For Topical retinoids to be effective, they must be used consistently on a long-term continuing basis. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about the use of topical retinoids that often limit their acceptability and the patient’s compliance. The issue of compliance is complicated by an exaggerated emphasis on side effects, perpetuated as much by physicians as well as patients who have become biased through hearsay and misinformation. Both groups could benefit from understanding the scientific basis for the use of retinoids as therapeutic, chemopreventive, and cosmetic agents.
SEE BELOW FOR BASIC SCIENCE SUPPORTING THE USE OF TOPICAL RETINOIDS
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that have the potential of reversing sun damage and other age-related changes in skin. When used consistently and appropriately, maximum improvement can be obtained for most but not all skin types.
Tretinoin is an active prescription form of topical vitamin A. Retinol is the nonprescription form of topical vitamin A and is now found in low concentrations in many skin care products. Some retinol containing products are more active and effective than others, but there are no specific criteria available for making the best selection. For example, some “retinoid imitators” like retinol palmitate and retinyl acetate may actually be ineffective topically in some vehicles but are found in many cosmetic products. It is best to allow your skin care specialist to advise you on appropriate product choices.