4 Surprising Places To Use Retinoids, According to a Dermatologist

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Dermatologists consider vitamin A (aka retinol) to be the gold standard of anti-aging thanks to the many studies and tests on its efficacy. Thanks to its scientific firepower, the star ingredient is featured in countless retinol serums, oils, and creams, and most of these products are formulated for the face. But there are places to use retinoids other than your face that are worth exploring as well.

Retinoids, or the active form of vitamin A, offer tons of benefits.“They're a high-strength prescription that promotes cellular turnover to improve texture, hyperpigmentation, and skin tone,” says Lindsey Zubritksy, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and Sun Bum partner. They also stimulate blood vessels, boost collagen production, unclog pores, and much more.

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The benefits of retinoids are not simply limited to the skin on the face, though—they work equally well for other parts of your body.

4 places to use retinoids other than your face

1. Dark knees and elbows

One of the main benefits of using a retinoid is how it boosts cell turnover according to Dr. Zubritsky. This means old skin cells are shed faster and replaced with younger, fresher ones. Not only does this fight hyperpigmentation, but it also illuminates your complexion. An easy product for this purpose is the Necessaire The Body Retinol ($55), which uses a blend of both retinol and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to eat away at unwanted patches for a smoother, brighter tone.

2. Scalp areas experiencing male pattern hair loss

Hair loss is frustrating and complicated, and only your doctor can come up with the best treatment plan, which is why we recommend consulting them first before starting any new treatment plan. Unlike other spots on this list, the scalp requires tretinoin, a more potent retinoid only available via prescription. According to recent studies, tretinoin may be a worthwhile addition to your routine. When used in combination with minoxidil, it has been shown to enhance the absorption through skin, resulting in the promotion of hair growth, according to Dr. Zubritsky.

3. Keratosis pilaris

Also known as “chicken skin,” keratosis pilaris is a common condition that typically occurs on the arms or the thighs. It happens when a build-up of keratin clogs hair follicles and pores on the skin resulting in tiny, hard bumps. The condition is harmless but annoying. Thankfully, its two-pronged treatment is relatively simple: exfoliation and hydration. This is where retinoids come in. They do not technically exfoliate but they do speed up cell turnover which eases keratinization. The Topicals Slather Exfoliating Body Serum ($30) has both dead skin-shedding AHAs and retinol, so you get the best of both worlds. Follow it with ABI AME Summer Skin ($29) for a vitamin b5 and oat extra laced shot of hydration.

4. Stretch marks

Technically, a stretch mark is a scar that happens when the skin rapidly stretches or shrinks. Another benefit of using retinoids is how they strengthen and stimulate collagen which helps fade the appearance of scars. That being said, “retinoids are most helpful when used for fresh stretch marks,” Dr. Zubritsky says. However, she also warns that retinoids cannot be used during pregnancy.

Regardless of how or where you're using them, keep in mind that your skin is extra sensitive to sun damage after using retinol, so make sure to slather on an SPF for protection after using the active ingredient.

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