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Everything You Need to Know About Retinol

Everything You Need to Know About Retinol

It’s one of the best-known skincare ingredients on the market, but what exactly is retinol? Some of us are under the impression that it’s an anti-aging skin care ingredient, whilst others think it’s an acne treatment. Retinol is a broad sweeping term given to retinoids and not all retinoids are created equal. Let’s educate ourselves and answer everything we ever wanted to know about using retinol in our skincare routine.

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a Vitamin A derivative that increases cell turnover, which means you’re basically sloughing off layers of skin at lightning speed. Cancer and ageing scientist, Professor Derek Richard explains how the ingredient itself goes through a two-step process when applied to your skin.

“When you apply retinol it breaks down into retinoic acid and its retinoic acid that's a really powerful antioxidant that induces, good things like collagen and elastin production.”

“Retinol helps with ageing because it causes skin cells to produce more collagen and elastin, which has a positive effect on fine lines and wrinkles,” says Professor Richard.

What’s the Difference Between Retinol, Retinoic Acid, Retinaldehyde & Retinyl Palmitate?

Retinol is one of four types of retinoids used in skincare: retinoic acid (also known as tretinoin), retinaldehyde and retinyl palmitate. All are a form of Vitamin A and work in similar ways to speed up cell turnover for smoother and more even skin texture.

Retinoic acid is only available by prescription and is the most potent of the bunch. It’s the most active and effective but also the most irritating. Retinyl Palmitate on the other hand is less irritating and is more comfortable to use consistently and continually. Retinol and retinaldehyde fall in the middle of these two in terms of efficacy and irritation. Retinaldehyde is retinol’s more powerful cousin, it’s as strong as you can get without going into prescription territory. If your skin is sensitive, scale back to retinol or retinyl palmitate. Retinol is going to give your skin similar benefits but with less risk of irritation risk to retinoic acid or retinaldehyde.

Benefits of Using Retinoids

  • Reduces the signs of ageing

  • Improves skin texture

  • Evens skin tone and helps fade dark spots

  • Clears acne and regulates oil production

  • Boosts collagen production

Retinol helps fade dark spots 

Side Effects of Retinoids

Retinoic acid can be drying and irritating whilst retinyl palmitate is pretty gentle so side effects are rare but can still happen. With any retinoid you can experience itching, burning, peeling and increased skin sensitivity but the risks are greater with retinoic acid and retinaldehyde. Retinoids make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays, so always apply sunscreen over the top.

How To Incorporate Retinoids into Your Skincare Routine

It takes around six weeks to start seeing results from retinoids, so you need to be patient. Best to start with a simple routine and use retinoids at night after cleansing and follow with a moisturiser. Begin applying once or twice a week on non-consecutive nights and gradually increase your use, depending on how your skin reacts, and watch for any non-glow related changes. If your skin reacts well, you can start to increase the frequency of use. Retinoids work well with hydrating cleansers, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Don’t use it with heavy scrubs, toners, vitamin c, astringents, alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid as it may irritate the skin.

Use can also get your glow in well formulated and stable products like a retinol cream or retinol eye cream to reduce the appearance of sun damage, brown spots, lines, wrinkles and large pores. It’s magic in its ability to re-surface the skin’s texture to look smoother and more even toned. It also helps increase collagen production, so your skin gets that bouncy, glowy appearance.

Night cream with retinol, Intensive Night Repair 

Forms and Strengths of Using Retinoids

Retinoids are not recommended during pregnancy, nursing or for those planning on being pregnant soon. If you have flaring eczema or rosacea, limit the use of retinoids until your skin has calmed down. With any new product that you are adding into your skincare routine, start off low and slow and do a patch test before applying to your entire face.

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