There is so much hype around retinol these days that at this point, you’ve probably heard about how it should be part of your anti-aging regimen! But do you really know what it is, how it works, and how old you should be to start using it? Like most people, your answer is probably, “Ummm…. Sort of… no”. So let’s get into some real talk and break it down via this simple retinol guide.
What is Retinol?
Retinol is technically a type of retinoid that can be used without any prescription (over the counter treatment). It is milder than prescription versions including tretinoin and tazarotene. Although it’s relatively slow in showing the results, it suits all skin types including sensitive skin.
It gives you smoother, more glowing skin thanks to its “almost magical” ability to treat acne, prevent dullness, firm skin, and minimize fine lines and wrinkles.
Not only that, retinol also helps with acne, and signs of sun damage such as age spots, freckles, uneven skin texture, melasma and hyperpigmentation.
Wow! That’s almost every skin concern. And of course it’s easy to see why beauty lovers all over the world swear by this powerhouse active.
When should you start using it?
It is recommended to start using retinol in your mid- to late-twenties, anywhere from 25-30, since this is when collagen and elastin production starts to slow down. It’s the perfect time to start reaping the preventative-aging benefits retinol has to offer. However, if you have severe acne issues, it is recommended that you use retinol before 20s.
What percentage to start from?
The higher the concentration, the stronger the skin will respond with visible shedding and redness. Start low (with 0.3%) if you’re new to retinol and then increase the level (to 0.5% and then 1%) with each bottle.
How to use retinol
Use a pea sized drop (serum form) or a thin layer (moisturizer form) all over the face and neck. The thumb rule is start once a week initially and build it up to twice a week gradually (say a month), then every other night indefinitely.
Step by step skincare routine with retinol
- Step 1: Cleanse your face, including your neck area using a gentle cleanser like the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser. Also, try to double cleanse whenever you can. Want to know more about double cleansing? Go here.
- Step 2: Apply a soothing serum/toner. This step is optional.
- Step 3: Apply your retinol product.
- Step 4: Opt for a non-irritating moisturiser like the Purito Deep Sea Pure Water Cream for dry skin or the Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Aqua Gel Cream for oily to combination skin.
THE SIDE EFFECTS OF RETINOL
- Skin purging (skin reaction to a specific active ingredient that triggers cell turnover)
- Dry skin
- Peeling of the skin
- Increased sensitivity to the sun.
How to combat the side effects of retinol
- Start slowly and start from a lower percentage as a beginner.
- Wear your sunscreen daily to reduce the sun sensitivity.
- Buffer it up with soothing serums (Centella Asiatica or ceramides based products) to reduce the chances of skin irritation.
- Seal it with a moisturizer to overcome the dryness and flaking of skin.
- Use relatively lesser product if your skin is more sensitive.
- Pregnant women or breast feeding mothers should not use retinol.
- Don’t mix retinol with vitamin C, AHA, BHA, Benzoyl peroxide or any other active.
- Don’t skip your sunscreen on the next day of using retinol and Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT RETINOL
Retinol is unsafe to use
It is one of the most recommended ingredients to counteract ageing skin. It may cause minor side effects such as redness and irritation. However, these side effects dissipate within a few weeks as the skin becomes used to the cell turnover rate.
Unsafe for sensitive skin
Sensitive skin people can also use retinol with lower percentages and began with once a week to build up the tolerance.
Unsafe to use under the eyes
It is a common misconception that retinol is not safe for around the eyes as the skin is thin. In fact, retinol should be placed around the eyes as this is where most of the damage shows up.
Retinol causes skin thinning
Retinol causes cell turnover and thins the epidermis in the first few months of use (like a peel) but then starts to thicken the deeper layers of skin, ultimately leading to thicker skin.
The stuff is potent, and it’s not like trying a new lipstick; it’s a commitment.
Retinoids are known for having positive effects on both aging and acne-prone skin. Retinol is the most accessible form of retinoids, as well as the best choice for sensitive skin.
Generally, it takes a few weeks to see results, but some OTC options may require months of regular use or you should see improvements by 12 weeks with most products. Stay consistent with your routine to see positive results.
Please Note: If you don’t see significant improvements in skin tone, texture, or smoothness after a few months of using retinol, consider seeing your dermatologist.