Retinol: Prescription or Over-The-Counter?

Retinol: Prescription or Over-The-Counter?

We know that anti-aging skincare products can be confusing, especially as there are so darned many of them. But through research, one ingredient seems to work the best: retinol. There is a host of Dermatologists, plastic surgeons and aestheticians online who all agree that retinol can give your skin back that youthful glow, making it look younger and smoother – it apparently irons  out wrinkles! So how do you know which type you should buy? Do the over-the-counter strengths really work or should you be heading for the doctor for a prescription?

Retinol is basically Vitamin A derivative. In the States, the first retinoid—tretinoin—was FDA approved (under the brand name Retin-A) almost 40 years ago as a prescription acne treatment. Today there are three prescription-strength retinoids: tretinoin (brands include Atralin, Avita, Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, Renova), tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), and adapalene (Differin).
As ever, while the prescription formulas are the best, the over-the-counter product – retinol – is also said to effectively improve fine lines and pigmentation – though not nearly as good as retinoic acid, the active ingredient in prescription creams.

1. Over-the-Counter: The lowest level of retinol (below 2.5%)

Over-the-counter serums such as Protect and Perfect (Boots) that contain retinol can be found online and in pharmacies such as Boots and Lloyds in the UK. The over-the-counter formulas convert retinol into a low dose of retinoic acid, the active ingredient found in prescription versions.

Who it’s for: All skin types and those who want to combat those first lines and spots  that come with the aging process.
Who it’s not for: Those with serious acne and sun damage should speak to their doctor or dermatologist about Retinoic Acid

2. Prescription Strength: The strongest option

This is known as Tretinoin. It works quicker because its formulated as retinoic acid – the stuff the retinol from over the counter creates. Available only with a prescription from the doc or dermatologist, these retinoids are the strongest option on the market and tend to provide results in about 12 weeks. It’s strong stuff, so only for those with non-sensitive skin and can put up with redness and soreness before seeing the results.

Who it’s for: Those with acne and sun-damaged skin
Who it’s not for: Those with sensitive skin

photo credit: New Beauty

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