The medical ingredient retinol is also known as retin A and retinoid and is a derivative of vitamin A. This potent substance is used in many cosmetic and pharmaceutical skin creams, gels, lotions and ointments for its skin exfoliating and rejuvenating effects. Retinol products are available in varying strengths with prescription forms containing the highest concentrations. However, this ingredient can cause side effects that can be diminished with the right care, in most cases.
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Retinol-containing creams are used to treat acne and related damage to the skin, pigmented lesions, UV light damage, blocked pores and excess skin oil. MayoClinic.com notes that retinol is also used cosmetically to help decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It works by promoting the exfoliation of the upper layers of skin cells, removing damaged and dead skin cells and unblocking pores. This helps to reduce signs of skin damage and acne symptoms.
Drugs.com warns that retinol has potent effects on the skin and can lead to irritation, redness and excessive peeling and dryness. Your skin may feel tight, itchy and inflamed with the use of retinol products. More severe side effects include skin blistering, crusting and swelling. Additionally, retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, wind and chemical ingredients in soaps, make-up and other skin creams and lotions.
Retinol and other vitamin A skin products can be beneficial in treating your skin problems. However, there are certain steps you can take to counteract the possible side effects of this potent medicine. It is critical to protect your skin with a sunscreen of a minimum SPF 15, particularly while you are using retinol. Soothe your skin every morning and night with an oil-free moisturizer to help reduce the appearance of flaking and redness. Do not combine retinol products with other skin creams that contain retin-A products or other peeling agents. Also avoid the use of strong, drying cleansers and toners while you are using retinol.
In most cases, side effects of retinol diminish over time with regular use and by taking precautions to counteract unwanted effects. However, The University of Iowa notes that if you have sensitive skin or have an adverse reaction to this medicinal cream, it may not be right for you. Consult your dermatologist about an alternative cream or trying a milder form of retinol. Using a gel-form of retinol may be more drying than a cream or lotion. You may also benefit by using the retinol every second day instead of everyday.