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NOW READING What To Expect From Retinols and Plant-Based Alternatives – A Leading Dermatologist Explains
March 5, 2021

What To Expect From Retinols and Plant-Based Alternatives – A Leading Dermatologist Explains

Smooth, glowing skin is coming your way. 


 

With everyone singing the praises of retinol, it’s important to have realistic expectations from the outset. In this second installment, Dr. Macrene Alexiades, MD PhD, Associate Clinical Professor at Yale University School of Medicine and founder of Macrene Actives gets down to the nitty-gritty on acclimation, alternatives, and picking the best product for your needs.

 

retinols
Retinols are Vitamin A derivatives primarily used to treat anti-aging concerns as well as acne.

 

Retinization (aka Acclimation) Is a Slow Process

 

If you’ve heard people say that acclimating to retinoids is difficult, take their word for it. It took me a full year to work up to 0.1%, and I still can’t use it every night. According to Dr. Alexiades, “The majority of adults do not tolerate retinoids, so it is important to know if you have sensitive skin. If you get red and flaky from [using] them, you may [need to] either use a smaller amount and slowly build tolerance” or try an alternative product. Using a hydrating sheet mask after applying my tretinoin gel helps tamp down irritation, as does using a quality night cream and sleeping pack.

 

For some people, the retinization period can be made easier by using the “Short Contact Method,” which Dr. Alexiades recommends in her practice. Her patients apply a pea-sized amount at bedtime, leave it on for five minutes, then rinse it off. “They increase by an additional five minutes per night until they get to 30 minutes and can leave it on overnight.” 

 

retinol alternative
Bakuchiol is considered a plant-based alternative to retinol

 

Is Bakuchiol Really A Retinol Alternative?

 

Bakuchiol has been touted as an alternative for retinol. Dr. Alexiades explained in an interview for Coveteur that “Bakuchiol contains terpenoids that have no structural similarity to retinol but have been reported to have similar effects on gene expression and [are] clinically comparable to retinol in its reduction of wrinkles and photoaging.” Since bakuchiol stabilizes retinol and protects the lipid barrier, it’s more like a supplement than a replacement. According to Dr. Alexiades, bakuchiol is “considered a plant alternative” to retinol. It “has many of the properties of retinol, but it is a far weaker approximation.” It improves moisture and speeds healing; however, it doesn’t improve fine lines.

 

Which Product Is Right For You?

 

Depending on your skincare goals, there are a variety of options available in the marketplace. Over-the-counter retinol products are suitable “if you have mild issues,” or you can opt for a stronger OTC version, such as adapalene (aka Differin). When venturing into prescription-strength retinoids, your dermatologist will help you start off with a low-dose product, “such as 0.025% cream,” and you can work your way up to 0.1% tretinoin gel or 0.1% tazarotene – “the strongest version out there.”

 

retinol
Macrene Actives High Performance Face Cream, a one-step skincare solution

 

What to Try Instead

 

If you’ve had bad experiences with retinol or are looking for an alternative, Dr. Macrene is “a huge proponent of plant-derived, gentle anti-aging and anti-acne ingredients.” Her extensive research career includes, “developing the use of peptides, DNA repair, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory actives, and other active molecules to boost collagen, turn over skin, repair damage, and reduce inflammation.” In short, she set out “to accomplish what retinoids were discovered to do ages ago but to do so with a more targeted approach that is safer and healthier for the skin.”

 

I’ve had the great pleasure of using her High Performance Face Cream and much prefer its gentle rejuvenating effects as opposed to the aggressively irritating tretinoin I’ve used for years. The ingredient deck alone reads like a Hollywood “who’s who” list, combining hyaluronic acid, mushroom extract, resveratrol, red and blue algae, and copper peptides in a cream that is both light and rich simultaneously.

Tracy Ann Teel is a full-time freelance writer and the owner of Finesse Writing and Editing LLC. She’s a tutorial writer for San Francisco Globe’s beauty platform, FierceLeague.com, covering everything from skin and hair care to makeup and nail art. She writes for skincare companies, dermatologists, and cosmetic surgeons, and proudly taught at her MFA alma mater, the University of California Irvine, as a member of their adjunct faculty in English. She’s been a textbook reviewer for Prentice Hall, been recognized three consecutive years in the Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and has written professionally for 30+ years. Her poetry chapbook Such Dust was published by Finishing Line Press, and her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle, Pearl, Kaleidoscope, and Lake Arrowhead Life.

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COMMENTS 12

nafixlove


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Interesting editorial. I like the idea of slowly introducing it at night time.


tracyteel


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Night time is best, especially because your skin rejuvenates while you sleep.

jonniskincare


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

I do prefer to have an encapsalated or buffered retinol but do love what my skin looks like after a few days. Need to stick to it and wear your SPF.


tracyteel


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"Wear your SPF" -- most important words ever uttered (even if you're not going to use retinol).

james

I started using Retinol 3x a week and it's done amazing things for my skin. I find my skin is not sensitive to it and it rejuvenates a new layer within a few days. I know some people are very sensitive to it. I normally have sensitive skin and develop pinkness or redness for many things, but retinol seems to be okay for me.


tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

You're very fortunate, James. I'm betting you have hydrating products in your routine that also offset the dryness. Sheet masks are an absolute necessity for me. Without them, my skin protests loudly.

mindfulbeaute


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

I am all for plant based alternatives to retinol . I have always bounced in and out of incorporating retinol into my routine because of skin sensitivity but mostly out of impatience to build tolerance . I’m interested to learn more .


tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Patience is a hard thing to cultivate, and you certainly have to go slow and be diligent to see results. I'm using full-strength tretinoin (0.1%) and have been for almost three years, but I can only use it 3-4 nights a week.

acarmon

Wow I've never used retinol but this definitely makes me want to try it!


tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

There are so many great options on the market and alternatives, too.

gretchellpaltao

You've done it again Tracy! Very informative write-up!


tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Thank you, Gretchell. :)