feels warm to the touch
  • lightening of the skin at the application site

Tretinoin and other retinoids can also thin the skin’s outer layer, leaving it more vulnerable to sun damage.

Healthcare professionals recommend people using retinoids wear sunscreen whenever they go outside.

Oral tretinoin may cause the following side effectsTrusted Source:

  • headache
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • bone pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • changes in weight
  • chest discomfort
  • anxiety
  • dizziness
  • symptoms of depression
  • arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat

Oral tretinoin can also lead to congenital disabilities. As a result, doctors do not recommend this medication for those planning on becoming pregnant or people who are currently pregnant or breastfeeding.

How tretinoin compares to retinol and adapalene

Tretinoin is one of many retinoids. Two other well-known retinoids that promote skin cell and collagen production are retinol and adapalene.


Unlike tretinoin, a synthetic retinoid, retinol is a natural derivative of vitamin A. It is also gentler and less irritating than tretinoin. As a result, retinol may be better suited for people with sensitive skin.

In a 2015 studyTrusted Source of 120 women, tretinoin and retinol were equally useful for improving:

  • wrinkles
  • pores
  • uneven pigmentation
  • sun-damaged skin

However, fewer participants in the retinol treatment group reported adverse side effects than those using tretinoin.


Adapalene is a third-generation retinoid used in topical acne treatments.

According to the National Library of Medicine, this medication is equally as effective as tretinoin. However, adapalene has a better safety profile.

Adapalene is available as an over-the-counter (OTC) gel called DifferinTrusted Source.


Tretinoin is a synthetic retinoid derived from vitamin A. People commonly use it to treat acne, reduce wrinkles, and improve the skin’s texture and appearance.

The medication is available as a topical cream or gel, as well as an oral tablet. Tretinoin-based acne treatments also require a doctor’s prescription.

While clinical studies show that tretinoin is an effective treatment for acne and sun-damaged skin, it can trigger side effects, including:

  • skin irritation
  • burning
  • digestive issues

However, people can discuss the risks and benefits of the medication with their doctors.

Retinol and adapalene are two milder OTC retinoids that are available. These medications may be better suited for people with sensitive skin or those who have had adverse reactions to tretinoin.

Do retinoids really reduce wrinkles?

Topical vitamin A–based drugs called retinoids—the most used and most studied anti-aging compounds— may reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Tretinoin, under the brand name Retin-A, was the first retinoid. It was used as an acne treatment in the 1970s, but researchers later discovered that it also fades actinic keratosis spots, evens pigmentation, and speeds the turnover of superficial skin cells.

Retinoids reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen. They also stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin, which improves skin color. Additional benefits include fading age spots and softening rough patches of skin. However, it takes three to six months of regular use before improvements in wrinkles are apparent—and the best results take six to 12 months.

Because retinoids can cause skin dryness and irritation, doctors often recommend using them only every other day at first and then gradually working up to nightly applications. Wear a sunscreen during the day, because retinoids increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. These drugs must be used continually to maintain their benefits.

Tretinoin (Retin-A, generic), tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), and adapalene (Differin) are prescription retinoids. Adapalene is also available over the counter (in a 0.1% formulation versus the 0.3% prescription version). Other retinoids are undergoing clinical trials.

In addition, several over-the-counter products containing retinoids, such as retinol, are available. Because they’re not as strong (and thus less irritating), they are not as effective in reducing wrinkles as tretinoin; but they do improve the appearance of photo-aged skin. Tretinoin can be used with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) for additional skin-smoothing effects.

Facts to Know Before Applying Retinol to Your Skin

By now, you’ve likely heard how amazing retinoids are for the skin — and with good reason!

They’ve been proven in study after study Trusted Source to encourage cellular turnover, stimulate collagen Trusted Source, help treat acne Trusted Source, soften wrinkles Trusted Source, fade pigmentation, and give the skin an overall youthful glow. Their existence to the skin care industry is what the Queen is to the world: royalty.

But with so many benefits, it’s easy to let word of mouth travel further than the science.

Here are 13 myths about retinoids that we’ll clear up for you so you know exactly what you’re getting into with this holy grail ingredient.

1. All retinoids are the same

Retinoids are a huge family of compounds derived from vitamin A. There are actually several forms from over-the-counter to prescription strength in topical and oral medication form. Let’s understand the differences!

Over-the-counter (OTC) retinoids are most often found in serums, eye creams, and night moisturizers.

AvailableRetinoid typeWhat it does
OTCretinolhas fewer side effects than retinoic acid (prescription strength), it converts on the cellular level of the skin, thus taking several months to a year for visible results
OTCretinoid esters (retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate)weakest in the retinoid family, but a good starting point for beginners or sensitive skin types
OTCAdapalene (better known as Differin)slows the process of excessive growth in the lining of pores and desensitizes the skin to inflammation making it an ideal treatment for acne
prescription onlyretinoic acid (retin-A, or tretinoin)works significantly faster than retinol since no conversion in the skin needs to take place
prescription onlyIsotretinoin better known as Accutaneoral medication that’s prescribed for severe forms of acne and requires close supervision by a doctor

2. Retinoids thin the skin

This is commonly believed because one of the side effects when first starting the use of a retinoid is skin peeling.

Many assume their skin is thinning, but quite the opposite is true. Since retinoids stimulate collagen production, it actually helps to thicken the skin. This is beneficial because one of the natural signs of getting older is thinning of the skin.

3. Young people can’t use retinoids

The original intent of retinoids was actually used to treat acne and prescribed to many young people.

It wasn’t until the 1980sTrusted Source, when a study published the skin benefits — like softening fine lines and lightening hyperpigmentation — that retinoids got remarketed as “anti-aging.”

But there is no age restriction on the use of retinoids. Instead, it’s about what skin conditions are being treated. After sunscreen, it’s one of the best preventive anti-aging ingredients around.

4. Retinoids will make me more sensitive to the sun

Many people worry that the use of retinoids will make their skin more sensitive in the sun. Hold on to your seats — this is untrue.

Retinoids break down in the sun, making it unstable and less effective. This is why they’re sold in metal tubes or opaque containers and are recommended for use at night.

But retinoids have been studied extensively and have shown with most certainty that they don’t increase the risk of sunburn. However, that isn’t permission to go out in the sun without proper sun protection! It would be pretty counterproductive since much of extrinsic aging is due to photo damage.

5. You’ll see results in 4 to 6 weeks

Don’t we wish this was true? For over-the-counter retinol, it can take up to six months and with tretinoin up to three months for full results to be visible.

6: If you have peeling or redness, you should stop using the retinoid

With retinoids, it’s often a “worse-before-better” type of situation. Typical side effects include dryness, tightness, peeling, and redness — especially when first starting out.

These side effects usually subside after two to four weeks until the skin acclimates. Your skin will thank you later!

7. It must be used daily to see results

Often, daily use is the goal, but you’ll still reap the benefits by using it a few times a week, too. How fast the results happen also depend on the strength and type of retinoid.

8: The more you apply the better the results

Using too much of the product can often cause undesirable effects like peeling and dryness. The recommended amount is about a pea-sized drop for the entire face.

9. You should avoid applying retinoids around the eye area

Most people assume the delicate eye area is too sensitive for retinoid use. However, this is the area where wrinkles usually show up first and can benefit the most from the collagen-stimulating effects of retinoids.

If you’re sensitive around your eyes, you can always layer on an eye cream first followed by your retinoid.

10. Stronger percentages of retinoids will give you better or faster results

As far as strengths go, many think it’s best to just jump right into the strongest formula, believing it’s better or will provide a faster result. This usually isn’t the case and doing so can even have annoying side effects.

For retinoids, building a tolerance will create better results.

Think of it as if you took up running. You wouldn’t start with a marathon, would you? From over-the-counter to prescription strength, there are several delivery methods. What works well for one person may not another.

When getting a prescription from your doctor, they’ll help you decide the best percentage strength, formula, and frequency for your skin type and conditions.

11. Retinoids exfoliate the skin

This is a widely believed misconception. Since retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A, they’re actually considered antioxidants.

In addition, they’re a “cell communicating” ingredient. This means their job is to “talk” to skin cells and encourage healthier, younger cells making their way to the surface of the skin.

It’s easy to assume the skin is exfoliating itself since some of the side effects are peeling and flakiness. However, those side effects are actually a result of irritation and dryness until the skin acclimates, as retinoids don’t have the ability to clear or dissolve dead skin cells on their own.

12. Sensitive skin can’t tolerate retinoids

The reputation of retinoids is that they’re a “harsh” ingredient. Sure, they can be a little aggressive, but people with sensitive skin can still happily use them with just a little modification.

It’s best to start off cautiously with once or twice a week application. It’s often recommended that you either layer it on top of your moisturizer or mix together with your moisturizer.

13. Only prescription-strength retinoids provide results

There are many OTC retinoids that provide some really great results.

Maybe you’ve seen Differin (Adapalene) at your local drugstore which was only prescribed by doctors but is now being sold over-the-counter. Adapalene works slightly differently than retinol/retinoic acid. It slows the process of hyperkeratinization, or excessive growth in the lining of pores, and desensitizes the skin to inflammation.

Studies indicate that Adapalene has less irritating side effects than other retinoids which is why it’s so great for acne. If you’re dealing with acne and aging at the same time (which is common), Differin may be a great option for you.

Should you start using retinoids?

If you’re interested in treating or taking preventive measures for wrinkles, fine lines, pigmentation, scarring, and more, then your late 20s or early 30s is a great age to start with an over-the-counter retinol or even prescription-strength tretinoin.

It’s around this timeline when the body starts to produce less collagen, less rapidly than our earlier years. Of course it also depends on your lifestyle and how much sun damage you have accumulated in those years!

Thank you for your interest in Radiance Beauva's products !

Our products are currently distributed exclusively to clinics. Please provide your professional certification and local business license to receive the best agency policy.

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