What our skin needs

Friday, August 7, 2009

Picture it: Sicily, 1938 Michigan, 2009. An aging woman sits in a bar, delicately sipping a Blue Moon. A much less-exfoliated woman approaches and demands to know the skin care habits of the aging woman, proclaiming her to look “not a day over 30”.

That aging woman was me. And the less-exfoliated woman? I have no idea who she was…just another drunk in the (very dark) bar.

The point is, besides the fact that I look every minute of my age and I think that woman had vision (blind drunk) issues, my new skin care routine seems to be working. I am sometimes even getting compliments from sober people. But never in broad daylight. There’s still much work to be done.

If you are over 35 (some people even say 25), then you owe it to your skin to be using a retinol product. Retinol is the ONLY thing proven to prevent and eliminate wrinkles.

But first, you have to understand the difference between retinol and Retin-A (tretinoin). Without getting too technical, because I’m no skin care expert, the main difference is that retinol is an over-the-counter vitamin A derivative, while Retin-A and Renova are prescription-only tretinoin products. Tretinoin also treats acne; retinols do not (although they will unclog your pores). There is an excellent article on the differences between these products, as well as detailed instructions on how to use them HERE.

Retin-A was originally developed as a topical acne drug – and it works for that purpose. But something happened when people were using this drug to fight acne; they discovered it also decreased wrinkles, shrunk pores, evened out skin tone and faded out dark spots due to sun damage. A pretty exciting discovery for the anti-aging market.

Renova was created specifically for use as an anti-aging product. It is exactly the same as Retin-A, except it is contained in a more emollient base. Oh, and it costs about $400. Talk about capitalizing on our aging skin phobias. I’ll just stick with the Retin-A and a good moisturizer and save myself over $300.

The way I understand it, retinols work by slowly exfoliating the cells deep under the external skin layer and rebuilding collagen. This is different from a topical exfoliant, such as an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) which exfoliates the outer skin layer only.

The trick to using a retinol, especially the stronger products like Retin-A or Renova, is to start slow. If you overdo it, you can really irritate your skin. To the point of blisters. Really, there is no need to slather it on 3 times a day, hoping for quicker results. It doesn’t work that way. Slow and steady wins this particular race. If you follow the directions, you probably won’t have any problems at all. You will start to see some results within about two weeks, with optimal results reportedly being apparent by six months. Do not give up; it will be worth the time you invest.

Retinols are a nighttime product because of the increased sun sensitivity that can develop with their use. The use of a sunscreen is really not optional when using these products. I find that the sunscreen in my foundation and daytime moisturizer are enough for most days, but if I am forced to be out in the sun for an extended period, I use something stronger.

If you don’t want to start out with a prescription-strength product, that are a couple of over the counter brands worth taking a look at. Sometimes I think it might be better to start with a lower-level retinol to “prep” your skin for the eventual use of Retin-A or Renova.

I started out with Philosophy’s Help Me (.15% retinol), a very mild retinol product and got really good results almost immediately.

Problem? It’s $45. Of course, after I bought it I learned that Alpha Hydrox’s ResQ is virtually the same product for about $15 and it can be purchased in drugstores.

Another product to look at is Green Cream (available in .3%, .6% and .9% retinol formulations).
This product gets great reviews, but something in it really irritated my skin. I wanted to like it but just couldn’t get it to work for me. Which is not to say it won’t work for you. Many, many people adore it, so it’s worth going to their site and checking it out. Their message boards are very helpful.

These are just a couple of the options for over the counter retinols. If you do a little research, you will find many more. My original plan was to keep increasing the strength of the OTC products and, after reaching the top level there, moving on to Retin-A. But after four weeks of using the Help Me, and looking at some of the prices for the higher-level retinols, I decided to scrap that plan and just go for it.

Retin-A and Renova are available in strengths ranging from .025% tretinoin to .1% and as either a cream or a gel. Your doctor (preferably a dermatologist) can decide which will work best for your skin. My doctor took one look at my skin and prescribed the strongest strength. She must have decided I didn’t have time to fool around. I wondered if she was trying to burn my face off, but she advised me to use a very small pea-sized amount for my entire face, use it every night and only back off if I had a problem. After two weeks of daily use, I can report that I have had no problems at all. Some minor flaking around Day 7 but, overall, smooth sailing.

Personally, I am not overly concerned with the wrinkles (except for those “marionette lines” that go from the corner of your mouth all the way down to your chin – ick) but I hate the huge pores. I can honestly say that after four weeks of Help Me and two weeks of Retin-A, my pores have definitely shrunk, my skin tone is much more even (no more intermittent redness) and I do not seem to have quite as much sagging in my cheeks. And I am nowhere near the point of optimum results yet.

It’s nice to have something to look forward to.


Anonymous said...

you are so awesome, thank you for posting this! I didn't know the difference between the two and now I need to get some because I have huge pores and hate it!

Housewife Savant said...

Everybody loves you. Because you're brilliant and witty.

I've got to get this stuff.

"Marionette lines"...haha.

Large pores- no laughing matter. =(

Fat[free]Me said...

I must admit to being a bit in the dark about these things, but now I am older, I really need to start looking into using something more than a ton of moisturiser.

Thanks so much for such a helpful post!

Camevil said...

I'm googling local dermatologists as we speak. THANK YOU!

Shelley said...

Great topic - as I've lost weight in my face, I've noticed wrinkles - argh!!! That old fat was a wonderful filler, lol! I may start small with the drugstore Alpha hydrox and see how it works for me - thank for the great info!

Bernadette said...

You always have the best scoop! I'm not quite 35 yet (or even 25), but my pores are huge (at least I think so)--I'll have to try some of that Alpha Hydrox’s ResQ!

Theresa said...

You do all the research for us! Thanks, and I will be trying this for my fine lines and wrinkles:)

JennyMac said...

Thanks for the product recs!

Debbie said...

I think it is years too late for me but I will check into these!

Patty said...

Does it work on double chins and extra large cheeks?? I have the “marionette lines" and the pores...oh god...can I get a case discount? :-)

Michelle said...

How about a review on that clarisonic watever you bought? I've been patiently waiting! :)