Everyone has their go-to skin care ingredient for more radiant skin. Many people swear by Retinol.
Chances are, you have it somewhere at the back of your medicine cabinet. It isn’t new, and it’s not sexy. In fact, this powerhouse ingredient was discovered more than 8 decades ago, making it a bonafide dowager compared with the ‘modern’ ingredients that have since come onto the anti-aging scene. When it comes to helping with the appearance of maturing skin, the appearance of helping maintain the skin’s elasticity, and cosmetic defense against wrinkles, there’s no other skincare ingredient more lauded.
It is not always clear when you should use retinol, and what it can do for your skin. What exactly is retinol, and why is it at the top of the must-try list of skincare experts?
What is Retinol?
Retinoids are a class of chemicals all related to Vitamin A. Retinol is a vitamin A derivative - a type of retinoid, and part of the family of chemical compounds related to Vitamin A. Other forms of vitamin A include retinoic acid, retinal, retinyl esters, and retinyl palmitate, but retinol is the most usable form and represents the vitamin in its most complete state. Vitamin A is one of the key ingredients which aids in skin renewal.
The notable chemical makeup of Vitamin A was discovered in the 1930s. Efforts were made to stabilize this rickety compound, and by the 1960s, scientists were starting to understand its power in skincare applications and were able to metabolize it into its more active (and more stable) cousin - retinoic acid. By the 1970s, retinol was FDA-approved as a prescription treatment for acne, but skin experts noticed that a lot more than just pimples were disappearing. Hoards of patients started reporting that the ingredient actually helped with the appearance of hyperpigmentation and fine lines.
Now, are you excited about this multitasking ingredient? I haven’t gotten to the best part yet!
The Benefits of Retinol
From helping with the appearance of dark spots, acne, wrinkles, and everything in between, retinol seems to be a remedy for all of our skin woes.
- Retinol helps with anti-aging. This quality of retinol stems from its powers to help start collagen production. Collagen helps keep the skin resilient, supple, and gives the skin its shape. More collagen = less wrinkles! Among other things, collagen ensures that the skin appears plump and dense. The skin’s production of collagen begins to drop by the time you hit the age of 25. So if you want a fresh-faced complexion for years to come, it’s best that you incorporate this super ingredient in your mid 20s or early 30s.
- Retinol has antioxidant powers. Retinol is both an antioxidant and a skin-restoring ingredient. It helps mitigate the effects of environmental stress that the skin is subjected to on a daily basis. It protects the skin from the aging effects of the sun, pollution, and oxidative stress.
- Aside from giving collagen a hand, retinol helps enhance the appearance of skin’s elasticity. Indulge me for a moment and pinch your skin. The elastin in your skin is what helps it regain its initial shape. Mature skin lacks elastin, and has a tendency to crease, wrinkle, and mark for easily and for longer.
- Hands down, dark spots can be a formidable enemy. The appearance of brown spots is a true indication of your days spent in the sun, but fret not, this can be reduced by regular use of retinol. In fact, retinol can help promote the degradation of melanin, the culprit of dark spots.
- Retinol helps keep acne at bay. As I have previously mentioned, retinol was first marketed as an acne-fighting product. One of the misconceptions about retinol is that it acts as an exfoliator. I used to think that retinol sweeps away dead skin cells too! In reality, retinol works on a profound level by helping unclog pores and prevent further build up. Pores that can breathe equates to fresh skin that is less prone to breakouts.
Some Tips on Using Retinol
- Start off with a low percentage and use only a pea-sized amount. Increase the usage to give your skin a chance to get used to it.
- Don’t stop at your face - your decolletage needs some love too! In fact, the neck is one of the most notorious areas to show the first signs of aging, and a lot of people neglect it.
- Contrary to what many people think, you can use retinol during the day. Just be sure that you wear sunscreen over it. Research has shown that retinol can remain effective and stable under a good, broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more.
- Redness? Push through it. It is all part of the process. In at least two weeks, your skin will adapt and tolerate the ingredient. However, I’m talking about lightly peeling, drier-than-usual, reasonably flushed skin. If the discomfort is very uncomfortable or prolonged, switch to a weaker formula or use it once a week. Dermatologists advise that it’s best to start by using it once every three days. This way, your skin will get used to retinol’s effectiveness and strength.
Some considerations when using retinol
- In this case, using more is not better. Too much retinol can cause dryness, redness, and irritation. Balance is key, especially if you are new to using retinol. Start slowly. You might want to mix it with you usual serum or moisturizer to see how your skin reacts. Vary the frequency of use on the product’s formulation and concentration.
- Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Retinol can help with skin renewal - it is one of the ways this ingredient works to help improve the signs of aging. Retinol helps pave the way for healthy skin to surface, and left unprotected, new skin can easily burn. Make sure that you wear a broad spectrum sunscreen during retinol treatment, even while indoors.
- Retinol is not safe for pregnant or lactating mothers. Anything you ingest or put on your skin may be passed on to your baby through your bloodstream during pregnancy or through your breastmilk. It is recommended that you use retinol only after pregnancy and nursing.
Whether you go for a rejuvenating eye cream, a retinol serum, or an overnight micro-peel, retinol deserves a place in any anti-aging regimen, from the sensitive to the acne-prone. Use it in rotation or every three days for a skin-replenishing boost. Don’t forget to stock up on sunblock!