What’s a Retinoid? The Role of Vitamin A Derivatives in Skin Care

Retinol (Vitamin A)

The contemporary skin care market boasts thousands of products, each containing hundreds of active ingredients, offering a vast array of benefits.

Acne control, radiant skin, and less visible signs of aging are among some of the more popular claims made by modern products, and creams and serums containing retinoids are certainly no stranger to the spotlight.

Very few compounds have the ablility to reliably deliver the benefits of retinoids, yet even making a decision on what type of retinoid to use can be a daunting task in itself.

Retinoids are a class of chemical compounds that are derived from vitamin A; there are seemenly endless types and formulations designed for various purposes.

Retinoids bind to receptors within the cell that affect DNA regulation, and they are intimately involved in the mediation of cell proliferation and differentiation.

Retinoids are common active ingredients in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription creams that bind to nucleic acid (DNA) receptors in the skin cells to:

  • Stimulate cellular turnover in the epidermis.
  • Thin the top layer of skin.
  • Promote collagen production/repair.
  • Prevent collagen damage/breakdown.
  • Decrease sebum (oil) production.
  • Help to clear debris and dead skin cells from pores.
  • Play a role in the prevention of skin cancers.

SkinCeuticals ACD

Classes of Retinoids

Some types of retinoids (i.e., retinol derivatives) must be converted (oxidized) to retinoic acid (the biologically active form) after they are applied to the skin in order to be effective.

Recalling one of my favorite college classes, organic chemistry (I know–I know…but it really was interesting…LOL), alcohols (e.g. retinol) are oxidized to form aldehydes (e.g. retinaldehyde), which are subsequently oxidized to form a carboxylic acid (retinoic acid).

Retinol (Vitamin A)
Tretinoin (Retinoic Acid)






Free radicals damage cellular tissue by “stealing” electrons from the tissues in order form stable compounds.

Retinoids are effective antioxidants, which donate electrons (become oxidized) to free radicals, which accept the electrons (become reduced) and form nonreactive compounds that are more stable and do not damage cellular tissue.

The antioxidant (electron donor) reacts with the free radical (electron acceptor).

Retinol derivatives are commonly found in OTC creams, while retinoic acid derivatives (with the exception of adapalane) require a prescription. Continue reading “What’s a Retinoid? The Role of Vitamin A Derivatives in Skin Care”

La Mer The Moisturizing Cream: Review of a Cult Favorite


Creme de la Mer has evolved into a quasi-legendary skin care product line; it began as a smaller, word-of-mouth organization and was later purchased by the Estee Lauder company in 1995. The mainstay of this skincare line is The Moisturizing Cream, a luxurious facial moisturizing cream containing “Miracle Broth, an ingredient common to all Creme de la Mer products, which is a proprietary, nutrient-rich serum derived from the “biofermentation” of sea kelp. Due to its iconic status among celebrities, beauty professionals, and obsessive skin care consumers, the price of Creme de la Mer has been driven to unbelievable heights over the years.

La-Mer-Moisturizing Cream
Creme de la Mer
Moisturizing Cream
Special Edition Blue Heart Jar

Continue reading “La Mer The Moisturizing Cream: Review of a Cult Favorite”

What’s the Best Sunscreen for the Face?

Environmental factors, notably ultraviolet (UV) solar radiation, can cause sunburn and other types of sun damage, leading to skin cancer with prolonged and repeated exposure.

UV light causing linkage of DNA bases to each other.

Sunscreens are designed to prevent the bulk of the UV radiation from contacting the skin, thereby helping to prevent sun-related skin damage and skin cancer.

With so many types of sunscreen products available to the consumer, it can be difficult to know whether to purchase the product or not.

The FDA mandates that sunscreens clearly label certain qualities (i.e., SPF value, “broad spectrum”); these labels can be exploited by educated consumers to purchase quality products. Continue reading “What’s the Best Sunscreen for the Face?”

The Best Moisturizers for the Face: A Few Good Candidates

La-Mer-Moisturizing Cream
Creme de la Mer
Moisturizing Cream
Special Edition Blue Heart Jar

Despite being among the most recognizable facial care products, many people are unsure of what type of moisturizer to purchase and exactly how to use it.

Moisturizers have been around for quite some time, and their popularity continues to increase, as both men and women are putting them to use at an unprecedented rate.

Dry skin can enhance the appearance of wrinkles and imperfections, so it is important to apply an appropriate moisturizer twice a day.

Moisturizers can markedly reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles almost immediately by increasing skin hydration, resulting in a more plump appearance. Ideally, facial moisturizers should:

  1. Reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), which is water lost from the body (dermal skin layers) to the environment via the epidermis from diffusion and evaporation.
  2. Restore the skin’s lipid barrier by enhancing the skin’s own moisture-retaining processes.
  3. Absorb into the skin quickly to provide immediate hydration.
  4. Confer protection from UV light with an SPF of 30 or greater (when used as part of your morning skincare routine).

    La Prairie
    Skin Caviar Luxe Cream

Continue reading “The Best Moisturizers for the Face: A Few Good Candidates”

What About Eye Cream for Men?

Eye cremes are often a hazy, gray area for anyone, let alone for men.

Some individuals are of the opinion that eye creams are really just face creams or moisturizers marketed in smaller jars carrying higher prices.Eye-Cream

The skin surrounding the eye is thinner than on the rest of the face, so it is usually the first area to show signs of aging, and it’s also more prone to irritation.

Consequently, eye creams are usually lighter than facial moisturizers and contain less concentrated active ingredients so that they are less likely to irritate the skin.

Why Eye Cream?

Since the skin around the eyes is thinner (i.e., more delicate) than on the rest of the face, there is less collagen and elastin present within it.

Furthermore, the skin around the eyes produces less sebum (natural skin oils) than the rest of the face, which results in the skin in this area being prone to drying out and creasing.

With the repetitive contraction of the eye muscles (e.g., squinting, laughing, and smiling), creases form in the skin, resulting in increased breakage of the collagen and elastin fibers.

Another causal factor is the general decline in elasticity and firmness of the skin that occurs with aging and damage from the environment.

The delicate nature of the skin, especially with accelerated aging, makes this area especially prone to the development of wrinkles.

Maintenance of skin thickness and elasticity is crucial in order to delay the onset of these signs of aging.

“Crow’s feet” are linear wrinkles in the skin around the corner of the eye that generally appear in the mid-30s and are one of the most common types of wrinkles around the eye.

Crow’s Feet

Truth be told, I have quite a few friends who indulge in tanning and cigarette smoking, and they have developed some fairly impressive crow’s feet.

This caused me to have an irrational fear of developing them prematurely; thankfully, it hasn’t happened yet.

Continue reading “What About Eye Cream for Men?”

Best Skin Serum: Targeted Therapy

All sorts of things come to mind when we imagine the word “serum”; it often conjures images of mysterious liquids with potent and quasi-magical properties.Medicine-Dropper

In medicine, serum is actually just the liquid component of the blood, which is very rich in proteins.

Skin serums are products that target specific skin types or skin problems; they are often very concentrated and nutrient-dense.

They contain a plethora of smaller molecules that can penetrate deeply into the skin to deliver their active ingredients.

Though the effects may be inconspicuous at first, habitual use of a face serum as part of your skincare routine can really make a difference in the long term.

Investing In a Serum

As many people familiar with skincare products are aware, skin serums tend to be expensive; small bottles line the glass shelves like miniature potions and elixirs on display.

Many of these products package copious amounts of active ingredients into small bottles, which results in their being more costly than other types of skincare products


Creme de la Mer The Lifting Eye Serum

Continue reading “Best Skin Serum: Targeted Therapy”

What’s Skin Toner?

Skin toner is one of the most perplexing and enigmatic items in today’s skin care repertoire; many people are unsure of its purpose and whether to use it.

Originally, toners were designed to fight acne; the classic formulations contained mostly alcohol, resulting in overly dry skin.

With time, toners have diversified, and there is currently one formulated for every skin type.

Although using a skin toner today is not considered crucial, there are several advantages to its use.

Toners are an effective way to benefit your skin without adding a lot of time to your current routine.

Should I Bother?

While toners are not an essential part of the contemporary skincare regimen, they have multiple merits when used as part of a daily skincare routine.

Benefits of using a facial toner include:

  1. Removal of trace amounts of dirt, oil, dead skin, and residual facial cleanser.
  2. Balanced skin pH; toners help to return the skin to a lower (acidic) pH after cleansing.
  3. Acne control.
  4. Enhanced penetration of subsequent skincare products into the skin when applied prior to their use.

So, there is really no reason not to use a toner.

How to Use Toner

Toners should preferably be used immediately after washing your face, when the skin has been wet, so that it’s more easily absorbed by the skin.

Using toner immediately after washing your face facilitates removal of debris and residual cleanser.

Toner can be applied to a cotton round (pad) until it is damp and then gently applied to the skin of the face.

The cotton pad is then swept across the skin from the center to the outside of the face until the pad is clean. There is no need to rinse your face after using a toner.

Round Cotton Pads

Continue reading “What’s Skin Toner?”

Best Face Cleanser for Men: Which is It?

One of the most important things that we can do for our skin, especially our face, is to wash it regularly.

Normally, the facial skin produces sebum (oil) and sweat throughout the day, which can form an oily layer on your skin.

Skin also accumulates pollutants (dirt particles) and dead skin cells, which combine with oil and sweat; this provides a substrate for bacterial proliferation, ultimately leading to the obstruction of pores.

Ideally, the face should be washed twice daily; if you work out or engage in vigorous physical activity, you should wash your face afterward.

Creme de la Mer
The Cleansing Gel

Continue reading “Best Face Cleanser for Men: Which is It?”

Men and Skin Care: More Alike Than Different

Where Should I Start?

With the abundance of information readily available, it’s difficult to know exactly where (and when) one should begin having a daily skincare routine.You-Are-Here

Fortunately, I have been through a lot of it myself, and I have tried more than a few products and methods along the way.

Most people think that they don’t really need to worry about taking care of their skin until they’re 40 years old, (it’s never too late), but one should to start before then in order to prevent damage to the skin.

Most guys don’t even really think about taking care of their skin at all, unless you’re talking about routine things, like shaving.

Is skin care for men any different than skin care for women?  The short answer is, with a few exceptions, not really.

Fountain of Youth

I remember reading about the explorer Ponce de Leon searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth in elementary school Social Studies class, even though it’s probably just a story.

Youthfulness and vitality must have been pretty important, even by 16th century standards,  if an expedition would travel halfway around the world into totally unknown territory in hopes of finding a way to combat the effects of aging.

Fountain of Youth Archeological Park. St. Augustine, FL

Society has always attempted to combat aging.  In decades past, women predominantly were trying to achieve a more youthful appearance, but the contemporary obsession with youthful beauty (and the ubiquitous presence of the camera) causes guys to jump into that fountain at an unprecedented rate.

Ask most women whom they find physically attractive, and chances are that it will include some young, famous, handsome guy who is constantly being chased and photographed because he’s just that.

Circa 2007.

Today, Brad Pitt (at 55) looks as good as most (ordinary) men in their 30s, and I am reluctant to believe that it has to do with genetics alone; a lot of this has to do with the appearance of his skin.

An Ounce of Prevention…

When I was in medical school, I remember one of my favorite lectures was delivered by a dermatology professor who told our class that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

I thought that was applicable to many things, but especially to the skin and aging.

I always noticed that certain subsets of people looked noticeably older than their stated age, while others appeared considerably younger.

Quite a few women were able to look decades younger than they actually were, but I didn’t really see any male counterparts.

I had always been told that I looked younger than I am.  At first, it was kind of annoying, but I soon found it to be more of a compliment as time progressed.  I figured that I may as well try and keep it up for as long as I could. Continue reading “Men and Skin Care: More Alike Than Different”

About Ian

Hi, I’m Ian. I have always been interested in the process of aging, especially how it relates to the skin.

My Story

I have always been interested in the scientific mechanisms of aging, specifically how they’re manifested in the skin.

People generally can tell a person’s age by the way their skin looks, especially in the face, since that’s the first place that most people look.

In the past, skincare was predominately a topic for women who were interested in looking more youthful, but over the past few years, there has been growing interest in men who would like to take care of their skin.

 Professional Photograph–LOL.

Motivation for Helping Others

I have always derived satisfaction from helping others. When I was in college, I worked as a tutor in various subjects in order to help other students with their course work.

After college, I decided to go to medical school, where I was able to learn many aspects related to helping people take care of themselves from a health perspective.

I did my residency in anesthesiology, which allowed me to help people undergo surgical procedures; this was a lot more involved than most people think.

One of my favorite lectures while in medical school was by a dermatology professor who told our class that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure“.

I hadn’t heard this saying up until that point, and I felt that there was a lot of truth to it.

I found that I could help people quite a bit just by educating them in regard to routine skincare.

I have a lot of interest in products dealing with everyday skincare, including those related to the prevention and treatment of various skin conditions and normal aging.

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Site Purpose

My purpose for this website is, once again, primarily to educate people, especially guys, who would like to learn more about how they can look younger by taking care of their skin on a daily basis.

These topics deal with practices and products that prevent the exposure of skin to environmental factors that cause skin damage and premature aging, as well as other products that address skin damage once it has begun.

I also discuss the treatment of other common skin problems, such as acne, and everyday skincare routines, like properly cleansing your face.

If you ever need assistance or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help.

Please leave any specific comments about products or methods about which you may be familiar, because I may not know of them and am always interested in learning.

All the best,

Ian B.