If you’re looking to treat acne, hyperpigmentation, or the signs of aging, then retinoids are your best friend. However, there are multiple types of retinoids to choose from – some are available over the counter (OTC), while others require a prescription. So how do you know which retinoid is best for your skin type? Can you use adapalene for wrinkles?
Here’s everything you need to know about adapalene for wrinkles…
What Is Adapalene?
Adapalene is a ‘retinoid’, which is a catch-all-term for vitamin A derivatives like retinyl esters, retinol, retinaldehyde, adapalene, tazarotene, tretinoin, etc.
They’re key skincare ingredients in any anti-aging, anti-acne, or anti-pigmentation routine and work by increasing your cellular turnover rate (the rate your skin produces new cells and transports them to the surface of your skin).
A higher cellular turnover rate = brighter, fresher, younger-looking skin.
A low cellular turnover rate = clogged pores, acne breakouts, and a dull and rough complexion.
Your cellular turnover rate reduces as you age, may change with the seasons, and is lowered in certain skin conditions, like acne.
Although retinoids, like adapalene, increase cellular turnover, they do not have an exfoliating effect on your skin (if you’re experiencing flaking/peeling it’s likely down to skin barrier damage and irritation).
Retinoids offer a wide range of benefits for your skin (both related and unrelated to their ability to increase cellular turnover), including:
- Boosting collagen production
- Reducing sun damage
- Reducing hyperpigmentation (e.g. dark marks, age spots, etc)
- Increasing skin hydration (although they can initially decrease hydration by disrupting your skin barrier)
- Acting as an antioxidant to protect your skin from free radical damage
- Treating and preventing clogged pores
- Reducing the inflammation associated with acne and acne scarring
- Minimizing the appearance of enlarged pores
- Improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Preventing the growth of bacteria on your skin
What’s The Difference Between Adapalene vs Retinoids
In order for retinoids to have any effect on your skin, they need to convert into their active form of retinoic acid.
Retinyl esters, retinol, and retinal have to go through a few conversion steps to convert to retinoic acid but adapalene, tazarotene, and tretinoin are already in this active metabolic state.
Adapalene wasn’t approved as an acne treatment until the mid-90s and is classed as a third-generation retinoid.
There are four generations of retinoid in total:
- First Generation: retinol, retinal, tretinoin, isotretinoin (accutane), and alitretinoin
- Second Generation: etretinate and acitretin
- Third Generation: adapalene, bexarotene, and tazarotene
- Fourth Generation: trifarotene
First-generation retinoids have been around a bit longer, for example, tretinoin was approved for use in the 60s which means that there’s an extra 30 years of research behind tretinoin compared to adapalene.
Another difference between adapalene vs retinoids is the receptors in your skin that they bind to.
Once retinoic acid enters your skin, it has to bind to certain receptors and activate them which triggers the activation of specific genes and results in a specific biological response (e.g. cellular differentiation)
There are two main types of retinoic acid receptors, both with 3 subtypes (alpha, beta, gamma):
- Retinoic Acid Receptors (RARɑ) (RAR𝛃 (RAR𝞬) – 16% of overall retinoid receptors, of which, 90% are RAR𝞬
- Retinoid X Receptors (RXRɑ) (RXR𝛃 (RXR𝞬) – 84% of overall retinoid receptors, of which, 90% are RXRɑ
Tretinoin binds to all six receptors, while adapalene binds to only RAR𝛃 and RAR𝞬 – the latter of which regulates how skin cells in your hair follicles (pores) function.
As one of the main causes of acne is a build-up of dead skin cells in your pores, adapalene appears to have the ability to selectively target acne. Plus, its receptor selectivity also makes it less likely to cause skin irritation.
Multiple studies have found that, when it comes to treating acne, 0.1% adapalene is as effective as 0.025% and 0.1% tretinoin but causes less irritation.
It’s also oil-soluble which means that it’s easier for adapalene to penetrate your pores.
It’s well known that adapalene is an effective treatment for acne but what about using adapalene for wrinkles?
Adapalene For Wrinkles
Research has suggested that skin aging is associated with increased RARɑ expression which regulates the enzymes that break down collagen. By binding with these receptors, tretinoin can normalize their activity and prevent the breakdown of collagen.
As adapalene doesn’t bind with the RARɑ, it’s unlikely to be as effective as tretinoin when it comes to treating aging skin.
Tretinoin, on the other hand, has a lot of research to back up its anti-aging effects.
So, if you’re looking to use adapalene for wrinkles, you’ll probably find it’s less effective than other retinoids, especially tretinoin. However, you can still use adapalene for wrinkles and it might be a gentler option.
Adapalene is also not affected by light or air which makes it more stable than other retinoids. This means that you can use it during the day without its effectiveness being reduced.
It also means that you can use it alongside ingredients that create oxygen, like benzoyl peroxide.
How To Use Adapalene For Wrinkles
As adapalene can be a prescription drug, you should always follow the advice of your prescriber on how best to use it but here are a few tips for getting started with using adapalene for wrinkles.
1. Start Slow
If you’re new to adapalene then you should always introduce it slowly and allow your skin to build tolerance. For example, use it 1x week for two weeks, then 2x week for 2 weeks, and gradually build up until your skin can tolerate it daily (note: some people’s skin may not be able to handle retinoids daily but research suggests that you can still achieve excellent results using them 1-3x per week).
2. Use At Night
Although adapalene is fine to use during the day, there may be more benefits to using it at night. That’s because your cellular turnover rate is higher, and most cell renewal happens overnight.
3. Use Plenty Of Moisturizer
When using adapalene, moisturizer is your best friend! Retinoids are well-known for causing skin irritation and barrier damage. When the lipids that hold your skin cells together become depleted, your skin barrier is weakened, which means that water can escape and irritants can enter. Replacing these lipids by using moisturizers that contain barrier-identical lipids or ingredients that increase lipid production (e.g. niacinamide) can help keep your skin barrier strong and prevent retinoid irritation.
Looking for a moisturizer to use with Adapalene? Check out The Best Moisturizers To Use With Tretinoin (Retin-A).
Buffering is a common tactic used to prevent retinoid-induced irritation and involves applying the retinoid after your moisturizer. This way, the retinoid takes longer to penetrate your skin which reduces the risk of irritation. You can also use the ‘sandwich’ technique where you apply moisturizer before AND after your retinoid – this may be particularly beneficial to anyone starting adapalene for the first time.
5. Wear Sunscreen
Daily sunscreen use is the most important part of any skincare routine. In fact, you’re wasting your time if you’re using adapalene without wearing sunscreen every day and are likely causing even more damage to your skin (retinoids make your skin more sensitive to sun damage – the number one cause of skin aging).
6. Skip The Exfoliation For A While
Chemical exfoliants, like glycolic acid, work in synergy with retinoids to increase cellular turnover. Retinoids encourage the production of new skin cells and increase the rate they reach the surface of your skin while chemical exfoliants help you shed those cells from the surface of your skin.
While this means that you can get better results using both together, it’s almost guaranteed to cause skin irritation and barrier damage, at least when you’re first starting out.
Whether you’re using adapalene for wrinkles or a different retinoid, you should skip the exfoliants for at least the first month of retinoid use.
Once your skin has adjusted to your retinoid you could consider reintroducing an exfoliant 1x per week to start and, if tolerated, increase use up to an absolute maximum of 3x per week.
7. Use Alongside Niacinamide
Research suggests that not only does niacinamide help reduce retinoid-induced irritation, but it can also enhance your results. To get the most out of this skincare combination, use niacinamide for a month prior to starting adapalene.
Research suggests that this helps strengthen your skin barrier so that you experience less irritation when commencing retinoid use.
Please note that the majority of research, including these studies use niacinamide at a maximum concentration of 5%. Many niacinamide serums contain 10% which may increase your risk of irritation.
Summary: Can You Use Adapalene For Wrinkles?
If you’re wondering whether you can use adapalene for wrinkles, the answer is yes!
However, it may not be as effective as other retinoids for this purpose. The gold standard for treating fine lines, wrinkles, and/or pigmentation tends to be tretinoin.
Whichever retinoid you choose, it’s very important that you’re wearing sunscreen every day. All retinoids increase your skin’s susceptibility to sun damage and, without sunscreen, you will be doing more harm than good.