Hello, skincare lovers! Today, let's chat about prescription retinols and why they might not be the best fit for our unique environment. This is a question I get asked about on the daily! While it’s a go to med for most dermatologists (because most Derms know meds not skincare products), I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention these potential consequences and alternatives and educate on the topic. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same skin type, concerns, or daily climate conditions. So although a Derm will easily pass this out to nearly anyone, there is a reason you should be cautious.
Q: Is Rx retinol (vitamin A) the holy grail for aging?
A: Yes and no.
⛅️ While retinols are a popular choice for addressing various skin concerns (aging, light acne, and pigmentation) with proven science-backed results, it's essential to consider their potential impact in a sunny, dry climate like ours. Here's the deal: retinols can greatly increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun, which means a higher risk of sunburn and sun damage (which we know is the leading cause of aging), even with daily sunscreen use. Knowing this, why, in a high UV climate like Colorado, would we want to greatly INCREASE the risk of premature aging (especially when there are safer similar benefits from other forms of vitamin A or other ingredients)?
💧 Watch for chronic irritation with rx retinols- In our dry climate, skin already craves extra hydration, and prescription retinols can often lead to increased dryness and irritation, making matters worse. They also can increase inflammation in the skin and we all know inflammation is nicknamed “inflam-aging”. Ouch!
🦧 We have to stay “fuzzy”. On rx retinols any form of waxing is a heck no, so those pesky peach fuzzies and stray brow hairs will have to stay put. Rx retinols cause increased desquamation in the skin which can loosen the bonds between dead and live skin making skin extremely prone to lifting from any forms waxing (even shaving can be an issue for some). Facial waxing is simply a “never” while on these meds and in some people even body waxing is contraindicated as well- as rx forms of retinol can be systemic (meaning even if you use it on your face, you may experience painful lifting on the bikini like or legs, because it may affect all skin as it can be absorbed through the blood stream). If facial hair is as an issue for you please avoid these meds. If you do choose to use them, you have to be completely off of them for a minimum of 2 weeks before waxing which also negates the benefits of being on them as it takes time for the skin to get used to them. You’d have to “start over” in acclimatizing if you choose to wax.
But fear not! I'm here to guide you toward more gentle, nourishing solutions that will keep your skin healthy and glowing without the added risk. There are plenty of other effective vitamin A options that won't leave your skin vulnerable to the sun or exacerbate dryness or inflammation. Retinaldehydes are an anti inflammatory form of retinols have been proven to be just as effective without the irritating side effects and there are a few botanical ingredients that mimic retinols (bakuchiol is my favorite)- these gentler versions provide all the benefits of a retinol with much fewer consequences.
Ps)All forms of retinols are most effective when used at night. Regular Sunscreen is a must on any forms of these serums!
Here are my favorite choices:
- retinaldehyde serum by Skinscriptrx
-Anteage serum and accelerator (bakuchiol)
-rare retinal serum by Hale and Hush.
Also here is a great online article written by a Derm if you want to deep dive into the different forms of retinols and why we should choose more individually for our unique skin and our specific daily climate: