Most of us have heard of retinol, a hot topic in the skincare world right now. It's on every dermatologist's top shelf and has even made its way into every skincare serum on the shelves being that it’s widely regarded as one of the most effective topical treatments available.
What is retinol?
There are a number of different types of retinoids and they are available in different strengths. All of the different types are derived from Vitamin A - the difference between them lies in the concentration. Retinoic acid (also known as Retin-A or Tretinoin) is the strongest, prescription-level retinoid that's used for acne and ageing. In general, if you're using a retinol, you want to start off at between 0.1 and 0.2% strength and build up to 1%.
How do you use it?
You can't use a retinoid product like any other skin serum or moisturiser, you first have to build up a tolerance and gradually add it into your skincare regime in order to avoid unwanted side effects. Always read the packaging to see the best directions for use but keep in mind that It's always best to introduce a retinoid slowly but surely. Limit your initial use to once or twice a week, gradually increasing the frequency as your skin acclimatises. At night-time only, apply a pea-sized amount of retinol to clean and dry skin, avoiding the eye area. For optimal results, wait at least 30 minutes before applying other skincare products. Always apply loads of sunscreen the following day. Retinoids increase cell turnover, so can make skin temporarily thinner and therefore more fragile.
What are the benefits?
Among the many benefits of retinol, it can increase cell turnover and stimulate collagen and elastin production. It can increase the appearance of firmness by plumping up fine lines and wrinkles. It can improve uneven skin tone, treat pigmentation and smooth the surface of skin. It can even help with cystic acne and blemishes.
When should I start using it?
While there is no set time to use retinoids, most dermatologists advise introducing the ingredient into your skincare routine in your mid-twenties, particularly if you suffer from breakouts or pigmentation. It's best to start with a retinyl palmitate or retinol, and to try it for 3 months and then have a 3 month break. This is due to research that suggests cell turnover is no longer increased after 3 months of use.
Is retinol for every skin?
Retinoids don’t work equally well for every skin type. If you suffer from skin sensitivity, rosacea, eczema or psoriasis, it's probably best to avoid retinol since it can be too powerful on sensitive skin and can increase inflammation or dryness in already delicate complexions.
Are there side effects?
Redness, dryness and flaking are some of the side effects that come with retinol use. Normally, the side effects only last for a couple of weeks while the skin adjusts to the ingredient.
If you're using a retinoid, you can skip other exfoliators like AHA’s & BHA’s as you will have already done the work. Doubling up can compromise the skin, because combining acids and retinol can cause irritation. So stick to one or the other. Also avoid all of these products if you are pregnant. Some studies have shown that taking high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy can be harmful to an unborn child.
We've rounded up some of the best retinol products below…
Dr Grandel Timeless Retinol Balm, R995. Shop now.
Skin Affair LAB Series Ani-Aging Serum with Retinol, R399. Shop now.
Dr Grandel Retinol Ampoules, R225. Shop now.
Environ Focus Care Youth+ Retinol Serum 1, R435. Shop now.