If you’ve become concerned with preventing or treating the signs of aging, you may have come across the terms “retinol” or “collagen” on product labels. While retinol has been found to be one of the most effective ingredients in combating the signs of aging, collagen is the component that gives your skin its natural elasticity. A little skin education can give you the tools you need to age gracefully.

What is Retinol

According to “Oprah” magazine, retinoids are vitamin A derivatives. They have been found to effectively unclog pores, reduce fine lines and boost collagen. Retinoids also speed cell turnover, even out discoloration and smooth the skin. Retinoids are often found in prescription-strength treatments and results can appear in as little as four weeks. A milder and less expensive version, called Retinol, can be found in many over the counter drugstore products. Since it’s less potent, results take a little longer — about 12 weeks — to appear.

Miracle Ingredient

The first retinoid was FDA approved as an acne medication about 40 years ago, but retinoids and retinol products were soon found to be effective for reducing discoloration and diminishing wrinkles and brown spots. According to the “New York Times,” more than 300 retinol products have hit the market since 2003. Why so popular? Dermatologists say they are one of the few treatments that are actually effective. Dr. John J. Voorhees, the chairman of the dermatology department at the medical school of the University of Michigan told “The New York Times,” “To my knowledge, this is the only drug for which there has been crystal-clear demonstration that it works on the molecular level.” In 1988 Dr. Voorhees published a study of 30 patients over a 16-week period and found that all of the patients had statistically significant improvements to their photoaged skin after Retin-A treatments.

Collagen and Retinol

The reason why retinoids and retinol are so effective in reducing the signs of aging is that they help the skin retain collagen, the component that gives skin structure, firmess and elasticity, according to “The New York Times.” Exposure to the sun breaks down the collagen in the skin, and as we age, our bodies produce less collagen and are not as effective in repairing the damage from the sun. According to “The Dr. Oz Show,” retinoids and retinol can help normalize these functions. First, retinoids and retinol fight collagen breakdown by boosting the formation of new collagen and preventing the production of the enzyme collagenase, the component that breaks down collagen after sun exposure.

Tips and Warnings

Retin-A has been found to be potentially harmful to newborn babies, so don’t use it while pregnant. It can also be very potent and irritating to skin, so ease it into your skincare routine by only using it a few times a week to start and then building up from there. Finally, for maximum effectiveness, let Retin-A or retinol products sink in for 20 minutes before applying moisturizer.