Fun fact: did you know that our skin reaches maturity around the age of 21? Personally, I found this fact a little shocking, especially since our brains only reach maturity at age 25. Now, since I'm 21 myself, I've decided that the time to slowly integrate some Retinol into my routine has finally come. Before I go on about how I do this, let me quickly explain the basics.
What is Retinol?
A derivative of Vitamin A. As of now, it's considered to be the most powerful anti-aging ingredient. It has been proven several times in clinical tests to reduce wrinkles/signs of aging, tighten pores, prevent and reverse UVA/B damage, increase blood flow in skin, fight acne, increase cell turnover, boost your collagen and even skin tone. Pretty amazing right?
However, one needs to be extremely careful with Retinol. It's a powerful active for a reason and can very easily be overdone. There are usually side effects to using it, the mains ones being: redness, irritation, and dry skin- potentially peeling.
Good news is that this can be mainly avoided or at least reduced if you simply start out slow. If you are thinking about beginning the use of Retinol, here's a guide on usage that has worked for me. I've had no unpleasant side effects so far thanks to this guide by FutureDerm, apart from a slight increase in dryness, which can't be avoided and I easily deal with by simply upping my moisturizing products. Your skin essentially needs to build up a tolerance towards it and so you slowly work your way up in terms of concentration and usage frequency. So word of caution here - using more won't give you better results, it will just burn your face off :P. Less really is more when it comes to Retinol. A pea-size is all you need.
Retinol has to have a minimum concentration of 0.1% to 0.3% in order to be effective. Anything less won't do anything. The highest concentration available is 1%.
Should I start using Retinol?
If you're 21 or above and you don't want your face to resemble a prune, yes! Or like me, you start noticing some fine lines appearing and want them vanquished. Think of it as the war on wrinkles. If you want to win, you better arm up with some big guns.
Important things to know when applying Retinol:
- apply it in the evenings not mornings; the sun breaks it down and thus leaves it ineffective
- don't use an acid toner (AHA/BHA) on the evening you use your retinol, the combination of the two renders the retinol useless and ineffective. You can still use your toner in the morning, just not in your evening routine.
- apply your retinol treatment after cleansing
-wait 1 hour before applying any other products (serums, moisturizers), it's much more effective this way if the skin is dry with no product.
- you can apply it everywhere on your face, except for your eye contour/crease and under your eyebrow (read the instructions for your specific product).
- wear sunscreen the morning after (though you should be wearing it everyday regardless *cough*), retinol makes your skin more photosensitive/vulnerable to sun rays and damage
- if you have a strong reaction (redness, irritated skin), then take a break from it. Let your skin heal completely and then try again more slowly, i.e. use it less often.
- be consistent, don't take long breaks, like several weeks or months. It takes 8-10 weeks before you even begin to see results, so stay persistent!
And to clear up some terminology confusion that you might experience when researching retinol:
There are different forms of Vitamin A, and are listed in terms of concentration/strength
1) Retinoids: these are the strongest forms of Vitamin A. They require a prescription from a doctor and involve more of the side effects since they are stronger and thus harsher on the skin.
2) Retinol: a non-prescription form of Retinoid, not as intense as Retinoids but still powerful nonetheless with fewer side effects.
3) Retinyl Palmitate: weakest form of Vitamin A. Doesn't work very well, though still has some effect.
Another thing to keep in mind: they all vary between each other in terms of concentration/strength, they don't transfer over. For example 1.0% Retinol equals to 0.05 Tretinoin (a type of prescription retinoid).
Product Recommendations (all are linked):
A good starting-off, easing into product - La Roche Posay Redermic [R] Dermatalogical Anti-Wrinkle Treatment - Intense (0.3% Retinol). Pictured at the top. Tends to go on sale often on FeelUnique.
Paula's Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment ($55)
Next time on The Skincare Guide: Ingredients to Avoid Mixing Together