Should I be using retinol? This is a common question that I frequently get asked during my face-to-face and virtual skin consultations when assessing the skin and recommending result-driven skincare to my patients. My answer to this is always yes but I often find that my patients do not really know the importance and the value of incorporating retinol in their capsule skincare wardrobe.
Misinformation and misconceptions have steered some of us away from incorporating retinol as part of our skincare routine.
I am passionate about retinol and it must be a staple in your skincare diet. I certainly advocate it for my own use and I advocate it for my clients, but how much do people know about retinol, and if there is any way that I could simplify the whole process of getting to know the useful tips and the benefits of retinol.
So, before we begin to really explore retinol, we need to know what retinol is.
So, what is retinol?
Retinol is an ingredient that belongs to a family of retinoids which are derivatives of vitamin A. There are many of them, are prescription-only medications, whilst others are found in skincare.
Did you know that Retinol is actually, an alcohol?
Retinoids were developed in the early 1970s, and they have become a firm favourite in the media as well as skin specialist clinics
When it comes to skincare what makes retinoids a must-have in our daily routine? The simple answer is that they work. They are backed by a great deal of research and scientific evidence. Therefore, they are known as the gold standard of skincare
They have numerous benefits. They are powerful antiaging ingredients, which means that they decrease fine lines and wrinkles whilst preventing the formation of new wrinkles. They are powerful depigmenting agents so they can reverse sun damage and they have amazing antioxidant properties.
They also decrease oil production so they are amazing for acne-prone skin and prevent future acne breakouts. What’s more, they shrink pores.
However, they do cause initial side effects some of which are dry flaky skin, iteration and redness. However, these symptoms tend to happen at the initial part of the treatment but the skin will then be accustomed to it and full benefits are seen over time.
I usually inform the side effects at the point of the consultation with my clients in order to manage their expectations. However, I devise a routine for them so they can get the most out of their skincare.
Retinyl esters, retinol, retinaldehyde, adapalene, tretinoin, isotretinoin, and tazarotene are all different types of retinoids. Some are prescription-only and others are cosmeceutical or cosmetic. Retinyl esters, retinol, and retinaldehyde are available over the counter. Tretinoin (retinoic acid), isotretinoin (synthetic retinoic acid), and the newer retinoids, adapalene and tazarotene are prescription-only
The most important thing to remember is that the skin can only utilize retinol in the form of retinoic acid.
Did you know that retinaldehyde is 11 times faster acting than retinol?
Retinol is initially converted to retinaldehyde and subsequently to retinoic acid.
Therefore, retinaldehyde requires fewer conversion steps to retinoic acid and which makes it more effective as an anti-ageing product.
Formulations that contain pure retinaldehyde such as the Medik8 Crystal Retinal deliver impressive results with less irritation than that seen with retinol.
However, the holy grail of non-prescription skincare products goes to Medik8 r-Retinoate Youth Activating Cream Intense This is a revolutionary combination of retinyl retinoate & crystal-stabilised retinaldehyde. it’s 8x stronger & 11x faster than retinol. It visibly reduces fine lines, even skin tone & smooth skin texture. In addition, it stimulates the production of collagen & elastin for youthful-looking & plump skin. In essence, the Medik8 r-Retinoate Youth Activating Cream Intense combines the very best and most innovative ingredients to achieve extraordinary visible results. According to the manufacturers who state that following 8 years of work and research, Medik8 created the revolutionary molecule, retinyl retinoate, a hybrid of traditional retinol and clinical-strength retinoic acid. This formula is also enriched with ceramides, a selection of natural lipids that support moisture retention and repair skin’s natural protective barrier. What’s more, it contains drone-targeted copper peptides, which work to stimulate collagen and elastin synthesis.
Retinyl retinoate is also photostable, which means it does not break down when exposed to sunlight like more traditional Vitamin A products. This means that Medik8 r-Retinoate Youth Activating Cream Intense could be used during the day and is even suitable for sensitive skin. We recommend caution and using a high-factor broad-spectrum SPF at all times when using any Vitamin A product.
So it is clear to see that not all retinoids are irritating to the same degree, it all depends on the formulation. However, the general rule of thumb is that the more potent the retinoid, the higher the likelihood that it will cause problems with skin irritation, such as burning, stinging, redness, and scaling.
The least irritating retinoid is the retinol and retinaldehyde whilst the most irritating are products such as tretinoin. It is worth bearing in mind that sometimes tretinoin is needed to treat specific skin concerns.
Debunking the myth of retinoids
Retinoids used over time can thin the skin
This is not true, long-term use of retinoids can actually thicken the skin by thickening the living parts of the skin which are the dermis and epidermis. They work by increasing collagen production, decreasing collagen degradation, and increasing cellular turnover. They also increase the production of long-chain sugar molecules known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGS). These long-chain sugar molecules have the ability to retain water and therefore can be classed as our internal moisturises for our skin keeping our skin healthy, subtle, buoyant and glowing. The most famous GAG is hyaluronic acid which we all have used in one form or another.
Therefore, the overall long-term benefits of retinoids are to thicken the skin which is why they are powerful antiaging. However, what they also do, is compact the stratum corneum which is the dead outermost layer of the skin that may get irritated, dry and flaky.
Another myth is that retinoids should be used when we see the visible signs of ageing.
This in fact is also not true, Ageing occurs during our 20s when collagen depletion begins and progresses. So, should we wait until we see the appearance of lines and wrinkles before we begin to use them? We will only end up playing catch-up rather than prevention. Start early to prevent the degradation of collagen and promote its formation.
How do I minimise retinoid the undesirable effects of retinol?
During the skincare in-depth consultation, I would thoroughly assess your skin concerns and skin type and understand your level of sensitivity. If you are experiencing retinoids at an entry-level, I may recommend that you start low and go slow. Therefore, instead of using it every day at the initial stages of application, I would recommend that you perhaps use it twice a week and then gradually increase in frequency giving the opportunity for your skin to acclimatise and minimise those side effects of over-dryness and flakiness.
It is also worth applying a layer of hyaluronic acid moisturiser such as the Medik8 Hydr8 B5 INTENSE to decrease the incidence of irritation. This is a supercharged formula of Hyaluronic Acid serum with all the hydrating benefits. An innovative triple-action hydration booster replenishes skin’s internal moisture source.
When should I start using retinol?
It is always recommended that you should use your retinoids at night as sunlight can degrade and deactivate them, in addition, cellular turnover occurs whilst we are sleeping and therefore this will synergise with the action of retinol to achieve cellular renewal.
A fantastic multitasker is the NeoStrata Potent Retinol Complex. This potent retinol night serum works to nourish and hydrate your skin as it works, helping to minimise the potential for irritation that is normally common with retinol.
With a next-generation formula that’s lightweight and non-greasy, the serum helps to reveal smoother, hydrated, more even-looking skin with a radiant finish.
Can I do hair removal whilst I am using retinoids?
It is not recommended for you to wax or have laser treatments as your skin may be sensitised.
Can I use chemical peels when I am using retinoids?
The use of chemical peels including alpha hydroxy acids is not recommended as your skin may already be sensitised and therefore subject to being severely irritated.
Can I use vitamin C skincare at the same time as my retinoids?
It is recommended that you leave at least 30 minutes between the use of L ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) skin preparation due to the difference in Ph of these ingredients which can conflict with each other and your skin. However, there are vitamin C derivatives such as acetyl tetra palmitate which are formulated as such to allow compatibility and concurrent use with retinoids.
Is there a natural alternative to retinol?
An ingredient that I have shown to be effective is Bakucheol which is found in Medik8 Bakuchiol Peptides. This is a clinically proven alternative for those who have sensitive and reactive skin. It offers the retinol results and benefits, without the effects such as dry skin and peeling. Use both day and night; the Medik8 Bakuchiol Peptides is also infused with cica, which works to soothe inflamed and sensitive skin whilst delivering anti-ageing benefits. Benefits of Medik8 Bakuchiol Peptides: Promotes a more youthful complexion Soothes inflamed skin Leaves skin plump & supple As a clinically proven alternative to retinol, Medik8 Bakuchiol Peptides’ hero ingredient is Bakuchiol. This powerful ingredient works to prevent and restore premature ageing
The take-home message
Retinoids are The Timeless Anti-Aging Warriors
Retinoids, derived from vitamin A, are true gems in the skincare world. Here’s why these powerhouse ingredients deserve a prime spot in your routine:
- Diminishing Fine Lines and Wrinkles: Retinoids stimulate collagen production, which helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They also enhance cell turnover, revealing fresher, smoother skin and giving you a more youthful complexion.
- Improving Skin Tone and Texture: Retinoids work wonders in improving skin texture, reducing roughness, and minimizing the appearance of pores. They can also help fade hyperpigmentation and dark spots, resulting in a more even skin tone.
- Fighting Acne and Breakouts: Retinoids are effective in managing acne and preventing future breakouts. They unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and regulate oil production, making them a valuable asset in the battle against blemishes.
Do not give up on retinol even if you experience initial discomfort and irritation. Manage your symptoms by managing the frequency of application and applying hydrating ingredients to prevent over-drying. Therefore, be patient as this ingredient will pay your skin back in evidence.
Top Skincare Tip!
- Introduce Retinoids Gradually: Start with a low concentration and gradually increase usage to allow your skin to adjust. Begin with two to three times per week, and then gradually increase frequency as tolerated.
- Use a pea-sized amount only over the entire face.
- Avoid the inner parts of the face such as the corners of the nose and mouth.
- Protect with Sunscreen: Both retinoids and vitamin C increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin from
- Consistency over concentration: Better to remain on a lower dose over a long period of time rather than quickly going up in strength causing irritation
Keep Glowing And Stay Amazing