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November 1, 2009

Anti-Aging Retinoids: Pros and Cons

For years, prescription retinoids (face medications like Retin-A, Renova, and Tazorac that contain the vitamin A derivative) have been assumed to be the best antiaging products. Indeed, decades of clinical research show that they speed cell turnover to smooth wrinkles, fade sunspots, and build collagen. But now there are claims that they can also thin the skin and cause chronic inflammation (peeling, lobster-red faces), actually leading to premature aging. The issue is dividing the beauty world. Who's right? Read on and make up your own mind.

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Photo Credit: Jeffrey Westbrook/Studio D

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FOR RETINOIDS:

It's hard to argue with the science behind retinoids, says Miami dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann. "They are prescription drugs. For FDA approval, drug companies have to do scientific studies that absolutely prove retinoids get rid of wrinkles. It is the only thing on the market that has such concrete evidence." (Over-the-counter products with the vitamin A derivative retinol are similar but less powerful, and don't require FDA approval or undergo the same stringent tests.) Dermatologists balk at the idea that retinoids thin the skin because, as New York City derm Dr. Eric Schweiger argues, retinoids actually increase the thickness of the dermis—the deep layer of skin where wrinkles form. Since patients have to build up a tolerance to retinoids over several weeks before they can use them daily—and slathering on more than the recommended pea-sized amount results in a guaranteed flake-fest—using them too often or applying too much can give the impression that your skin is getting thinner, says Schweiger. Washington, D.C. dermatologist Dr. Tina Alster concedes that too much skin inflammation will break down collagen—which translates to lines and sagging. "But it's only a problem if people are chronically rip-roaring red and itchy," she says. "If you're on retinoids for a long time and you don't have that intolerable inflammation, you're not destroying your skin. You're helping it."

NEXT PAGE: THE CASE AGAINST RETINOIDS. ARE THEY A WASTE OF MONEY?


NOT READY TO ASK FOR A PRESCRIPTION? TRY THESE OVER-THE-COUNTER ALTERNATIVES.


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