The Good Life
with a Southern Drawl

Retinoid: A Proven Miracle Cream

By Amy Bailey — June 29, 2014

If there was an anti-aging solution that was over 80 years old and proven to minimize wrinkles, fade brown spots, eliminate acne, and create glowing skin would you use it? It is right under our noses and available at any dermatologist and in less potency over the counter. It is Retinoid cream. In a world of Botox, trendy new lotions, and laser treatment, Retinoid creams have proven for over 80 years to do what so many keep searching for.

Dr. Corey Hartman of Skin Wellness Center of Alabama says, “In the skin, retinoids are responsible for increasing cell turnover and exfoliation, treating acne, minimizing discoloration, reducing UV damage, decreasing inflammation and smoothing wrinkles by aiding in collagen formation. Not to mention skin cancer prevention. They practically do it all. They serve many important functions in various body organs including vision, bone and tooth formation, immunity and tumor suppression. I tell my patients that they are the closest thing to a miracle cream.”

You may have heard of retinoids in the past and wondered how they are different from retinols. While retinoids, or retinoic acids, are prescription medications and are more concentrated and effective, retinols are structurally similar, but are converted to retinoic acid once they are absorbed into the skin, but at much less concentrated levels. Retinoids are notorious for the “transformation phase” when they are first used.  During the first four to six weeks of a retinoid treatment, the affected skin will experience temporary redness, scaling and even irritation as the environment becomes accustomed to having the medication around.  Retinols on the other hand, are much less irritating and are available in many over-the-counter preparations. However, their effects are much less dramatic. Typically a retinol is about 25% as effective as a retinoid.  The old adage that “you get what you pay for” certainly holds true in this instance.

There are three prescription strength retinoids: tretinoin (brands include Retin-A, Atralin, Ziana, Renova), tazarotene (Tazorac, Avage) and adapalene (Differin). They range in strength with respect to effectiveness and irritation with a direct correlation seen between effectiveness and how initially irritating they can be.  There is a newer retinoid on the market, Refissa, which combines an emollient moisturizer with a potent tretinoin for a more rapid result without the uncomfortable and annoying induction phase. So for those who choose to not “get worse before they get better,” Refissa is the retinoid of choice. For everyone else, however, proper education of how to use the medication and setting realistic expectations is of the utmost importance.

It is crucial to discuss skin care goals so that the proper retinoid may be chosen. Once the choice is made, there are ways to ease the product into any skin care regimen carefully and slowly to minimize the side effects associated with a retinoid. Using the medication on top of a moisturizer or spacing out the application can greatly reduce irritation, redness and scaling.

For medical reasons such as acne or psoriasis, retinoid creams are generally covered by most insurance plans. However, after a certain age, insurance companies assume that the medications are used for cosmetic purposes and may require written authorization before providing coverage. Some are marketed specifically for wrinkles and are never covered, as they are deemed medically unnecessary. They are moderately priced and will generally last for 3-6 months at a time.

Visit The Skin Wellness Center of Alabama in Homewood 205.871.7332 to learn more.