Retinol is something that I personally took a long time to understand. Retinol, Retin A, 1%, 3%, patches, lotions, serums, prescription, over the counter. I surrender. It was so overwhelming and when I originally tested one out my skin did not react kindly, turning red and raw, causing a strike on trying another. After every brand promoting a retinol product and all the buzz I realized I needed to try again, but first I needed to arm myself with knowledge before I went back into battle.
Retinol is vitamin A. Vitamin A has many functions including growth and development, maintenance of the immune system and good vision, and interestingly hold properties that act as human growth hormone (the fountain of youth) While we can receive loads of vitamin A through the foods we eat, when transformed into a topical treatment, the anti-aging benefits can be extreme. When we think of aging, most of us just think of wrinkles but in fact as we age we develop a multitude of things contributing to a new look. Thicker skin, loss of elasticity, slow breakdown of collagen and sunspots, are all among the aging process. Vitamin A, retinol, tackles all of it.
I would be lying if I said I have now learned everything there is to know about retinol but I do have a solid understanding of what it does and why. Without sounding like a scientist I present you with a simple breakdown and a few tips:
Retinol stimulates the production of new skin cells. This helps reduce fine lines, fight acne and reduce discoloration from hyperpigmentation or sunspots. While prescription retinoids are stronger and generally more affective, over-the-counter retinol is a great way to start. As it can be quite aggressive and is often best to build up to a higher dose.
Many people have fears about the sun and using retinol. There seems to be some confusion here. Yes, the ingredient itself is sensitive to the sun, but that is why retinols are to be used at night and washed off in the morning. Also, with more cellular turnover it should be understood that newer fresher skin may be more sensitive to things like tanning. Just so we are clear nothing about wearing the product properly is harming your skin in any environment, only how you treat your skin.
Retinol can irritate your skin. This is very true! That is why they come in different strengths and not necessarily used daily, or else they can be very irritating and ineffective. The best way to adjust is to start at a lower percentage 2 to 3 times a week and then build up in days or in concentration.
Here is what I recommend for each skin type.
For sensitive skin. Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil
For dull skin. Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution.
For oily skin. Dr. Brandt Overnight Resurfacing Serum.
For Hyperpigmentation. SkinMedica Retinol Complex .25
For wrinkles. Biossanee Squalane + Phyto Retinol Serum
For stronger skin. Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0
For eyes. Dermalogica Age Reversal Eye Complex.
A few personal tips.
Different parts of the face are stronger than others. This is a general statement when it comes to most areas like eyes and cheeks versus forehead, but in some cases, can be personal for your specific skin. I like to mix and match. My cheeks are more sensitive as I’m susceptible to rosacea. I often use a lower concentrate on my cheeks and higher where I have stronger skin that need more work like forehead and laugh lines. I also use a decently high dose as a spot treatment for a pimple in the evening and see amazing results by morning.
All in all don’t be scared of retinols but know what you are dealing with. It’s a potent product with real results. Be responsible with your skin and it will show you the love and respect that you put into it.