Dermatologist Breaks down Retinol & Retinoids

Dermatologist Breaks down Retinol & Retinoids

Skin health and aging

Skin is the largest organ of our body which protects all the other organs from the external environment. In addition, skin helps in heat regulation, immune response, sensory detection, and regulation of absorption/loss of water and electrolytes. As we grow old, the skin’s natural rejuvenation process slows down, making it thinner, drier, and less elastic. As a result, the skin shows a saggy appearance.Also, due to our hectic and challenging lifestyle, we overlook our skin care, which may further damage the skin's health. Therefore, it is important to take care of our skin as it is affected by several external as well internal factors.


Role of retinoids and retinol in skincare


Retinoids are the synthetic and natural analogs of vitamin A. Retinol, retinoic aldehyde, and retinoic acid, which are natural and biologically active forms of vitamin A, belong to retinoids. Vitamin A cannot be synthesized by the body; hence, it needs to be supplied to the body.1 Retinol in skincare promotes the production of skin cells, strengthens protective function, reduces water loss, and maintains elasticity by protecting collagen against degradation. Retinol improves skin texture, pigmentation, dryness, and fine lines.2 Overall, retinoids are used to treat various skin problems.


Skin aging, dryness, acne, pigmentation


Some of the common skin problems are listed below:  

  • Acne: Acne is quite prevalent in the Indian population. Those with skin type IV (light brown skin) experience more swelling, whereas individuals with darker skin type VI experience severe type of acne to a lesser extent. However, tendencies to scarring and pigmentation vary among individuals. As Indian skin is prone to be more sensitive, it generally tends to be more pigmented than that of white skin of European origin.3 Topical retinoids target the precursor of all acne scratches and clinically visible acne scars. Therefore, retinoids are well suited for both treating acne and maintaining acne clearance. As per acne experts, topical retinoids form the basis of acne treatment.

  • Hyperpigmentation: Acne patients often develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). In the case of PIH associated with acne scars in the uppermost layer of skin, which are tan to dark brown, can remain for up to 12 months. In slightly deeper scars, the pigmentation which is blue/ grey can stay for years.

    In many cases, acne is a common cause of hyperpigmentation and it can be more distressing than actual acne. Patients with higher skin tones usually find it more distressing than those with lower skin tones. Topical retinoids have an additional benefit for individuals with acne and acne-associated PIH because retinoids can improve the appearance of pigmented lesions. Retinoids reduce discoloration of the skin and contribute to the even distribution of melanin in the skin. Topical retinoids are highly effective in treating both acne and hyperpigmentation.

  • Skin aging: Skin aging occurs due to multiple factors responsible for alterations of skin structure, function, and appearance. Some of the factors include environmental exposure (UV radiation, xenobiotics, and mechanical stress), hormonal changes, and metabolic processes. Skin aging is of 2 types:

  • Intrinsic aging or natural aging, i.e., physiological changes occur in sun-protected skin. It is a progressive degeneration of the skin. This causes the skin to be pale, thin, fragile, dry, and fi­nely wrinkled along with a decrease in skin cell production and immune response.

  • Extrinsic aging is a result of exposure to various external factors such as UV light, infrared and visible light, pollution, and smoking. Photoaging is the photodamage of the skin resulting in premature aging. This occurs due to multiple exposures of the skin to UV light. As a result, the skin becomes coarse with wrinkles, irregular hyperpigmentation, and freckles. UV exposure is the most profound effect on skin appearance.

Retinol is most effective in slowing the aging process. It stimulates the synthesis of collagen fibers and improves skin elasticity. Changes within collagen and elastin fibers are associated with photoaging.


Choosing between retinoids and retinol

Retinoids and retinol are often used synonymously for vitamin A, but there is a thin difference between the two. While retinoids are prescription-grade compounds, retinol can be obtained over-the-counter (OTC), i.e., without a prescription. Retinoids are comparatively more effective and powerful, whereas retinol more readily penetrates human skin than other retinoids.5 Retinol-containing cosmetic products are not only effective but are more well-tolerated and readily available. As retinol tends to irritate, slow initiation by application every other day can minimize the same.


Can retinoids be used with other ingredients or treatments?

Although retinoids are an essential part of skin treatment, many of you may require a multimodal approach to address the different skin disease mechanisms associated with acne and hyperpigmentation. Following are a few other treatments that can be safely combined with retinoids:

  1. Glycolic acid (GA) – It acts as a chemical exfoliant. Alternative use of glycolic acid and retinol may work well to reduce the appearance of dark spots and scars from acne. To avoid irritation, you may use on alternating days or glycolic acid in the morning and retinol at night.

  2. Hyaluronic acid (HA) – It soothes and plumps your skin. Its moisturizing effect works by slowing the evaporation of water from your skin. Therefore, it may help reduce some of the irritating effects of retinol use.

  3. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) – Protects your skin as it helps clear acne and reduces the signs of aging. It may help in reducing the irritating side effects of retinol.

  4. Vitamin C – Helps lighten dark spots, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Combining vitamin C with retinoid treatment may help even out the texture and tone of your skin. To avoid irritation, vitamin C products can be used in the morning and use retinol for your skincare at night.

Dos and Don’ts to follow while using retinoids



  1. In case of acne, apply the topical retinoid to the entire affected area instead of only on acne lesions (spot treatment).

  2. Apply topical retinoid every other day and/or use a moisturizer before therapy to minimize irritation.

  3. Moisturizer should be used at the initiation in case your skin is sensitive.

  4. Use a pH-balanced cleanser and moisturizer that do not clog skin pores.

  5. Practice good skin hygiene.



  1. Do not use toners or astringents (a chemical that shrinks or constricts body tissues) which can further dry the skin resulting in skin irritation.

  2. Avoid excessive sun exposure and take precautionary measures (like the use of sunscreens) for sun protection.

  3. Do not use hair care and cosmetic products that contain ingredients that clog skin pores.

Boost your skin with a powerful protector! 

Retinoids are wonder ingredients that can change your skin tone and texture and make your skin look younger and brighter. DermDoc 0.5% Retinol Serum (Granactive Retinoid) is a lightweight fast absorbing formula to rejuvenate your skin. It effectively reverses the signs of aging and also helps treat wrinkles and pigmentation of the skin. The antioxidant properties of the serum enhance skin complexion and boost collagen production, ensuring you have a brighter and flawless complexion. Its clinically proven formula causes lesser irritation.

Retinol drop on skin cell, skincare 

How to apply DermDoc 0.5% Retinol Serum (Granactive Retinoid)?

  1. Clean your skin with a gentle cleanser and pat it dry.

  2. Apply a thin layer of retinol to your entire face at night.

  3. Finish with a facial moisturizer.  

Make the right choice such as DermDoc 0.5% Retinol Serum to protect your skin!

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