I wish everyone would use retinol. And I’m sure your dermatologist will agree with me on this point. This is because retinol is the agreed favorite skin care ingredient when it comes to reversing signs of aging, preventing further signs, and even relieving acne and hyperpigmentation. Calling it a miracle ingredient is no exaggeration, and the best news of all is that it is extremely easy to get hold of.
Retinol is found in numerous over-the-counter (OTC) products, but is often subscribed to in higher, more direct doses by your board certified dermo. While I wholeheartedly advocate including it in your nighttime regimen, I advise against doing this without first consulting your dermatologist – as retinol can make the skin extremely sensitive to sunlight and exfoliation if used improperly or in excess.
Still, there is a lot you can learn about retinol (who will also advise you on which method – OTC or Rx – is best for your specific needs) before this conversation with your doctor.
Speaking of dermos: Dr. Heather Rogers, founder of her own skin care brand, Doctor Rogers RESTORE (and noted retinol expert / enthusiast), has one of the hands down best in the world for making the ingredient poetic. Here’s everything she thought you should know.
The benefits of retinol
Where should I start? Retinol is an easy sale because of its numerous benefits for your complexion. For this reason, most dermatologists are happy to prescribe it or recommend an OTC product to any patient with skin tightening or skin cleansing goals.
1. Prevents wrinkling:
Rogers mentions many ways that retinol can prevent wrinkles from forming (in addition to reversing their presence, as detailed below). For one, retinol improves collagen synthesis in the skin to keep it firm while reducing the breakdown of existing collagen. Then it even inhibits so-called skin metalloproteinases, “which are induced by UV radiation and can further promote skin breakdown,” she says.
2.Improves skin textures:
Basically, retinol strengthens the barrier functions of your skin (its defenses against skin aging toxins and pollutants as well as its ability to absorb and store moisture). This results in firmer, smoother skin – and less rough spots, wrinkles, fine lines and the like.
3.Improves skin discoloration:
By accelerating the turnover of your outermost layer of skin cells, retinol promotes the faster disappearance of dark spots and blemishes while preventing hyperpigmentation such as melasma and age spots.
4. Prevents acne formation:
Rogers says that retinol “promotes comedolysis,” which means it prevents the formation of comedones, better known as acne, which is caused by the trapping of oil and skin cells in a pore.
5. Reduces inflammation:
Anyone suffering from redness or irritated bumps, especially rosacea, will appreciate retinol’s ability to help alleviate the matter.
6. Fixes sun damage:
The sun’s UV rays act on your skin in a variety of ways, including thickening the outer layer of your skin. Rogers notes that retinol stabilizes the skin’s natural cell turnover, which is unbalanced by exposure to the sun. This, in turn, prevents cells from turning into squamous cell carcinoma (i.e. skin cancer).
OTC against Rx Retinol
Which retinol is best for you: an over-the-counter, lighter dose, or a more proactive, high-quality tretinoin? Only your certified doctor can really answer this question, but here are the key differences between them.
When we use the word “retinol” we are referring to everything in the broad family of retinoids. But technically this is a misnomer, because “retinoids” is this singular term. While “Retinol” instead refers to the inferior OTC version of the vitamin A derivative.
“Retinol needs to be converted to tretinoin by your body before it can be used,” says Rogers. “In general terms, tretinoin is ten times stronger than retinol. Retinol is a great place to start when adding a vitamin A product to your skin regimen. “
Three OTC Products We Like:
The best of the best: A-Passioni Retinol anti-wrinkle cream for drunk elephants[$74; drunkelephant.com]
For sensitive skin: Olay Regenerist Retinol Night Moisturizer (without fragrances)[$47; olay.com]
For the eye area: La Roche-Posay Retinol Eye Cream[$47; laroche-posay.us]
Tretinoin: Then of course there is prescription tretinoin. You have options from 0.005 percent tretinoin up to 0.1 percent (a little goes a long way, see). If you’re going for a prescription, your doctor is likely to be somewhere in the 0.025 percent range, possibly 0.5 percent for the oilier types – and may guide you up over time. The higher the dose, the more sensitive your skin can become. (Read on to do this.)
How to start with retinol:
“The key is to start slowly and slowly,” repeats Rogers. “If you use too much, you stimulate too much skin turnover, which leads to dry skin, peeling, flaking, flaking, burning and erythema (redness). They may also show increased sensitivity to light (to sunlight) the first time they are used, as the outer layer of skin becomes thinner. “Because of this, it is imperative to wear SPF every day when using retinol. (And since this is a tedious endeavor, it simply means that you choose an SPF-packaged moisturizer for daytime use until the end of time.)
Rogers adds that men with thin or dry skin absorb more retinol than men with thick or oily skin. (Yes, it’s hard to know if you have thick or thin skin, and no, it doesn’t depend on your audacity or strength.)
She also says it can take 72 hours before you notice irritation. “I recommend using it only twice a week for the first two weeks and then building from there if you can handle it well,” she says. “Once you can use the product every night without irritation, you can increase the percentage of your treatment.”
When should retinol be used?
Retinol is best used at night – and really should be reserved for this. Since it can be neutralized by exposure to the sun and acts aggressively on your skin, it is best absorbed while you are sleeping and experiencing cell regeneration. In the morning, rinse it clean and apply an SPF moisturizer as previously described.
If you apply retinol in the evening, make sure you do this on freshly cleansed and dried skin. “Apply a small amount (pea size) to your face and neck (front and back),” says Rogers. You can even apply it to your chest and the back of your hands if you want to prevent the same signs of aging there. Always follow retinol application with an evening moisturizer. (No sun protection factor is required in this case. A good night cream works on your face and any other hand and body moisturizer.)
When can I expect results?
It will be approximately 90 days before you notice the significant (and permanent) improvements in my retinol. Remember, this is a long game, and retinol is a treatment that will take time to train and correct your skin. You must keep using it if you want continued benefits. (Highly recommended and kind of pointless to get started in the first place if you don’t intend to continue.) You can see small improvements as early as four weeks after continued use, says Rogers, but the big ones take about three months, even known.
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