Retinol is in just about every anti-aging skincare product on the shelves today. It is one of the most researched skincare ingredients today and also one of the most highly recommended by dermatologists everywhere. It is often recommended as a “cure-all” power-ingredient. However, it is essential to take some precautions before using retinol. Here is everything you want to know about retinol.

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a derivative of antioxidant-rich Vitamin A of the retinoid family that helps reduce oxidative stress. There are many forms, namely: retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinal, tretinoin and percentages available of retinoids. It comes in both natural and synthetically derived forms, for example, rosehip and trans-retinoic acid, respectively.

What are its benefits?

Retinol 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. It can even help unclog pores and smoothen 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). 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 a 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: 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-size 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. It is advisable to do a patch test before you start using retinol on your face.

Like any other skincare ingredient, your skin will take time to adjust to retinol. Flakiness, dryness and occasional breakouts may appear after you incorporate retinol into your skincare regimen.

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 teens’ favorite, Retin-A. Retinol is like its younger sister. In over the counter dosages, it does not pack quite as much of a punch, but it should still be used very 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, it is best to start with the lowest concentration 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.

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