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John Su the Science Guy, Retinol Metabolism

Part III: Retinol Metabolism Cont’d; Why Retinol Can Never Replace Tretinoin


In Part I, we discussed an overview of retinol metabolism in the skin. It delved into the actual steps and corresponding classes of enzymes responsible for the conversion process. Part II examined and analyzed the various issues about retinol use such as: retinol strength, and concomitant use with acidic products.

In this final part, we will discuss whether or not retinol can be viewed as a complete substitute for tretinoin.

Can Retinol Replace Tretinoin?

Got lasagna?

Well, the answer of course is NO.

From a therapeutic point of view, of the naturally-occurring retinoids, tretinoin is the most biologically active. Retinol would first have to convert to retinaldehyde, before becoming tretinoin in order to function. Therefore, for more serious conditions (ranging from psoriasis to leukemia), the most potent and effective compound for treatment is tretinoin because there are no conversion factors to consider.

Think of it like this: If you didn’t eat for a week, you’d be very hungry, right? To treat this “ailment,” what would you rather eat: a tray of lasagna (tretinoin)? Or would you rather buy all the ingredients (retinol), prepare and bake them (retinaldehyde), before being able to call it lasagna (tretinoin)?

***Please note that this is simply a metaphor and does not mean that tretinoin and retinol give identical results.

However, from a cosmetic point of view, the answer is less clear. Because it’s been thoroughly established that retinol does indeed convert to tretinoin, which is the only way the former can become active in the skin, the only relevant aspect that can affect the efficacy of retinol is the actual conversion process.

Therefore, here’s what we have to analyze…

What Intrinsic Attributes Can Hinder Retinol Metabolism?

Aging… at least you can hope for wisdom!

The intrinsic attributes that will be discussed include the following:

  1. Chronological Aging
  2. Photoaging
  3. Behavioral Aging

While it’s likely that the conversion rates will vary from person to person, it is accurate to conclude that generally, retinol will convert to tretinoin at approximately the same amounts for younger individuals. As the body ages however, it becomes less efficient at performing the same tasks, accumulates non-recyclable biological waste, and repairs itself less quickly. Therefore, while there is no conclusive or even suggestive study done on how the different types of aging directly and specifically affect retinol metabolism, it’s still an interesting topic to analyze.

Chronological Aging

Unfortunately, I can point to no study that even remotely suggests or infers an effect of age on retinol metabolism efficiency. In fact, this study suggested that even very advanced individuals (80+ years) were able to properly metabolize retinol, which was indicated by physiological retinoid-specific changes in the skin compared to the vehicle. However, because this study doesn’t actual examine the conversion process, it doesn’t tell us whether or not the conversion of retinol to tretinoin was impaired or reduced in efficacy when compared to say, a group of college students.


This type of aging is attributed primarily to the damaging UV rays of the sun, which with chronic exposure, can harm the skin in many ways; one of which is free radical or reactive oxygen species generation. This leads to oxidative stress in a variety of forms such as lipid peroxidation and immunosuppression. This study demonstrated that lipid peroxidation products inhibited the activity of retinol dehydrogenase 12, which led to decreased levels of retinoic acid (tretinoin = all-trans-retinoic acid). And as we learned in Part I of this series, because retinol dehydrogenases are one of the main classes of enzymes responsible for the conversion of retinol to retinaldehyde, it can be suggested that chronic UV exposure can reduce the activity and efficiency of those enzymes.

Now, I realize that the study linked was done on variant 12, which is active in the eye. Variant 10 is the most active in the skin. However, given the close resemblance of all retinol dehydrogenases, it can’t be completely denied that chronic UV exposure may reduce the rates of retinol metabolism (in the oxidation direction; towards tretinoin). We’ll have to wait until more specific and relevant studies are conducted.

Behavioral Aging

Put that bottle down!

This type of aging is attributed to a person’s behavioral tendencies. For example, smoking, drinking, etc… Now, I’m not going to tell my readers how to live their lives; I just want them to be healthy. However, I won’t deny that certain activities will increase physiological aging. In terms of this post, chronic ethanol consumption was postulated to inhibit retinoic acid synthesis in developing embryos by acting as a competitive substrate for alcohol dehydrogenase, which is another class of enzymes responsible for the retinol conversion process. This blocking of retinol by ethanol, effectively reduced the amount of retinoic acid formation.

Another interesting study demonstrated that diabetic mice had not only irregular retinol metabolism, but also exhibited significantly reduced levels of tretinoin in the kidneys. This reduction was attributed partly to a drastic decrease in the expression of alcohol dehydrogenase 1, another enzyme responsible for retinol conversion.

***Keep in mind that both of these studies did not measure retinol conversion activity in the skin; I could not find a study that does so. Usually, I would not casually link nor approve of using a result seem in a study done systemically to justify a similar effect when applied topically. For example, just because it was shown that oxybenzone was estrogenic or an “endocrine disruptor” when administered orally, doesn’t mean that will happen in the skin. However, in this case, we’re not discussing the effect of an EXTERNAL aspect. Instead, we’re talking about the enzymes of the skin, which are INTERNAL aspects. Furthermore, it has been established that both excess ethanol and sugar intake do have significant and deleterious effects to the skin. Again however, more specific studies need to be done before I can give a more conclusive answer.


So what does all this mean? Due to the lack of relevant data, this just means that tretinoin CANNOT be replaced by retinol. Furthermore, taken as a whole, the cited data suggests that the retinol metabolism process may be negatively altered by the various types of aging.

However, does that mean that old(er) people can only apply tretinoin to their faces to get noticeable results? Absolutely not. Will they get BETTER results with tretinoin? Maybe. Ultimately, any retinoid use is better than none! This post was more of an experimental or theoretical assay into an interesting topic; rather than a practical debate over the efficacy of retinol over a lifetime.

This (finally) concludes this exciting series on retinol metabolism. I hope it was informational and please let me know what you guys think of it!

About John

The Triple Helixian is an unbiased science and research-based site that attempts to clarify and elucidate questions about skin care, while aspiring to be the most thorough and complete source of information.


22 thoughts on “Part III: Retinol Metabolism Cont’d; Why Retinol Can Never Replace Tretinoin

  1. Hello! I’m sorry if this question is addressed elsewhere on the site (I’ve looked, but some pages or links are inaccessible in my country), but I’m wondering if it’s okay to use salicylic acid and tretinoin together. Everything I’ve read about here addresses the use of retinol with hydroxy acids, and I get the impression from those posts that the information doesn’t apply to tretinoin, but just wanted to double-check. I use Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid, then wait 30 minutes, then apply my .025% generic tretinoin. I haven’t experienced any redness or irritation yet, so is that okay? I’ve heard that rx retinoin should typically be the first thing applied, but I use the exfoliant first because it’s a thin solution and therefore not as much of a buffer to the tretinoin as say, a thick moisturizer (that’s my rationale, at least). Also, I thought that applying the exfoliant solution first might enhance the penetration of the tretinoin cream, but again, I’m sort of taking a shot in the dark. I know there are probably other factors to consider, so your advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Posted by Jane | May 5, 2014, 12:08 am
    • Actually your rationalizations are pretty much accurate!

      Tretinoin is not meaningfully affected by hydroxy acids. Therefore, the two ingredients can be used together assuming that no irritation is experienced, such as the case with yourself. You are also correct that salicylic acid can enhance the penetration of tretinoin since it slightly exfoliates the surface of the skin (stratum cornuem) as well as the lining of the pores. Furthermore, while the density of a product is not always a good indicator of how it will affected the penetration of subsequently applied products, it is a good general guideline to follow.

      So keep up the great work! Oh, and which specific pages/posts are inaccessible? Is there something I can do from my end?

      Posted by John | May 16, 2014, 3:30 pm
  2. Hi, John. I have been using retinol for a couple of weeks. Now my face is dry with many small bumps on it 😦 Is it the purging period? Have you experienced that? Though it is less bumpy after a few weeks, it is still obvious 😦

    Posted by Lewis | January 15, 2014, 9:29 pm
  3. I had to write this having applied the Sif Cosmetics EGF / KGF Serum for 3 weeks now. The results are amazing – I would never ever have believed this. I have cancelled my next Botox appointment! The skin feels unbelievable much smoother and tighter. I actually feel as if 15 years have dissapeared!

    The Serum is highly concentrated and has apparently more than 100x more EGF/KGF than any other Serum on the market. The reason they can do it is that the proteins are puritied from plants that are genetically modified with human Growth Factor proteins from the human genome project. It means that they have no endotoxins so they can have it much stronger. Also KGF has until now been very very very expensive or several thousand dollars per mg. It sounds like some kind of Star Trek movie. I didnt believe the results at first but the results were so startling that I called up the company and got this story from the lady I spoke to.

    So John, this comment made me look further and I found this:

    “The most impressive topical agent I have seen during my 30 years of practice” – Dr Moy, Professor of Dermatology at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

    Dr. Ronald L. Moy, professor of dermatology at the UCLA and former chairman of the American Academy of Dermatology is a world-renowned authority in dermatology.

    This is the link to the producers website


    John, would you/could you weigh in here, I know you are open to developmental possibilities in skincare science, how does this ‘smell’ to you, I’d really value your assessment before weighing up and making my decision regarding purchase.

    Also –

    This relates to the Retinol/tretinoin subject because I would like to know if such a product could be used with Retinol .1% or Niki’s Time Release Retinol or would be better incorporated at a different point on the skincare timetable and/or with different skin actives?

    Appreciate it thanks.

    Posted by Robyn Hurren | November 23, 2012, 10:54 pm
    • Hi Robyn, I’m glad that your skin is looking better than ever. However, I have to caution you.

      All growth factors are very fragile and too large to penetrate into the skin. If however, a product is able to be stabilized and employed in an adequate delivery system, it is possible to have growth factors effectively alter the skin.

      Therein lies the danger. Because growth factors have such differentiating and ubiquitous effects to the entire human body, too much of a useful thing can be dangerous. Overexpression of growth factors is a significant component of cancer cells: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15142631

      Paula Begoun quite adeptly summarizes what I think on growth factors: http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/719/human-growth-factor.aspx

      Ultimately, until further studies are done that can show how to allow growth factors to help the skin, without increasing the chances of inducing cancer (with is almost impossible since that would be akin to finding the cure to all types of cancer), it’s just safer to stay away from growth factors. It’s just not worth the risk. Furthermore, the financial investments needed to properly stabilize and formulatve growth factor products are very high, meaning very expensive products. You should spend that money on building the ideal routine that contains all five of the necessary classes of ingredients: sunscreens, niacinamide, retinoids, antioxidants, and hydroxy acids. Together, they will help you achieve the best risk-free skin ever! Again, that will all be in my Ideal Routine page!

      And if that “ideal routine” not enough for you, I’d rather have you undergo procedures like Mohs surgery and laser treatments, which have been demonstrated to work with peer-reviewed and independent studies; their mechanisms of actions have also been elucidated unlike growth factors, than to use the latter group of topical ingredients regularly. Again, they’re just not worth the drawbacks.

      I hope that makes sense.

      Posted by John | November 24, 2012, 6:54 pm
      • Hey John

        Thanks for the reply and the kind words at FutureDerm — my reply is not going through over there, so I hope it’s okay if I post here ._.

        I admittedly go back and forth on growth factors (GFs), even though I personally use a GF product, Skin Medica’s TNS Recovery Complex. Your reply to me at FutureDerm and your reply to Robyn here essentially summarize my concerns with them — i e, those of efficacy and safety.

        As to information regarding their efficacy, the only data I’ve ever been able to come across first-hand was the initial SkinMedica study which involved only 14 participants, 8 of which reported improvements in skin appearance, which were apparently later confirmed by optical profilometry and biopsy. Fourteen is such a small sample size, and as far as I’m aware, a control group with product vehicle (or, preferably product vehicle + non-cell-communicating proteins, because as Paula mentions, peptides *can* exert a water-binding function on the skin, even if they don’t penetrate, so I’d prefer to see the Skin Medica product compared against a placebo containing arbitrary proteins and the product base to evince clearly whether those in the Skin Medica product are actually acting in a cell-signalling capacity or simply as über-expensive moisturizers) wasn’t employed, so that data is not super-impressive to me. Supposedly other research has been performed on SkinMedica’s product and NouriCel-MD, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on it.

        An excerpt from ‘The Textbook of Skin Aging’ on growth factors seems to suggest that while the 500 Da rule holds in most cases, there are a few known exceptions, the examples given being latex proteins at 3 to 26 kDa and botulinum toxin at 900 kDa (I never knew this could penetrate to any extent applied topically LOL o_O). Apparently these substances are able to penetrate intact skin without a delivery system, albeit to a very minute extent, but the argument the book makes is that because only very small concentrations of growth factors are required to exert a signaling effect, enough may be able to get through to produce this effect. [1]

        Another interesting explanation I’ve found comes from Dr Brandith Irwin on her product recommendation page (in the entry for TNS Recovery Complex): she posits that because TNS Recovery Complex is a mixed growth factor product (supposedly it contains hundreds of different cytokines) with a range of molecular weights, it could possibly be that the smaller molecules of the bunch are what are penetrating and doing the work. [2] If that’s the case, though, that actually doesn’t quell my concerns regarding the safety of that GF product because one of the key ideas behind the ‘growth factor soups’ like NouriCel-MD found in SkinMedica’s TNS products is that the selection of GF harvested are the assortment that would normally be found being produced by healthy, young human cells (in other words, rather than one particular GF or an arbitrary combination thereof being selected for inclusion, a natural mix produced by cells is harvested), the problem being, of course, that if the skin is only allowing the smaller molecules of the bunch through (or even a higher ratio thereof), the assortment or ratio of the GFs that actually penetrate the skin may not be what would naturally be produced in the body, and that worries me quite a bit. The authors at barefacedtruth.com (both scientists who write extensively on GFs) have even mentioned that while some GFs have anti-inflammitory actions within the skin, others are pro-inflammitory and thus an incorrect or unbalanced assortment could actually be net inflammitory. [3] Of course, if the product’s delivery system is able to get enough of every size in, though, then perhaps the above concern may be just be another instance of me overthinking things (as usual LOL).

        As to the possible cancer issues regarding GFs, they do concern me as well, though I’d say to a slightly lesser extent than the aformentioned out-of-balance cytokine absorption issue. In [4] the barefacedtruth.com authors touch on the fact that certain growth factors (in this case, though, they’re only talking about EGF, in particular) are mitogenic, so while they may not cause cancer in and of themselves, they can ‘feed’ it and encourage cell division, if it’s already there. In concordance with that line of thinking, back at Dr Irwin’s site, she mentions in a response to a reader that the ‘current thinking’ is that if GFs are used in an environment where the development of healthy cells is encouraged (sunscreen, vit A and B3 derivatives all being used, for example), the GFs will tend to encourage proliferation of the healthier cells. While I’m okay with that answer at a logical level, I’d prefer to see a reference to check that other professionals are in fact in agreement with this line of thinking, but there isn’t one 😥 . [5] It does present an interesting question, though, as to whether one should forego using growth factors during and possibly after something such as a sunny vacation where the balance may have temporarily tipped towards damaged cells (even with sunscreen + AOX use) so as not to cause them to multiply. Furthermore, as Paula mentions in her article to which you linked, overproduction of any cells — healthy or not — isn’t necessarily a good thing, citing psoriasis and scar tissue as examples, and the notion that GFs could somehow make things actually look worse worries me more than any of the other negatives I mentioned so far LOL.

        For the time being, I have the SkinMedica TNS growth factors in my regimen because they do seem to exert a minor firming effect on my skin, though my results with them are not as substantial as those experienced by the above commenter, Robyn: I still am considering preventative Botox this winter break LOL ._. I’m glad she was able to realize such great results with a GF product, though: from what I’ve seen, reviews of them seem to be very polarized in nature — people tend to either report stellar results or no results with them. Admittedly, my percieved firming of my skin could merely be the placebo effect on my part, so I personally would like to see more safety and efficacy data performed on GF products, in general, to make sure that they are actually doing something positive, since they are so pricey. I don’t mind paying more if a product is truly effective, but by the same token, for $165 for 18 g, some good data behind the product would be very much appreciated on my part ^_-

        Thanks again for the reply and for clarifying that info about denaturation involving weak acids for me back at FutureDerm, as well as the info about growth factors — I’m learning a lot ! ^_^

        [1] http://books.google.com/books?id=9-ALWZhXomAC&pg=PA1086&lpg=PA1086&dq=textbook+of+aging+skin+growth+factors+1086&source=bl&ots=t0EF5KYBM7&sig=6onbTJ_k2RmGBIe-bhO0Afb6j-s&hl=en&sa=X&ei=LMS8ULqpC-vPigKYs4CIBw&ved=0CEAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=textbook%20of%20aging%20skin%20growth%20factors%201086&f=false

        [2] http://www.skintour.com/anti-aging-and-wrinkle-repair

        [3] http://barefacedtruth.com/2012/07/04/cytokine-stem-cell-%E2%80%9Ctissue-of-origin%E2%80%9D-issues-part-4-an-inflammatory-view/

        [4] http://barefacedtruth.com/2011/11/29/controversy-bioeffect-transgenic-egf/

        [5] http://www.skintour.com/q-and-a/Could-growth-factors-in-TNS-Recovery-and-other-similiar-products-promote-cancer-.html.html

        Posted by Trae | December 3, 2012, 10:33 am
        • Okay, so I’m finally responding to the comment. Lol!! I can’t believe it’s been so long since the submission time. I really apologize for the delay. I’m not even sure why I waited so long. And I apologize in advance because I know this response is going to seem rather anti-climactic considering the length of your original comment and the wait time. Haha. 😦

          Anyways, here we go. It would appear that high concentrations of multiple GFs may be more effective overall at reducing wrinkles than any single one. However even then, I don’t believe GFs improve the appearance of wrinkles any more so than retinoids and L-ascorbic acid. And since those have several other benefits, it would appear that there’s really no point in trying GFs unless the user in question has marked sensitivity issues with those ingredients.

          In terms of the different ratios of penetration of the different GFs in “soup” formulations, that may or may not be a source of worry. I’d imagine that the skin has a highly regulatory system that won’t allow something really bad to happen like cancer, at least not from topical exposure to GFs. If too much of a single GF reaches the skin, it will perhaps create a negative feedback loop or some other regulatory system. Of course, that may suggest that people who have a family history of skin cancer and/or very light skin and/or have had a lot of sun exposure in the past–the people most prone to wrinkles ironically, should not use GFs since the skin is more “damaged” in those scenarios and has potentially weaker regulator and immunomodulatory systems.

          On the other hand however, I agree that while skin cancer is a possible outcome of using GFs regardless, the chances of that happening are very unlikely. This is because your skin naturally produces GFs when you for example, cut your skin. Or pop a pimple. So it wouldn’t make sense that if you’ve had a lot of cuts on your skin and/or popped a lot of pimples in the past (like me), you’d be more prone to skin cancer. And the concentrations of topical GF products that actually reach the viable epidermis, isn’t likely to surpass the amount that your skin naturally generates from cuts, etc…

          I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say is that, GFs may have some efficacy as it pertains to topical application. The risks, while numerous, are likely small in magnitude. However, given the various mechanisms by which GFs operate, it would seem prudent to avoid using them if you have a family history of skin cancer, very light skin, and/or have been exposed to a lot of sun in your lifetime. And even if that is not the case, there’s still no point in using GFs since they basically attempt and appear to do what retinoids, L-ascorbic acid, and to an extent niacinamide already do, without the additional benefits that the others provide. The only reason to use GFs would be if you’ve hadn’t had good results and/or have sensitivity issues with the other ingredients. This is why I’ll only be briefly addressing the various synthetic peptides and GFs in the “Ideal Routine” Page: they may have some efficacy, but not enough to be a “regular” ingredient that everyone should use.

          Does that all make sense? I don’t even know if you’re still following this blog and comment. I’ll send you an email if I don’t see a response in a weekish.

          Thank you for your patience.

          Posted by John | May 3, 2013, 6:53 pm
          • Hey, no worries about the response time — everyone gets busy from time to time — and your response isn’t at all anticlimactic: I really learn a lot from your posts ^^,

            I’m in complete agreement with you about retinol, L-ascorbic acid and niacinamide all being far more effective than GFs, and, not to mention, better-studied actives, as well. I recently had a friend ask my opinion of a one-hundred-dollar skincare system that touted plant growth factors as its star active and didn’t really contain much else to write home about, and I told him that he’d be far better off trying to get some sort of a vitamin A product — retinol or retinaldehyde — in his regimen followed by chemical exfoliants, vitamin C and then B3 before even considering spending money on speculative ingredients like growth factors, especially ones from plants, of all things.

            The concept of a negative feedback loop to counter overproliferation of a single GF or weight-grouping of GFs in the skin and the notion that GFs may actually be risky for those with fair skin and a propensity towards skin cancer or who’ve incurred much sun exposure are very astute observations on your part. With regards to the latter, I actually may fall into such a category, myself, given my Fitzpatrick phototype of 2C (burn easily, tan minimally) and prior heavy sun/UV exposure during my late teens/very early twenties when I thought that UV tanning was a great idea (read ‘when I was an idiot’ LOL).

            Fortunately, I actually stopped using growth factors a few months ago, in part due to ethical considerations regarding the initial source of the cell line used to create NouriCel-MD (which I knew about before I began using SkinMedica’s products, but tried to ignore) combined with a waning of my belief that the product was actually making any sort of change in my skin’s appearance. Two months later, and my skin doesn’t seem to show any negative changes after discontinuing use of GFs, so a classic case of the placebo effect may simply have been what was responsible for the positive firming changes I had perceived, after all. On the other hand, I may wake up one of these days looking like something out of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ as punishment for no longer using SkinMedica’s super-expensive product LOL -_^

            I very much look forward to your thoughts on synthetic peptides in the ‘Ideal routine’ page — I’ve always had mixed thoughts on the efficacy of those, and would love to know if there’s any hope of them working, and additionally, if there are any potential risks that could result from their use or groups of persons for which they’d be contraindicated, similar to how GFs might be with respect to persons that have incurred much skin damage in the past.

            Thank you very much for your expertise and insight into the topic. It’s been a pleasure reading your response, and again, no worries about it being ‘late’: there are enough real deadlines in life, that you needn’t worry about creating additional ones for replies to my posts. IMO, blogging should be, first-and-foremost, fun, especially when it’s something one does on the side, and responses should be addressed only when time permits and never be an added source of stress in one’s life ^_^

            Posted by Trae Palmer | May 20, 2013, 4:44 am
            • Yay! It’s nice to see that our thoughts match up.

              And don’t even worry about being an “idiot,” because I am in the SAME exact boat as you, considering I did four years of Cross Country and Outdoor Track in high school… and NEVER wore any sunscreen. Throw in super bad cystic acne, and I’m basically the poster boy for bad skin. 😉

              And while I do love me some “In sleep in sang to me… In dreams he came…” I too, hope that you never become the Phantom.

              As for the synthetic peptides portion of the Ideal Routine page, I actually don’t plan to right TOO much about it. It’ll basically just be part of the FAQs section, and shouldn’t be much longer than my most recent response to you (not including this one). In the future however, I will write an entire series that compares all the notable peptides, what kind of studies have been done on them, etc… However, because the Ideal Routine is what I believe everyone should use, I didn’t feel the need (nor do I have the time) to include that planned series quite yet.

              Thanks so much for the support!

              Posted by John | May 20, 2013, 1:26 pm
  4. I have only recently started using Tretinoin, and all these posts have been incredibly useful. Thanks so much!

    P.S. I have a small question that I hope is permissible to ask here: I’ve learned that using AHAs is important if I want to fade my dark spots/acne scars. However, I am currently using Retin-A 2-3 times a week for my cystic acne. Does Retin-A provide the right kind exfoliation for fading hyperpigmentations, or should I also incorporate in a Glycolic Acid product on days when I’m not using Retin-A?

    Thank you so much!

    Posted by Emy Shin | November 23, 2012, 3:07 pm
    • Emy, any question about skin care is permissible! 🙂

      AHAs are important to help fade hyperpigmentation. However, that doesn’t mean that thye have to be used everyday. That’s because AHAs are just one way to combat hyperpigmentation. AHAs increase cell turnover (exfoliation) to get rid of excess melanin that’s present on the surface of the skin. Indeed Retin-A does also combat hyperpigmentation in a similar way.

      In terms of using them together, you can as long as you don’t experience any excess irritation.

      I hope that helps. Also note that there are many other ways to fade hyperpigmentation including sunscreen use, as well as the use of tyrosinase and melanosomes inhibitors. It’s best to use everything together if you’re dealing with serious hyperpigmenation.

      Posted by John | November 24, 2012, 5:07 pm
      • Thank you for answering my question, John!

        I was wondering if Retin-A and AHAs help with hyperpigmentation in similar way (which they seem to do) — so it might be more cost-effective for me to spend on other skincare products rather than AHAs. 🙂

        Aside from applying sunscreen religiously, I’m also using a few lightening products including Vitamin C and arbutin. However, I remember you commenting that hydroquinone should only be used for a short period of time. Since arbutin is just glycosylated hydroquinone — should I discontinue using arbutin if I’ve used it for a few months now and pick it up again at a later date? Or is it not as potentially harmful as hydroquinone?

        Posted by emyshin | November 24, 2012, 5:31 pm
        • While AHAs and Retin-A do combat hyperpigmentation in a similar fashion, they both have other distinct and important functions for the skin that I don’t think it’d be wise to take either one out of your routine. They are both part of the 5 crucial classes of ingredients necessary for everyone’s ideal routine. So if you can, I’d try to keep both ingredients in your skin care regimen.

          As for the other stuff, I didn’t say that hydroquinone should only be used for a short period of time. Indeed, it can be use on an ongoing basis. However, I said that hydroquinone should be rotated in your skin care routine. For example, 3 months with HQ, 1 month without, 3 months with HQ, and so on.

          Arbutin IS just glycosylated hydroquinone. However, that makes it less effective than HQ. I’d stick with HQ rather than arbutin. However, arbutin is also less potentially harmful than HQ.

          If however, you are hesitant to use HQ, it’d be prudct to combine other less effective tyrosinase inhibitors together in an attempt to make up in efficacy. For example, use a product that contains arbutin, licorice, and mulberry. The more the merrier.

          Posted by John | November 24, 2012, 7:05 pm
          • Thanks for such a quick reply!

            In that case, I will be buying a full bottle of Paula Choice’s RESIST 5% AHA, then, since I do like the samples I’ve used.

            Ah, I’m sorry; that’s what I meant about HQ — that it should be used for a short time, rotated out, then rotated back in again. I’ve tried HQ in the past, but I seem to be allergy to it (red, itchy rashes), so I’m hesistant to use it again. The product I’m using has arbutin and kojic acid; if I add niacinamide in the form of PC’s RESIST Pure Radiance Skin, do you think that’d be good enough?

            I’m only beginning to get my acne under control, and am hoping to fade as much of my acne hyperpigmentation as possible during the winter months. Thank you so much! 🙂

            Posted by emyshin | November 24, 2012, 7:33 pm
            • You’re welcome. I may be busy but you guys are super important!

              The PC 5% AHA is fantastic!

              Which HQ product have you been using? I’m asking just to make sure that you’re not reacting to some other ingredient. But yes, HQ can be irritating. But yeah, if it’s irritating, there are other alternatives.

              Yes adding the PC Pure Radiance, along with all the other stuff in your routine, should be very helpful for hyperpigmentation.

              Also, for acne have you tried the PC 2% BHA liquid? The most important thing right now is to get your acne under control, before expanding your routine too much. But hey, if you can make everything fit and get your acne under control, good for you!

              Posted by John | November 24, 2012, 7:41 pm
              • 😀 You are seriously the king of fast replies.

                The HQ product I used was “Nadinola Skin Discoloration Fade Cream” with 3% HQ. It was fine the first few applications, but suddenly gave me shiny and itchy red rashes one night. It might have something to do with my skin because the same thing happened with Benzoyl Peroxide — and even when I switched to different BP products, the rashes persisted. And they often take days to subside, so I’m hesitant picking up another HQ product.

                Yes, I’m actually currently using PC 2% BHA liquid. It’s really helpful for small pimples, but unfortunately not for my cystic acne. Tretinoin seems to help the latter, as I haven’t had a cystic pimple in a few weeks (*knocks on wood*). But Tretinoin is very drying on my skin, so I’m using a combination of both. 🙂

                Posted by emyshin | November 24, 2012, 7:51 pm
  5. You shine light in dark places – love your work

    Thank you John

    Posted by Robyn Hurren | November 22, 2012, 10:05 pm

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