What is Retinol?
Derived from vitamin A, retinoids are marketed as miracle skincare products. Retinol is the most researched skincare ingredient and is proven to have numerous beneficial effects on the skin:
- Reduces the signs of ageing. Not only does retinol prevent wrinkles, but it has also demonstrated an ability to improve the appearance of existing wrinkles.
- Increases collagen production and prevents the loss of existing collagen and elastin, keeping your skin plump and youthful.
- Fades hyperpigmentation, scarring, and sun damage for a more even complexion.
- Combats acne through enhancing skin cell turnover, regulation of sebum production and its pore-clearing properties. In fact, this was the original purpose of retinoid use. It wasn’t until the 1980s that it was remarketed as an anti-ageing product.
- Improves skin texture and can create a naturally bright, glowing complexion.
Almost everyone can benefit from retinol use. Even if ageing or acne is not a concern of yours, it is worth incorporating into your evening routine no matter your skin type.
There is an abundance of information about skincare products these days, but dermatologists agree that retinol is one of the most effective ingredients and is a fantastic addition to your beauty regime when used with care.
Possible Side Effects
As a powerful ingredient, retinol provides numerous benefits, but also some possible unwanted effects. Dryness, irritation, and flakiness can occur, which can be avoided through the gradual introduction of the active into your skincare routine.
Users may experience a purging period where breakouts start to appear before the complexion ultimately improves. Purging is a common reaction to a new, topical skincare ingredient that increases cell turnover, and is not unique to retinol. Before fresh, healthy skin cells cycle to the surface, less desirable flakes, sebum, and pore-clogging buildup are ‘purged’ from your skin, rising to the top and creating a temporarily more blemished complexion. How can you tell the difference between a purging period and a negative reaction? Purging occurs in areas of the face where you commonly breakout and the individual spots will come and go faster than normal pimples. On the other hand, a product that your skin simply disagrees with will prompt a reaction in new areas and take around 8-10 days to disappear.
Those who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or planning to be should not use retinol. You should avoid retinol for at least a week before putting your skin through anything intense – facials, chemical peels, laser, waxing, or intense sun exposure.
You may be thinking, why should I bother? By pushing through the initial rough patch, you will experience the benefits. You may not experience purging at all! It will all be worth it once your skin has adjusted to the product. Nearly everyone can benefit from retinol use.
How to Introduce it into Your Routine
- Apply in the evening! Cell turnover is at its peak at night, so boost this activity by applying a retinol or retinoid product. Use a pea-sized amount on the face and a second pea-sized amount for your neck and décolletage.
- Gradually integrate retinol into your routine. Begin with a product that has a lower percentage of the active ingredient in its formula. Use once or twice a week, building your way up to every other night.
- Use the sandwich technique. Newcomers can benefit from applying a moisturiser before and after using retinol. By layering your skincare, it will be easier for your skin to tolerate the retinol, whilst maintaining the product’s efficacy.
- Thirty is a great time to introduce retinol, but you can start earlier, around your mid-20s. If you are using retinol as an acne treatment, you may wish to start even earlier. A professional may even prescribe you stronger retinoid creams for this purpose.
- Don’t use at the same time as direct vitamin C products or exfoliating toners containing AHAs or BHAs. Use any chemical exfoliants on an evening that you don’t plan to use retinol.
- Apply an SPF! This step is non-negotiable. The fresh new layers of skin are more sensitive to sunburn and damage, so you should protect your hard work by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
When Will I See Results?
Retinol won’t change your skin overnight. Noticeable results tend to appear in around three to six months. Timing varies according to the potency of the retinol, and some people convert retinol into retinoic acid (the stuff that improves your skin) faster than others. It is possible to notice some improved texture and glow slightly earlier than this time frame.
If you feel that retinol may not be for you, you could try retinyl palmitate, retinol’s gentler cousin. Its reduced potency makes it more suitable for sensitive skin. Alternatively, Bakuchiol is a botanical extract that can mirror the effects of retinol. Bakuchiol doesn’t have the same sun-sensitising effects as retinol and is suitable for application in the AM and PM.
Retinol doesn’t have to be intimidating! Our desire for instant gratification makes it difficult to stick with a slow-acting product, but you will thank yourself in the long run.
Megan is an editor and content creator with a love for beauty, fitness, reading and cooking.