I get so many questions about retinol from people looking to take their skincare to the next level. There’s always so much information to share on the topic so I thought I’d put it all into a blog and hopefully touch on all the main points. Retinol is honestly THE BEST anti ageing product money can buy. If you’re looking for an anti ageing product that actually visibly works then this is it! Forget about 90% of the anti ageing creams you find on the shelves in drugstores – they’re a waste of time. This is the most important skincare product you need!
What is retinol?
Retinol is a skin-restoring, wrinkle-smoothing, firming ingredient and its the gold standard for your skin. I believe its something everyone should start using around your late 20s going into your 30s. In skincare, retinol is an over the counter version of prescription-strength retinoid acid (aka tretinoin) which falls into the Vitamin A category. Think of it as a very light at-home chemical peel in a sense that it increases cell turnover massively.
What does retinol do for your skin?
Retinol molecules are able to deeply penetrate the outer layer of your skin. Once it makes its way to the middle layer, it helps to boost production of elastin and collagen which then creates a plumping effect = youthful skin. As I mentioned above – think of retinol as a very light chemical peel as it has an exfoliating effect on the surface of your skin. This means your skin is constantly turning over cells and improving texture and tone. Again another benefit is the exfoliating effect as it helps remove dead skin cells which balances hydration levels. If that wasn’t enough, retinol is also used to treat severe acne as it helps keep your pores unclogged. It truly is the best skin care product money can buy!
What is the best retinol to buy?
Before we get into which brands are the best, we need to first talk about how its packaged! Yes the packaging plays a very big role in how your retinol will perform. Just like Vitamin C, Retinol (Vit A) is an active ingredient so if its exposed to air, light or heat it begins to lose its potency. So for example a retinol product in a jar is no good as you need to open and close the jar to get the product out. Clear containers and dropper bottles are also a no-go. The best retinol’s come in pump bottles and aluminium tubes.
The one I’ve been using for the last 2 years is the Skinceuticals Retinol. It isn’t the cheapest but it lasts forever because its packaged the right way – in an aluminium tube. This is where I buy mine. You have to create an account to even view the product online.
Retinol usually comes in a 0.3 (lowest), 0.5 and 1.0 (highest) strength. Because of my age I started on 0.5 and after about 8 months I worked my way up to the 1.0 strength. The 1.0 strength is a little bit harder to find just because its such a high strength retinol, one of the highest on the market presently. I recently purchased my Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0 from this online store.
How do I use retinol?
When I started using retinol in early 2019, I was using it completely wrong! I’d apply it once a week then 4-5 days after application my skin would start peeling. I’d then use a peeling mask and then an exfoliator sponge to get rid of the excess dead skin cells and then I’d repeat the whole process over again the following week. This is NOT the way retinol is meant to be used. Surely, this is how you’re meant to start using it in the beginning but progressively over time you should increase how often you apply retinol.
When you first start using retinol you should only be applying it about twice a week (every 4th day) for about 4 weeks. This is to give your skin an introduction to retinol because at first it will be a bit of a shock. You can apply a moisturiser before you apply your retinol, this will put that extra barrier in between your skin and the retinol so that its not too harsh. Its very important to know that you SHOULD ABSOLUTELY NOT apply the retinol anywhere close to the under eye skin area! That skin is the thinnest skin on the retinol used for your face is too strong for your under eye area. You need an under eye specific eye cream. I made this mistake when I first used retinol and I contacted my aesthetician in a panic because my under eye area looked like it had aged about 20 years overnight. The skin below my eyes began to crease and it was so dry. Its became almost cracked and it burnt. Lesson learnt! Luckily it went back to normal after a few days.
After the 4 week introduction phase you can then apply your retinol every 3 days (no pre-moisturiser) for 4 weeks. Then move onto every second day. This timeline isn’t going to be the same for everyone, this is the guide my aesthetician gave me. Some people are going to take longer getting used to retinol and that’s okay. I’m still struggling to get my retinol on every second day, currently I’m on an every 3rd day cycle so we’re getting there. Just listen to your skin and see how it reacts.
A little goes a long way
All you need is a pea-sized amount on each cheek, forehead, neck and spread it over your entire face making sure not to get too close to the under eye area. Don’t forget a pea-sized amount on each back of hand as our hands age progressively too.
Best to use at night
Only use your retinol at night as your risk of sunburn is greatly increased. Sun exposure could also worsen the irritation effects so best to keep it to night time use
Your skin is going to go through the ”uglies”
When I say stick with retinol I mean it! Most retinol users throw in the towel way too early because they notice their skin showing signs of irritation. This can be anything from peeling, wrinkling, dryness, tightness, sensitivity, redness, itching and burning. A lot of first-time users even say it made them look 10 years older – but this is ONLY because they’ve used too much too soon or didn’t start off on a low strength. When you notice your skin looking wrinkly, that’s because its dried out. Think of your skin as the desert ground that hasn’t seen rain in months – it starts to crack. Once your cells start turning over and your skin starts exfoliating, that dry skin will shed away and you will be left with fresh new glowing skin. Because of this, daily use of Vitamin C and/or SPF 50 is a MUST as your skin new skin will be more sensitive to the sun.
What I do to help my skin through its dryness is using a Hyaluronic Acid Serum every night, this just helps to pump back that lost moisture back into my skin. A great one I use is this one from La Roche Posay.
Retinol is such an amazing skincare product and its something I recommend all the time to my age group. It truly is the game changer of our skincare generation. I hope I touched on all the main topics of retinol however if you do have a burning question then please pop them below.