Busting Retinoid Skincare Myths | Lab Muffin Beauty Science
Hi it’s Michelle from lab muffin beauty science: chemistry PhD and lover of retinoids. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives. They are some of the most popular skincare ingredients and their effectiveness is backed by a lot of studies but like everything else in skincare and beauty there are lots of myths and half-truths about how they work and how you’re meant to use them so today we’re going to be talking about some of these myths and we’re going to bust them.
If you like hearing about the science behind beauty products you can give this video a thumbs up, subscribe to my channel, and click the notification bell so you don’t miss any videos. What is a retinoid? Retinoids are ingredients that work like vitamin A they have lots and lots of applications in skincare.
Their main uses are to help with acne and to help with aging; so things like wrinkles and pigmentation. They’re one of the few things that can reverse the signs of aging. Some examples of retinoids are retinol, tretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene, retinyl esters and retinaldehyde.
Let’s start with the first myth: “Retinoids will thin your skin” This is actually one of the myths that stopped me from trying retinoids for a really long time retinoids will thin one specific layer of skin but overall they will actually thicken it.
They thicken the living layer, so the dermis and the epidermis above it, but they thin down or compact the stratum corneum. So on my handi skin model they will thicken all of these layers: the epidermis up here, and the dermis down here, but they will compact this layer: the stratum corneum which is made up of dead cells.
So the way that retinol thickens the epidermis is that it causes it to proliferate in other words produce more cells retinoids also increase the production of glycosaminoglycans or GAG’s. These are long, sugar-based molecules that can hold on to lots of water.
They’re like a humectant moisturizer within your skin. One example is hyaluronic acid this means that with this extra water retention it plumps up your skin. Retinoids also prevent collagen degradation and increase its production.
And so that means that you will get a thicker dermis. Retinoids can also compact the stratum corneum which is generally a good thing when you have a thinner stratum corneum this is the dead cells on the surface of the skin this actually makes your skin look glowier and smoother.
But thinning the stratum corneum can also have negative effects. The stratum corneum is there to protect the living layers of your skin and so if it gets too thin it can lead to sensitive skin. The thickening of the lower layers is actually what helps give retinoids their anti-aging effect.
If you have plumper skin then it looks smoother and wrinkles are less deep. “Retinoids are light sensitive so you need to use them in the dark” This is partly true; a lot of retinoid ingredients are unstable in light and so if you have too much light exposure they break down, which means they will no longer work this is especially the case with sunlight.
Sunlight is one of the most intense sources of light that we get but there are some retinoids that aren’t light-sensitive so for example some of the newer ones like adapalene and tazarotene. They aren’t light sensitive so you can actually use them during the day and it says this on the packet.
Tretinoin is generally light sensitive but it can be formulated so that it isn’t. Micronized tretinoin for example, is photo stable which means that it is not sensitive to light exposure. Retinol is generally unstable and so it breaks down in light, which means that you should be applying it at night.
If you’re not sure whether your particular retinoid product is photo stable, look at the packaging and do whatever the instructions tell you to do. “If you don’t see immediate results with your retinoid, you should give up” This is not true for skincare products in general, and it is especially not true for retinoids.
Some people will see immediate results but a lot of people will not and that doesn’t mean that the retinoid isn’t working. Unlike a lot of other skincare products retinoids can have effects deeper in the skin, and to get there and have these effects, it can take a bit longer so you should be using retinoids for a longer time before dismissing them as something that doesn’t work for you.
They work on a longer timeframe than most other ingredients so a good rule of thumb is give it three to six months before you decide it’s not for you. “Retinoids can’t give immediate results” On the flipside, some people say that retinoids cannot possibly give you immediate results and anything that you see early on is either just in your head or because of some other products that you’re using.
But retinoids have been documented to give some people very quick results in peer-reviewed studies. The fastest results are that your skin might look smoother and you get a pink or rosy glow. But note that this doesn’t happen with everyone which i think is one of the reasons this myth exists.
Some other reasons for this myth is that most trials on retinoids lasts longer but just because they didn’t measure the results earlier doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist. There’s also the fact that skin turnover tends to take a while and so some results won’t be immediately visible but there are some effects of retinoids that don’t require skin turnover to see.
This is especially the changes that take place on the shallower layers of your skin, so for example, the compaction of the stratum corneum happens quite quickly. The changes in the upper epidermis also are very fast.
Results that require changes deeper in the skin so things like reduction of deep wrinkles, or reduction of pigmentation these will take a bit longer so again these early results don’t happen for everyone and if you don’t have early results it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have results later on.
In one study with tretinoin, five to ten percent of people saw changes within two weeks. About half of the people saw changes within a month, and almost everyone had changes within 12 weeks. “Don’t use retinoids until you see signs of aging” This myth is not true for a few reasons.
There is no evidence that using retinoids early or using them long-term will cause any sort of skin damage. The changes in your skin that lead to skin aging will occur before you can actually see any signs of aging on your skin, so retinoids can stop and help reverse these microscopic signs before they start showing up.
Retinoids are also useful for things other than anti-aging. The other thing that retinoids are good for is acne resinize help with skin turnover and it reduces the tiny microscopic clogs or microcomedones that happen in your skin before you start getting pimples.
You also won’t run out of skin because your skin is turning over too fast, this is not how skin works. So there is no limit on how old you have to be before you can start using retinoids. “Bukuchiol is better than retinol” I’ve actually even seen someone say that the bakuchiol is better than prescription tretinoin, which is classified as a drug.
Bakuchiol is an ingredient that’s found in the bad Chi plant. There’s been a lot of hype about how it is a natural retinol, or that it’s better than retinol, or it’s just as good as retinol without any of the downsides.
This is pretty far-fetched. There’s been one recent independent clinical study that’s open access which is pretty impressive. It was a 12-week trial where 44 people applied either 0.5% of retinol once a day or 0.
5% bakuchiol twice a day on their skin. At the end of the study they found that bakuchiol and retinol reduce wrinkles and hyperpigmentation around the same amount but people using retinol have more peeling and stinging, while people use in Bakuchiol have more redness.
The hype also partly comes from the fact that Bakuchiol and retinol have some similarities in how they work on a microscopic level but the big difference is firstly bakuchiol had to be used twice a day whereas retinol was used once a day.
There’s also nowhere near the same amount of evidence for bakuchiol compared to retinoids. So bakuchiol is a promising ingredient but it doesn’t really belong in the conversation about retinoids. “You need to use retinoids daily to have any effect” This is not true, there’s been studies where tretinoin was used once a week or three times a week or every second day and they found that there were improvements in skin.
Most of these studies were done on tretinoin, which is a particularly strong, prescription-only retinoid, and this is the case with most studies on retinoids: there’s lots of data and tretinoin, but not much on other retinoids.
But there’s no reason why this doesn’t apply to other retinoids as well. So these are the top myths on retinoids. If you have any other myths that you’ve been wondering about leave them in the comments.
If you want to get started on retinoids you can check out my video on how to introduce them slowly. You’ll also want to have a gentle cleanser and a moisturizer and a sunscreen already in your routine for more on this you can check out my ebook the lab muffin guide to basic skincare.
If you think that retinoids sound a bit through hardcore for you right now, you might want to try some exfoliants first. i have a free downloadable guide to exfoliation and the links to all of these resources are in the description.
I hope you enjoyed this video, if you did, give it a thumbs up. You can subscribe to my channel as well. You can also follow me on Instagram and check out my blog for more beauty science Give me video topic suggestions in the comments as well and I will see you next time.