The #RetinolReview Series: What are retinoids?

I recently shared my first experience with Retin-A. I use it once a week, at night to treat light acne and get rid of dark spots. So far, so good. It’s been about 6 weeks and my skin is less congested and feels firmer.


If you have acne and/or aging concerns then you've probably heard about using retinoids. And since retinoids are easy to find in (reputable) Kenyan pharmacies, you may be want to buy some ASAP.

Before you run out to get some, pause, because retinoid shopping can get confusing.

There are so many different types and the skin can get irritated if the retinoid formula is wrong for you or improperly used.

Before I settled on Retin-A as my retinoid of choice, I did a lot of research. I’m talking months worth of research. So this month, I’m hoping to help you understand retinoids better by discussing them on Skincerely Clare.

First off, what are retinoids?

Back in school, we learned that we need to eat one or two servings of liver a week for Vitamin A or retinol. Among its many benefits, (retinol) Vitamin A is important for keeping the skin healthy.

Retinoids are products that are chemically related to (retinol) Vitamin A.

Secondly, what are some benefits of retinoids?

Clear skin

Desquamation is the shedding of excess dead skin cells. The older we are, the longer it takes for excess dead skin cells to be shed easily.

If we don't exfoliate the skin can be dull, unevenly toned and spotty. Retinoids help the excess dead skin cells to shed at a (faster) normal rate. The result is clearer, even skin. Yay!

Firmer skin

Retinol is an anti aging star because it helps with collagen production. The older we are, the less collagen our body can produce so the skin sags and gets wrinkle-y and fine line-y.

We firm the skin by using products with ingredients that stimulate the collagen production like retinoids. The long term use of retinoids results in  stronger, firmer, smoother skin with fewer signs of aging.

So how does retinol clear and firm skin?

Retinol has to be converted to retinoic acid to work in the dermis - the second layer of skin where we find collagen and elastin.

In the skin, we have retinoic acid receptors (RARs). Retinoic acid binds to these RARs and activates them. Once activated, our skin gets the benefits of retinoids like desquamation and collagen production.

Retinoic acid tells the receptors what they need to do. Whenever I apply Retin-A, I like to think of the retinoic acid yelling like a drill sergeant:

"RAR 1 you have collagen production! RAR 2 get rid of those excess skin cells!"

Because my imaginative self knows retinol is called a cell communicating ingredient for (such) a reason. It literally changes the way your skin cells act in the best possible way. It tells them to act healthier and younger.

If your skin can tolerate retinoids, the long term consistent use will keep your skin clear, smooth and even.

Chile, go to the derm and see what retinoid suggestions she has for you, especially if you're 30+ in age.

Part 2 of #RetinolReview comes soon!

Have you used retinoids before? Comment below and share your experience.

Skin Care TipsClare Oparo