Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A. It is one of the most tried-and-trusted skincare ingredients out there and has been added to anti-ageing products for decades. Despite this, many people are too scared to use it. Why? If it’s not used properly, it can cause your face to fall off (well, peel off, but equally horrifying in our books). This is because retinol is strong and, if used incorrectly, can cause skin to become red and irritated. It isn’t pretty and it can cause damage that will require months of tending to. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Back in the day retinol was pretty terrifying. The concentration of the active ingredient was high, with little variation, and because people didn’t know how to use it correctly, they would just slather it on hoping to prevent, or at least delay, ageing. This caused many a face to become inflamed and irritated and the products would do more harm than good. But these days there are way more products, ranging from mild to heavy-duty, on the market. There is also a lot more information out there, and when we know better we do better.
One ingredient, many uses
The first thing that comes to mind when someone says the word retinol is anti-ageing. This is primarily what it has been used for – erasing fine lines, wrinkles and keeping skin looking youthful for as long as humanly possible. This meant that it was more or less reserved for those over 30 and for a few panicky 20-somethings who were convinced they were developing crow’s feet. What we know now, however, is that vitamin A has even more benefits for our skin that go far beyond treating the signs of our imminent decay.
The main thing that retinol does is promote cell turnover, which makes skin look healthier, plumper and erases any creases. It exfoliates the skin and encourages the production of collagen, which is the protein that keeps skin looking firm. The exfoliation part means that it unclogs pores, making it a lifesaver for many acne sufferers. Dermatologists even claim that people can start using retinoids after the onset of puberty and that it could help to keep teenagers’ skin clear and prevent premature ageing later down the line. The only people who should steer clear of it are pregnant women – everyone else is invited to this party.
How to use it
As long as retinol is used correctly, you shouldn’t experience any significant problems. That being said there is an adjustment period and you need to take things slow in the beginning – just like any successful relationship. Start with a product that has a low concentrations, such as 0.2 or 0.5% and only use it once in the first week, twice in the second week and gradually work your way up. By week seven you should be using it every day and starting to enjoy the benefits if this wonder ingredient. When using it, you also need to be very liberal with the sunscreen and not head out without it on because your skin will be more susceptible to burning. We recommend an SPF of no less than 30.
Proceed with caution but without fear – your best skin could be one skincare product away.
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