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Retinol - Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About it

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a form of vitamin A. Some people refer to it as vitamin A1.

In recent years, retinol has gained popularity in the skin care market, due to its support of graceful aging and its beneficial effects on acne and skin tone.

OTC retinol comes in doses of up to 2%, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Stronger retinoids may require a prescription.

Retinol can penetrate the layer of the skin known as the stratum corneum and can also slightly penetrate a deeper layer known as the dermis.

When present in the layers of the skin, retinol promotes cell turnover and prevents the breakdown of collagen, a protein that promotes skin elasticity.

Why is it considered the “holy grail” of skincare?

Retinol has many uses that can benefit skin health, due to its ability to penetrate the stratum corneum and the dermis of the skin.

Once deep into the layer of skin, retinol helps neutralize free radicals.

Retinol – Uses:

This helps boost the production of elastin and collagen, which creates a “plumping” effect that can reduce the appearance of:

  • Fine Lines

  • Wrinkles

  • Enlarged Pores

Retinol is used to help treat acne as well as related scarring.

However, severe acne is usually treated via a prescription retinoid along with other medications that help target inflammation and bacteria.

Finally, retinol has an exfoliating effect on the skin’s surface that can help improve skin texture and tone. It also helps to brighten up the skin.

To summarize,

  1. Helps with signs of aging,

  2. Acne & related scarring,

  3. Improves skin texture & skin tone, and

  4. Brightens up the skin

Side Effects:

Stronger retinoid medications like Retin-A and Accutane are known to have a long list of potential side effects. They are not sold over-the-counter (OTC) - so it’s best not to give advice online. If you're either using them or considering, get in touch with your Doc (preferably in person!)

Back to the OTC stuff. First-time retinol users have reported irritation, including redness, dryness, and peeling. If you use too high a strength or apply retinol more frequently than you should, you may experience further irritation, like itchiness and scaly patches.

Magic is in:

Picking the right concentration & the right frequency of use.

  • Start with a low concentration

  • Preferably apply at night

  • Two times / week, slowly increasing the usage

Side effects are likely to disappear after a few weeks of regular use, so it’s important to give your skin time to adjust.

Who cannot & should not use it?

  • Expecting Women

  • Lactating Mothers

  • People with super sensitive skin conditions like Rosacea

  • People who are going to be spending a lot of time under direct sunlight without proper sun protection (although no one should ever do that!)

Best age to start: 25

This is when elastin production starts to slow down.

Signs you need it:

When you start seeing dynamic wrinkles—the lines you get when your muscles contract—such as frown lines, crow’s feet, or laughter lines.

How to use it?

  1. Cleanse your face & let it dry

  2. Take a pea-size amount of your retinol, starting at your chin, apply with your fingertips in upward and outward motion

  3. Moisturize

Use Retinol at night. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen the morning after, as retinol makes skin more sensitive to the sun

The Sandwich Method:

Rather than going directly into your retinol after cleansing your skin, you start by applying a layer of moisturizer to damp skin. Once it's completely dry, you apply a layer of retinol.

After giving the retinol time to absorb, you finish everything off with a second layer of moisturizer.

Retinol expiry?

- It is normally mentioned on the product

- The Ordinary - Retinol 0.2%, Retinol 0.5% & Retinol 1% have an expiry of 3 months

- Best to use within the time frame mentioned

How to store Retinol?

In a dark and cool place away from heat and sun exposure. Ideally, it can be stored in the fridge which may extend its lifespan.

When to Expect Results?

As with any other skin care product, the key to seeing results is consistent use.

Improvements in textural changes take about two to four months to start to become visible. With continued use, you’ll see more and more positive changes—so find a retinol you like and stick with it.

What percent of retinol is best?

A 0.5% concentration is a good baseline.

For beginners, we suggest a retinol with a 0.2% - 1% concentration.

If your skin is not sensitive, you can usually tolerate something right in the middle.

What frequency of retinol usage is best?

Start with once in three nights. Do this for at least 1-2 weeks.

Move up to once in two nights after that.

We won't recommend every night application, unless your retinol concentration is fairly low (under 0.5%).

Suggested Products & Brands:

We want to keep this series purely informational, so there will be no product links shared.

We are happy to share our preferred brands with you below.

Preferred Brands:

  • The Ordinary

  • The Inkey List

  • CeraVe

  • Good Molecules

  • Kiehl's

  • Peter Thomas Roth

  • Sunday Riley

Hope you got some useful information here :)

If you have any concerns/ questions/ confusions, please drop them below in the comments.

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