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Not All Retinoids are Created Equal

Sarah Yousuff

Product Spotlight: EvolveMD Retinol Smoothing Serum and Retinol Treatment Pads

How are the types of retinoids different?

The difference between retinoids and retinol is a case where similar is not the same. The simplest way to distinguish the two is to say that retinoids require a prescription while retinols can be purchased over the counter (OTC). Retinoid based skincare products are worth understanding not just because they are widely available but because of their proven ability in clinical tests to tighten pores, prevent and reverse UVA/B damage, reduce wrinkles, increase blood flow in skin, fight acne, increase cell turnover, boost your collagen and even skin tone.

To clear away the confusion you need to understand how retinoids do their work. Your skin can immediately use retinoic acid; the stuff that gets you all those wonderful results. Your skin can ONLY use retinoids that are either purely retinoic acid or can be converted to it. Retinol is not retinoic acid. Your skin has to do some work to convert retinol into retinaldehyde which is then converted into retinoic acid which your skin can use.

Many OTC products claim to have retinoid effects (e.g. "age defying") but they haveretinyl palmitate in them (often marked as "Vitamin A"). Retinyl palmitate is weaker than retinol. Every time you add a conversion you weaken the effect and increase the uncertainty of how much retinoic acid will be available to your skin.

Deciding on which type of retinoid and which percentage strength is best for you will depend on how your skin tolerates the retinoid. Generally, you go with the strongest retinoid you can tolerate with the least amount of irritation, even if that retinoid is considered weak.

Our Evolve MD Retinol Smoothing Serum and Pads are retinol products, so they are in the middle as far as strength. These products are an excellent option for those who find that a prescription product such as Retin-A is too irritating for them. 

To discuss further what may be the best choice for you, please call our office at 704-643-2205 to schedule an appointment with one of our clinical staff.

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Meet the surgeons: Dr. Donald Sudy and Dr. Sarah Yousuff