What is Retinol and How Does It Work?
Everything you need to know about the best anti-aging ingredient on the market.
Retinol is no doubt one of the most effective anti-aging ingredients on the market. But despite the 40 years of established research behind it, a lot of people still don’t know what it is and why they should include it in their skincare routines.
Read on to learn more about what this phenomenal ingredient has to offer and unlock the secret to flawless and radiant skin.
What is Retinol?
Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is a skincare ingredient which has gained high popularity because of its anti-aging benefits.
Experts claim that there is no other skincare ingredient that can compete with its proven effects. It promotes skin renewal and collagen production which helps to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, visibly increase skin firmness, clear acne and so much more!
Retinoid vs Retinol
When it comes to skincare, the popular terms “retinoid” and “retinol” are often used interchangeably and can become a little confusing; A question that usually comes up is “are they the same or not?” Well, it’s a yes and a no. Retinoid is the generic term for all vitamin A derivatives and retinol is simply a type of retinoid. Let’s explain further.
Retinoid is a broad term that refers to compounds that are derived from vitamin A. It is basically a chemical class which has many different types — retinaldehyde, tretinoin, retinyl esters, to name a few. These differ slightly in chemical composition which means each can affect our skin in different ways.
Retinoids are mainly used to treat severe acne, wrinkles, psoriasis, warts and other skin conditions. However, they are incredibly irritating to the skin and even the lowest percentage can increase your skin’s sensitivity and cause redness, itchiness and peeling. This is why some are only available via prescription and should be used with caution.
Retinol is a type of retinoid. Unlike the others, it can be bought without a doctor’s prescription since it contains a lower concentration of vitamin A and is much more gentle on the skin. This means less irritation, redness, itchiness, and flaking.
Although it is less concentrated, plenty of studies support retinol’s long-term benefits for the skin. Just like the other forms of retinoid, it works by accelerating skin cell turnover and is still very effective at diminishing acne, fine lines, wrinkles, dullness and other skin problems.
How Does Retinol Work?
Retinol is naturally gentle because it undergoes a two-step conversion before your skin can benefit from it.
When applied, the enzymes in your skin convert retinol into retinaldehyde which is then converted into retinoic acid — the form your skin needs to be more radiant and youthful looking.
However, take note that this process does not happen in an instant. The conversion of retinol into retinoic acid can take at least 4 weeks of consistent nightly use and a number of factors can affect how soon you can see the results. Some people convert retinol into retinoic acid much faster than others. The percentage and quality of the retinol you use can also affect how soon you see results.
Patience and consistency is key when it comes to using retinol. Use it consistently for several weeks and you will see the results. But it’s important to remember, you must also continue using retinol on a daily basis to maintain these results.
Are there Side Effects?
It all depends on how your skin will react to retinol. Even If you’re using a quality retinol product correctly, you can still expect at least some of the following as your skin adjusts:
Redness and Warmth
You may experience redness and warmth after applying retinol to your face for the first few times. Hot temperature can make this worse, so as your skin gets used to it, try to avoid applying retinol products after a hot shower.
Flaking, Itchiness, and Dryness
Since retinol increases skin cell turnover, the dead skin cells on the surface accumulate at a faster rate and therefore cause flaking, itchiness and skin dryness.
The skin flaking is one of the reasons why some people assume that retinol exfoliates the skin. But technically speaking, your skin is not exfoliated because the dead skin cells are just sitting there on the surface.
Don’t worry, this will improve with continued use. Just refrain from using harsh products that can further irritate skin and always use a nourishing moisturizer like our Anti-aging L22 Moisturizer right after to keep your skin hydrated and protected.
Also, avoid roughly scratching your skin. It is already sensitive so just lightly use your fingertips if you cannot bear the itch!
Another common side effect of retinol is a tightening feeling of the skin. It may feel like a good thing and you may think that the sensation of tightness gets rid of your wrinkles but it’s actually not. In fact, it only means that your skin is very dry.
Again, a rich and hydrating moisturizer can help in getting rid of this sensation. Lather an ample amount both day and night.
If you have acne, you are more likely to experience a breakout when you start using retinol. As your skin cell turnover increases, so does sebum production and this can lead to blocked pores. If you have clear skin, you may not even experience this and worst case is a couple of pimples breaking out into the surface made faster by the action of retinol.
If you encounter a breakout after trying out retinol, do not be discouraged! Continue using the product for a few more weeks to observe how your skin does. Chances are the breakout will eventually subside and retinol will deliver on its claims for your skin.
Retinol also increases your sensitivity to the UV rays of the sun. That’s why you should only use it at night! Remember to always wear sunscreen during the day to protect your skin from further irritation.
Is It Safe?
Yes, most skincare products with retinol contain just the right amount to do wonders for your skin. However, pregnant or nursing women are not advised to use retinol and should first consult with their doctor before using these products.
Do A Patch Test
If you’re using retinol for the first time, we recommend doing a patch test to test your skin’s sensitivity. Apply a small amount underneath your jaw or on the inside of your arm and leave on for 12 – 24 hours. If there is no reaction, continue to use the product on your face.
Other Serious Issues
If you experience severe itching, burning, irritation or you feel like something is not normal, do not hesitate to wash off the product and seek medical advice from your dermatologist.
Skin Benefits of Retinol
Retinol has a multitude of benefits and the right product can seriously work wonders for your skin. Here are the top benefits of retinol:
Diminishes Fine Lines and Wrinkles
One of retinol’s esteemed benefit is its anti-aging effects. Retinol enhances the production of collagen and prevents it from breaking down which then results in a firmer, plumper and smoother complexion. This helps in diminishing the look of fine lines and wrinkles so you look more youthful and vibrant.
As we age, our skin cells don’t renew as quickly as before and dead skin cells accumulate resulting in dull skin.
Retinol speeds up the skin’s regeneration cycle, breaks down the dead skin cells and replaces them with newer ones so you can have rejuvenated skin that is literally younger at a cellular level!
Retinol also curbs melanin production. It helps reduce hyperpigmentation, such as sun spots or age spots, to reveal a brighter and more even skin tone.
It’s also proven to stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin which helps improve your overall skin color.
Retinol has the powerful ability to unclog your pores, freeing it from the buildup of dead skin cells and sebum that cause acne. Its regular application ensures that your pores are cleaner and your skin looks clearer.
What should you look for in a Retinol product?
Now that you know the wonderful benefits of retinol for your skin, let’s dive in to learn which ones are best for your skin!
When looking for a retinol product, always look for one that is packed in an airtight, tinted container. Retinol is a highly reactive molecule and it can break down and lose its potency when exposed to sunlight — another reason why you should only use it at nighttime.
It’s also best to look for products that give your skin more than just retinol. Even though it’s great for all skin types, our skin still needs more than just retinol to have that healthy glow! Check out our Retinol 2.5% Serum! It has a potent mix of retinol, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and green tea, that will nourish, hydrate and rejuvenate your skin as you sleep at night.
Read more: Applying Retinol The Right Way
When trying out retinol for the first time, gradually build up your usage to let your skin adjust. One pump of the Retinol 2.5% Serum used three times a week before bed is a good place to start. Determine your skin’s sensitivity first and then increase your usage if no irritation occurs.
Have you tried out retinol before or are you interested in trying it out? Do you have any more questions about retinol? Talk to us in the comments!
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