It’s a term you may have heard us use before, and for good reason. The profile of this highly-touted, some would say “holy grail” of skincare has risen exponentially, due in part, to “skincare tiktok”. So why is this particular skincare addition so well-respected and so regularly recommended? Well, let’s get into that.
Acne? Hyperpigmentation? Fine lines? Poor texture? Sun damage?
Retinol has you covered. It is rare to find someone who doesn’t suffer to some degree from at least one of the above. Many of us suffer from a bunch of those skin woes. Imagine you had to try and incorporate a product per concern into your skincare routine to really address them. We’ve already talked about the risks of overdoing the actives. Using too many products just isn’t it. This is where retinol comes in.
Side note: Retinol is the name given to Vitamin A derivatives, which is what retinol is. You’ll hear other names like retinoids, retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate. These are all forms of the same thing – Vitamin A. What you will use will depend on the skin concern you want to target. It will also depend on your tolerance of it.
What does it actually do?
Simply put, it increases cell turnover and builds collagen and elastin. Collagen is that magic stuff that makes your skin soft, supple and plump, and we start losing it from around the age of 30. Collagen also plays a significant role in healing acne and reducing how badly we scar from it. Retinol is so effective because it penetrates down to a cellular level, not a merely topical one. This is why it can be so effective for this kind of skin concern.
Using retinol right
This stuff can be tricky to get to grips with. Many products come with slightly…misleading directions…shall we say? If you’re getting a prescription retinoid from your dermatologist, you don’t have to worry. You can follow their directions and consult them if you have any issues. But for the over-the-counter types, below are some best practice tips for getting started with retinol.
Trust us. Don’t rush retinol. If you’re brand new to using it, start super slow. Most advice dictates 2-3 times a week maximum and then build up the frequency from there. However, see how your skin feels with the retinol you’ve chosen. If it is screaming out, once a week maximum is probably your starting point. If your skin feels pretty fine, then stick with 2-3 times a week and build up to 5 times a week. It can be a really good idea, regardless of tolerance, to give your skin a regular break from any kind of active, retinol included. So consider 1-2 days a week when you just cleanse and moisturise.
Pro-tip: If you find you are still getting too much irritation with your retinol product, consider the “moisture sandwich”. This refers to moisturising before and after using retinol. Put a light base of moisturiser on. Let it sink in. Apply your retinol. Let that sink in. Then finish with more moisturiser, preferably a nice thick one.
Not all retinols are created equal. Take heed of the concentration of the retinol product you want to purchase. 0.025% is not a bad way to begin if you’re new to it. You can then slowly, and we really mean slowly, work your way up to the mighty 1% (which tends to be the strongest non-prescription retinol money can buy). Higher strength retinoids can be acquired with a prescription but you should first have a consultation with a dermatologist.
Pea-size for the retinol but plenty of moisturiser
The fact that retinol generally comes in teeny-tiny tubes and bottles should tell you something about how much you should be using at any one time. A pea-sized amount is universally recommended for the entire face. Dab it onto the four quadrants of your dry face (a wet face will increase the chances of irritation) and gently rub it in, taking care not to get too close to the eyes. It’s enough. Honestly.
Retinol can be quite drying, so moisturiser is a must. Retinol should exclusively be used at night, so this means you are free to use a lovely, thick, occlusive moisturiser to keep your skin happy and hopefully avoid the dreaded flaking.
We say it all the time, but consistency is key to any skincare regime and retinol is no exception. If you really want to get the best results possible, stick with it.
It takes a while for the effects of retinol to become apparent so don’t expect anything amazing after two weeks. For acne you could be looking at between four and six weeks to see results. For anti-aging, closer to 12 weeks. Sounds like a long time, but it’s so worth the wait!
Be careful with the mixing!
We generally recommend using maximum two regular actives at any one time in a skincare routine. Retinol can be an especially tricky customer if you use it with certain other actives, such as AHAs. So be mindful of what goes on your skin before and after retinol. We have a basic cheat sheet for you in our previous blog post on skincare actives and their use.
So go forth and join the retinol revolution and reap the benefits of this deservedly hyped ingredient. Check out the carefully selected retinol products available at our place! These are the retinols we rate!