Retinol; the secret ingredient behind flawless looking skin that’s been taking the skin care industry by storm. Marketed as the messiah of both anti-wrinke and acne treatments, retinols long-list of benefits are not to be overlooked. But for many of us, we’re not exactly sure what this magic ingredient is, why it’s considered the holy grail of skin care, or how to even apply it.
That’s why we’ve created this ultimate guide to retinol. We’ll cover everything you’ve always wanted to know about retinoids and how to use them. But before we jump in at the deep end, let’s start with the basics.
What Are Retinoids?
Retinol belongs to the family of retinoids, which are a derivative of Vitamin A. Retinol is an antioxidant, meaning that it has rejuvenating qualities.
The ‘magic’ of retinol lies in its ability to stimulate new skin cells and boost the production of collagen. Even at its weakest form, retinol is capable of reducing the appearance of sun damage and wrinkles. At its strongest, retinol can clear long-term, severe skin conditions such as acne.
Retinoids come in different strengths, and it’s important to be aware of these before you start using retinol. The stronger the retinoid, the more adverse the effects.
From weakest to strongest, here are the different types of retinoids;
- Retinyl palmitate
So, which is the right one for you? Well, when it comes to retinol, you can’t just dive right in with the strongest one. Retinol has the potential to cause irritation and dryness, so you’ll need to build the strength up over time.
We advise starting out with a retinyl palmitate or retinol, as these are weaker and found in most retinol based skin-care products. As your skin gets used to it, you can start to move onto to retinaldehyde or adapehlene.
However, moving up to one of the higher strength formulas could take years, and, depending on what you are trying to achieve or treat, might not be wholly necessary given the effectiveness of retinol.
After adapehlene, you will need a dermatologist or doctor to prescribe you tretinoin or tazarotene. Though these are generally reserved to treat severe acne.
What Does Retinol Do?
Now we’ve covered the basics of retinol, we can move on to the juicy part. What does retinol do? Once you discover the many benefits of retinol, it’s more a question of what doesn’t it do.
The Benefits of Retinol
This single ingredient is capable of;
Retinol exfoliates the skin on a cellular level, and encourages a faster turnover of new skin cells. This new layer of skin will reveal brighter, healthier looking skin that appears glowing and radiant.
Collagen is a protein that’s responsible for skin elasticity; it keeps our skin firm. However, as we get older, our body produces less collagen, and as a result, fine-lines and wrinkles start to appear.
Enter retinol. Stimulating the production of collagen and essentially tricking our bodies into thinking we’re younger, retinol goes a long way to both reduce the appearance of current fine-lines and wrinkles, and prevent new ones forming.
Evening Skin Tone
Hyperpigmentation causes darker patches to appear on the skin, and is the result of excess melanin. This can come about through acne scaring, sun damage, or simple hormone fluctuations.
The high cell turnover that retinol promotes in turn works to reduce hyperpigmentation. Retinol will help even your skin tone, leaving it smooth and sleek.
Retinol goes a long way to regulate oil glands by ensuring they don’t overproduce. It also makes pores appear smaller and prevents them from clogging, resulting in fewer black heads and spots.
Plus, if you suffer from acne or experience breakouts often, then retinol can boost the effectiveness of other acne medications. So, if you use it in tandem with other treatments, then you’re likely to see heightened results.
As we can see, the benefits of retinol are invaluable. However, it does have the potential to bring about some negative side effects.
Factors to Consider When Using Retinol
When you’re using retinol, there are some precautions you will need to take to ensure you get the best out of it, and don’t inadvertently cause any damage to your skin.
There is no question that retinol is powerful, and with great power comes great responsibility.
Here are some factors to consider when using retinol:
We mentioned earlier that there are different types of retinoids, each with a different degree of strength. However, retinol products come in varying degrees of strength, too.
The majority of retinol serums or creams start at 0.25% and go up to 10%. It’s important to start off with a lower percentage and build yourself up. If you don’t, you run the risk of irritating your skin.
If you have super-sensitive skin, or an underlying skin condition such as rosacea, psoriasis or eczema, then you may need to seek professional advice regarding whether you can use retinol.
Whilst it is still possible to use retinol with sensitive skin, you will have to take extra care. You will need to gradually introduce it into your skin care routine, use it with less frequency, and use further treatments to prepare or relieve the skin.
Retinol increases your risk of sun burn. In light of this, it’s vital that you use a high-SPF sun cream in conjunction with retinol. if you can, try to avoid the sun at it’s peak, and wear a hat and sunglasses.
If you don’t take precautions in the sun whilst you’re using retinol, then you could permanently damage your skin. Considering the fact that retinol fights to reverse the effects of sun damage, not taking the necessary precautions here would be counterintuitive.
Though there are some potential side effects when using retinol, if you use it correctly then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
How To Use Retinol
Now you know what makes retinol worth it’s weight in gold, next you need to know how to use it.
Retinol is known, especially in its first few weeks of use, to cause redness, dryness, and irritation to the skin. That’s why we recommend using retinol alongside other skin care products.
A gentle cleanser and moisturiser can help combat the side effects of retinol in the first weeks. After that, using complimenting products with retinol is just generally good practice, and can yield better results.
Retinol comes in different forms, you can get retinol serums, creams, and even tablets. It’s important that you always read the label of the retinol product you buy, however, most retinol serums and creams should be used no more than 1-4 times per week.
It will take roughly one month to six weeks before you start seeing any tangible results from retinol. Your skin may actually get worse before it gets better, but this is completely normal. So stick with it, be patient, and you will soon start reaping all the wonderful benefits that retinol has to offer.
When To Start Using Retinol
As we reach our thirties, the amount of collagen we produce slows down, and our skin starts to lose its elasticity. That’s why dermatologists state the best time to start using retinol is in your mid to late twenties.
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