Achieving a truly effective anti-aging skincare regimen means discovering the power of retinoids

There are innumerable skincare formulas on the market, but one of the key ingredients for long-term anti-aging regimens is the vitamin A-based retinoid and its over-the-counter version, retinol. In its various forms, explains Beverly Hills-based plastic surgeon Dr. Babak Azizzadeh, they “speed up cell turnover and stop the breakdown of collagen,” making retinols a “cornerstone” of many anti-aging lines. This is much like a suture face lift, without the invasive surgery. Other benefits include decreased fine lines, fewer brown spots, improved acne and psoriasis, and “it gives a luster to the skin that you just don’t have when you’re not using it,” says Dr. Azizzadeh.

Retinoids are stronger and are usually found in prescriptions—tretinoin in particular is the retinoid of choice for brands like Retin-A and Renova—that produce results within six to eight weeks of daily use, while retinols are generally harnessed in over-the-counter formulas and can take up to six months of daily use to show results. Another major difference is that prescriptions report the percentage of retinoid, while others are not required to disclose the amounts, so the strength is less certain.

Skin begins to change in our mid-to-late 20s, and a retinoid is something proven to be germane at every stage of the aging process. “The only compound that has real science behind it is retinoids,” says Dr. Azizzadeh. “They have very proven effects and results; many studies have shown that people can use them daily without any [negative] long-term effects.” During the first few weeks of using a retinoid/retinol cream, redness and flakiness will occur, so he suggests starting out slow: instead of using a mild retinoid or retinol daily, apply the topical cream every other day for a couple weeks, then increase to every day. If you’re OK after four weeks, switch to a stronger tretinoin-based formula, like Renova.

For over-the-counter consumers, the retinol market now claims several new standout complexes, including REN’s Bio Retinoid Anti-Ageing Concentrate, which leaves skin brighter and plumper, with a more even-toned complexion, all while reducing the appearance of wrinkles, imperfections and age spots. Nuance Salma Hayek recently launched its Overnight Time-Release Retinol Capsules, which smooth skin, even skin tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Also new is Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair, a line of four products ranging from eye cream and nighttime moisturizer to a signature repairing serum and SPF 30 moisturizer, which whether used together or individually promise noticeable results in just one week.