Retinol is in just about every anti-aging skincare product on the shelves today in the form of a liquid serum, gel, cream and emollient. It is one of the most popular and massively researched skincare ingredients today and also one of the most highly recommended by dermatologists everywhere for its tremendous benefits on acne, skin tone, and graceful aging. It is often recommended as a “cure-all” power ingredient and applied topically for good skin health. However, it is essential to take some precautions before using retinol. Here is all about retinol that you need to know- its benefits, potential side effects, and how to incorporate it safely into a skincare routine.

What is Retinol?

Also referred to as Vitamin A1, retinol is a derivative of antioxidant-rich Vitamin A of the retinoid family that helps reduce oxidative stress. It includes both over-the-counter (OTC) retinoid products and prescription retinoid medication. There are many forms, namely: retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinal, tretinoin, and percentages available of retinoids. It comes in natural and synthetically derived forms, for example, rosehip and trans-retinoic acid. 

What are its benefits?

Retinol benefits in more ways than one. It can help enhance your skin’s natural exfoliation process from the bottom up. It works by stimulating and accelerating the production of healthy skin cells. This cell turnover can lead to an even skin tone with a brighter and healthier complexion.

It has also been touted as the closest thing to an anti-aging magic potion. Retinol boosts collagen production, leading to a reduction in fewer wrinkles and firmer skin with greater elasticity. It can penetrate all the way to the stratum corneum and also slightly penetrate the dermis. Retinol serum benefits can be seen in reduced inflammation and abnormal skin peeling, helping unclog pores due to blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and cysts, and smoothing skin texture, which is why so many dermatologists recommend retinoids for teens fighting acne.

When (at what age) should you start using it?

Some experts recommend incorporating retinoids into the skincare regimen as soon as you start to notice fine lines (at 30-plus). Skin aging can happen due to biological age as well as external factors like UV light exposure, lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking, and pollution. But if you are struggling with acne, you may want to start even sooner, especially to combat comedones—the small, fleshy bumps that form when a pore gets clogged.

However, there is no hard-and-fast rule as to when you should apply retinol. Many people apply it at night when their skin is naturally in repair mode; you can wear it during the day too. Experts say it is a common myth that you cannot wear retinol in sunlight. But because retinol encourages fresh, healthy skin, topping it with SPF 30 sunscreen is a must. It is best to talk to your dermatologist before starting a retinoid regimen, as this product can cause your skin to dry out and sometimes turn red.

If you have sensitive skin, you can start off using retinol as infrequently as every third night (or day), working your way to every other day. Then, if you are not feeling any stinging or seeing any redness, increase to daily use.

How to use it?

Retinol is a major multitasker and works by accelerating cell turnover. You can apply it anywhere you see the signs of aging: the neck, face, and even the tops of your hands. Spread a thin layer all over your face, not just on specific lines or spots.

Apply a pea-sized amount of retinol right after cleansing your face. Allow your skin to absorb it (for 20-30 minutes) before you apply any other skincare product. Layer with a moisturizer and finish off with sunscreen.

What to consider before you use it?

Too much of anything is bad for you. This applies to retinol as well. Doing a patch test before you use retinol on your face is advisable to ensure the skin does not react negatively.

Like any other skincare ingredient, your skin will take time to adjust to retinol. Flakiness, flushed skin, itchy skin, scaling of the skin, excessive skin dryness, and occasional breakouts may appear after you incorporate retinol into your skincare regimen. Less common side effects include acne flare-ups, skin inflammation, slight discoloration of the skin, sensitivity to UV light, etc.

If you are expecting or think you might be pregnant, check with your doctor before using retinol. Never use retinol and alpha hydroxy acids together. This can cause redness and irritation. If you have accidentally used the two ingredients together, pop an anti-inflammatory pill to calm the skin.

How to choose the suitable one for your skin?

You might know the prescription-strength options, like Accutane or every teen’s favorite, Retin-A. Retinol is like its younger sister. It does not pack quite as much of a punch in over-the-counter dosages, but it should still be used wisely.

Retinol comes in various strengths; the most common are 1%, 0.5%, .0.3%, and 0.25%. If your product does not specify the percentage of retinol on the label, it usually means the concentration is weaker than .25%, which may not give you the full benefits of retinol. Studies suggest you need to use at least 0.25% retinol or 0.025% tretinoin to be effective, so it is advisable to use a product that specifies the percentage.

When choosing a retinol product, starting with the lowest concentration is best before moving up. Another thing to consider is your skin type. If you have oily or thick skin, try a higher-strength product. If you have dry or thin skin, start with the lower-strength option.

Make Retinol your skin’s best friend

Retinol is a product that has to do with micro-changes to the skin’s appearance, like lines, uneven skin tone, etc. Everyone’s skin handles Vitamin A differently. It will take time for your skin to adjust to the new regimen. Wait for at least 12 weeks to see the desired outcome. The resultant skin will look plumper with reduced signs of skin aging.

– By Kaya’s Expert Dermatologists


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