Retinoids 101 & An Over the Counter Acne Solution

My little blogging break came at just the right time as my skincare routine got incredibly boring because I decided to try out a new retinol product, Differin.

I’ve always heard everyone rave about the benefits of retinol and my feeble attempt to jump on the bandwagon (one type, one time, from one company) didn’t really seem fair for me to write it off completely. Plus, when I heard a well known retinoid Differin was now available without a prescription, I figured it was time for me give retinol another try. So I did what many of us skin obsessed do and  s c o u r e d  the internet to find out what all the fuss is about + figure out what would work for me.

What is retinol?

Retinol is a natural derivative of  Vitamin A and thus can be found in your body naturally.  Unfortunately, Retinol itself actually has little affect on the skin and it’s really retoinic acid that has the most affect upon acne problems.

Whether they come in gels or creams, retinoids has such a great reputation as acne fighters due to their abilities help turnover new skin cells.  Many companies and brands love to equally boast about their anti aging properties, though I think anything that will turn over skin cells is labeled as “anti-aging” anymore.  


What are the different types of retinoids?

Retinol –  the natural and alcohol form of other retinoids, though also considered far less effective.

Retinyl palmitate – a combination of retinol and palmitic acid that only works in high concentrations, much like Retinol.

Tretinion – Or Retin A is roughly 20 times more potent than retinol and requires a prescription from a doctor.  Due to it’s high absorption rate it is deemed as unsafe for pregnant women.

Adapalene – Or Differin, is a clever synthetic twist to the light sensitive, tretinion.  Scientists added an adamantyl group  to the end of tretonoin, allowing Differin (or adapalene) to boast lower light sensitivity and adsorption levels.  Though it’s certainly far from being a perfect product as it may not be the answer to active breakouts, but rather good for fighting future acne spots.

Different types of retinoids

photo source


What is working for me?

Differin’s 0.1% gel is now available without a prescription and is what I’m currently using.  (They also have a 0.3% gel, but I doubt this will be available over the counter for quite some time.)  After doing some research I realized that the lowest concentration of adapalene – Differin – would be a great spot for me to start with a retinoid again.  My first attempt left me with  s u p e r  irritated skin, so much so that I looked like I had over exfoliated with clear bumps all around my skin. Not at all what I wanted.

I also cut out all other chemical exfoliators that I genuinely love using  and completely dedicated two weeks to Differin use. In my recent bland, but dedicated skincare routine, Origins mask became one of my favorite treatments.  It’s a heavy overnight mask that coats my skin in an avacado oil mixture and helped me adjust to having retinol applied daily.

And so far… Differin has a new fan girl.  I’ve watched my typically fussy skin stay more even than it ever has (I can count the number of spots on my skin on one hand) and even previous breakout marks are disappearing.


What should you know?

Retinoids really do work.  Though you may have to do your own research and contact your dermatologist to see what option will work best for you.  You are also going to have to invest in richer moisturizers and be extremely diligent about applying sunscreen, no matter what season you are in.  You also need to contact a dermatologist or your doctor for more advice on the possible side affects of any and all retinoids! I’m no doctor and while I love skincare topics, you should always a consult a professional if you have more questions. Oh! And this post is in no way sponsored by Differin 🙂

Retinoids have been around for  a  l o n g  time, mainly due to their effectiveness and ability to deliver amazing results to users. Do you use retinol or another type of retinoid? I would love to hear your experience!


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