Retinol-what is it?
Well, hello again to anyone curious enough about retinol to read this. Welcome back for another deep dive into the world of Retinol, Retinoids, Retinoic Acid and Tretinoin. I have been wanting to go deep on this subject for a while, but it's taken me awhile to get to it. I'm pretty familiar with retinol and the like, but I needed to of course do some further research. I've personally used retinol for a brief period which was around 2-3 months, and I will talk more about that later. I can't quite remember the length of time exactly, but it was enough time to see results, and to make up my mind about using it. So, let's get into it!
What is retinol? Retinol is a Vitamin A derivative which is reported to be amazing for the skin. It is a way to deal with damage, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne, and many other skin issues that people face without having to resort to plastic surgery or more invasive procedures. Retinol is a group of Vitamin A's that are in foods, dietary supplements and other products. What it does when applied to the skin is stimulate cellular turnover meaning it causes the skins cells which naturally die and make new cells every 40-56 days (Humnutrition.com) to die more quickly and make new skin cells. When using a retinol this process is sped up and the new cells are created much faster in the deepest layer of the epidermis, it then travels up the outer most layer of the skin. As we age this process takes longer. It takes our body longer to produce new cells which means we look older! Who would have thought!? There are many factors that affect how long this process takes also which include lifestyle, hydration levels, sun exposure, and environment.
Retinoids also decrease oil production in the skin and can slow down melanin production. It was initially prescribed for acne in the 1960s, but when the creator of Retinol (Albert M Kligman) saw how much it improved the skin and made it look more youthful it was then it began being marketed as an anti-aging ingredient. It is technically a pharmaceutical drug that was for a time a prescription only drug. Retinoids alter the structure and natural function of the skin.
What types of retinols are there?
There are several types of retinols you can purchase many of them over the counter nowadays. You'll find that most people recommend that you get a prescription strength retinoid from a dermatologist because it is used under the supervision of a doctor. There is lower concentration of retinoids available for over-the-counter purchase and they are reportedly just as effective as prescription ones.
Are there side effects?
The side effects can vary from person to person which include:
Flaking, peeling, photosensitivity, inflammation, irritation, rosacea, discoloration, pain, swelling, cold and heat sensitivity, headaches, blurred vision and Retinol toxicity. Users have reported that their skin conditions worsened with use of Retinols. Women who are pregnant are not supposed to use a retinoid and this is because it has been shown in clinical studies to damage the fetus and cause birth defects.
What are the dangers dermatologists don't talk about?
There's a lack of information on the long-term use of a retinoid passed 48 weeks. So we don't know the long-term damages that can occur. I've looked for studies of the internal damage that can occur from using retinoids and there are studies lacking for that.
Here is the formulation for a tretinoin cream from RXlist.com I will link it below.
****I've copied and pasted below for easier reading***
RENOVA (tretinoin cream) 0.05% contains the active ingredient tretinoin in a cream base. Tretinoin is a yellow to light orange crystalline powder having a characteristic floral odor. Tretinoin is soluble in dimethyl sulfoxide, slightly soluble in polyethylene glycol 400, octanol, and 100% ethanol. It is practically insoluble in water and mineral oil, and it is insoluble in glycerin. The chemical name for tretinoin is (all-E)-3,7-dimethyl-9- (2,6,6-trimethyl-1-cyclohexen-1-yl)-2,4,6,8-nonatetraenoic acid. Tretinoin is also referred to as all-trans-retinoic acid and has a molecular weight of 300.44. The structural formula is represented below.
Tretinoin is available as RENOVA (tretinoin emollient cream 0.05%) at a concentration of 0.05% w/w in a water-in-oil emulsion formulation consisting of butylated hydroxytoluene, citric acid monohydrate, dimethicone 50 cs, edetate disodium, fragrance, hydroxyoctacosanyl hydroxystearate, light mineral oil, methoxy PEG-22/dodecyl glycol copolymer, methylparaben, PEG-45/dodecyl glycol copolymer, purified water, quaternium-15, stearoxytrimethylsilane and stearyl alcohol, and sorbitol solution.
Is it natural?
No Retinol is not natural. It is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A. Beef, Liver, and raw milk are natural sources of vitamin A. The body does not make vitamin A on its own, it receives it from the diet specifically. The problem with retinols is that it can lead to Vitamin A toxicity, if we are eating a balanced diet and getting our vitamin A from our food, and also additionally putting it on our skin several times a week then that can lead to too much vitamin A in the body-a condition known as Hypervitaminosis A. The symptoms of this condition are: drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, increased pressure in the brain, headaches, blurry vision, liver damage, hair loss, bone pain, and in some cases even death.
***All retinols are banned in Europe due to the risk for cancer and the other damaging health effects it can cause. ***
Why I stopped using it?
I did use a retinol temporarily due to having some lingering skin issues I needed some help with and I though a retinol would be a safe easy route to try. After having my children and not taking very good care of my skin, I had hyperpigmentation and persistent breakouts that would not clear up. I initially started with a cheaper lower concentration of retinol then after several weeks I moved up to a stronger more in the middle % from a brand that was also more expensive. After several weeks of using that which caused some irritation (I only used it 2-3X a week at most) I was able to see changes in my skin which included no breakouts and more evenness in my skin.
The reason I chose to stop using it was because I couldn't go outside-at all. For my business I do farmers markets frequently and even with a hat and tons of sunscreen I couldn't stand to be in direct sunlight at all. My face would instantly start burning. I had a market one weekend where the sun was hitting me no matter where I was standing, and even with my hat on I couldn't avoid it and I had a very severe sunburn. Living in Arizona this is not feasible or functional. I am outside a great deal due to gardening, taking care of animals, and playing with my kids. I didn't want to wear a giant gardening hat 24/7 just so my skin could look younger and clearer. This also was a red flag to do more research because I knew that this cream, I was applying to my face was changing the normal function of my skin.
After almost three months I stopped using the product and started looking for answers. I knew there was going to be some side effects, I just didn't think they would be that extreme to where I couldn't be in the sun period. It was actually hard to find anything disputing the benefits of retinoids. You really have to look long, far and wide to find any negative reports about it, which made me wonder why? It's a synthetic cosmetic, I was thinking there would be reports of negative side effects everywhere, but they seemed to be buried under the mountain of the good reports. Then I realized that it is a huge source of revenue for the cosmetic industry, of course its going to be impossible to find anything disputing its claims.
Why is everyone using it and why they should stop.
Retinoids are used because the claims that are made about the product. Younger youthful looking skin who wouldn't want that? Its just vitamin A how bad can it be? Well so and so is using it and her skin looks amazing. Less acne. These are all reasons I turned to it. Yet on the rx list website about Rennova (a type of tretinoin) they state that it doesn't minimize wrinkles, and the long-term effects on use past 48 weeks is unknown. They also state that after a certain point of using the product there aren't going to be any more significant changes in the skin as far as less wrinkles or any other benefits that are seen in the first 24 weeks of using it. I will link that here (Renova (Tretinoin Emollient Cream 0.05%): Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions, Warning (rxlist.com).
Why is no one talking about this? Because people like the initial benefits they see using it, and unfortunately to keep those changes in the skin it has to continue to be used. And the industry keeps quiet about the hidden dangers of using it in the name of making profit.
***There is a study on a group of veterans on the use of tretinoin to possibly aiding with skin cancer(melanoma) and intervening without chemotherapy. The trial was cut short due the high death count in the control group that was using the tretinoin. I wont go into that here because it was lacking any definitive evidence due to no personal lifestyle habits of the trial group participants being recorded. So, they couldnt come to any conclusion because no one knew if it was the tretinoin causing the deaths or the lifestyles of the study group. I will link an article here for reference*** (Excess Deaths in VA Tretinoin-Retin-A Trial_FDA Silent – Alliance for Human Research Protection (ahrp.org)
There is a very informative YouTube video which I will also link right here ((1) Retin-A: Know the Risks and Side Effects - YouTube
My final thoughts on the use of retinol. Stay away from it. Judge for yourself, but do your due diligence and research before going along with what society says will make you more youthful. Let your skin function normally and protect you the way its supposed to. When using a retinoid you disrupt the natural function of your skin which robs it of its ability to protect you from the sun, and many other environmental exposures. Not only that the risks dont outweigh the benefits. If you are suffering from acne or other skin issues get to the root of the problem instead of resorting to a retinol which could have long lasting damage on your overall health and quality of life. A nutrient rich diet and the use of a sunscreen should be protection enough.
Im sure I will get a lot of flack for this because practically everyone I know uses a retinol. But oh well. Someone's got to talk about it.
I hope this blog helps someone...
Signing off Jen