Retinol! When you need protection from fine lines and a healthy glow, there is simply no more vaunted ingredient. Where is the catch? Despite the amazing youth-preserving properties of retinol and its availability in pharmacies, stores and dermatologists’ offices, there are still several nuances that are worth paying attention to. Here are 6 tips on how to use retinol correctly.
What is Retinol?
Back to the basics, retinol, along with other retinoids like retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate, is a derivative of vitamin A, which in turn is one of the body’s key nutrients for cell renewal. “It is added to topical skin care products to help revitalize skin, brighten skin tone, reduce acne and stimulate collagen production,” said New York City dermatologist Whitney Bowe M.D. “It also acts as an antioxidant, helping to fight free radical damage that leads to the visible signs of aging.” According to dermatologist MD Francesca Fusco, this ingredient is important in dermatology from both a cosmetic and a medical point of view. “I consider it the gold standard in skin care, and I often explain to my patients that this ingredient works to fight dead skin cells, clogged pores and dull skin,” she says.
In this article, experts share how to gently incorporate retinol and retinoids into your regimen to ensure your complexion is fresh for decades to come.
Start at 25-30
Thirty years old has long been the base time for introducing retinol into their care, but many women are starting to use it earlier, motivated by early signs of aging, such as pigmentation caused by the sun and crow’s feet, or simply trying to get ahead of possible age characteristics and use the latest technologies on themselves – of course, under the close supervision of a dermatologist. “When you’re in your twenties, this is a great time to start using retinol,” says Ellen Marmour, MD. “Many patients who have used it for years cannot imagine their skin care without it.”
Start slowly and carefully
“Balance is very important,” Bowe warns. “Retinol can be very irritating if you use it too often or if applied too aggressively for your skin.” She recommends starting with a small amount [literally a pea] of the OTC formula with a low percentage of ingredient (0.01–0.03%) and using it “twice a week, gradually increasing the amount to allow the skin to acclimate”. Moreover, retinol should be skipped the day before exfoliation (Bowe recommends exfoliating two to three times a week). “Exfoliation is very abrasive and irritating to the skin, and you definitely don’t want to aggravate the situation by sensitizing your skin with retinol,” says Bowe, adding that if you are undergoing certain treatments such as laser skin resurfacing, microneedling and microdermabrasion, you need to take a break from using retinol. So as not to accidentally overdo it, there are now many new delayed-release formulas that are suitable for skin prone to redness and breakouts. “This is a good option for people with sensitive skin,” says Fusco. “The active ingredient begins to take effect over time and may reduce the risk of irritation.” In terms of retinol, which is available with a prescription, compared to what is sold without a special purpose, the former is much more effective and has a higher percentage of the ingredient (and can be changed over time), says Bowe.
Beware of Harsh Side Effects
While some side effects – mild irritation, dryness and sensitivity to the sun – are normal as the skin adapts to the new active ingredient, severe flaking, redness and burning are side effects to be wary of. And people with particularly sensitive skin or those who are struggling with conditions such as rosacea or eczema should be wary of retinol and all of the listed side effects altogether. “Don’t worry if you’re intolerant of retinol,” says Marmur. – This is not the only anti-aging remedy! There are many more amazing ingredients, including wild indigo, which works great on the skin without causing irritation or sensitivity to the sun.
Retinol at night, SPF in the afternoon
“Retinol increases the sensitivity of the skin to UV radiation, and sunlight reduces the effectiveness of the product,” explains Bowe, who recommends that her clients use retinol at night and never miss out on SPF 30 during the day, renewing it throughout the day. In addition, when using retinol, you should always remember the weather forecast and trips to hot places. “It is best not to use retinol in summer and on vacation, when people spend a lot of time in direct sunlight,” warns Fusco.
Not just the face
When using retinol elixir, do not neglect the neck and décolleté area – these areas are known for signs of aging and are often ignored. “If these areas now seem too sensitive for the current formula, add a little ceramide moisturizer to it before applying the product to the neck and décolleté. Or get a separate retinol product that is designed for a specific area, says Bow. “They usually contain less vitamin A, they are odorless and very delicate.”