Retinol; The Game-Changing Ingredient Every Skincare Routine Needs

Chances are that if you’re at least a tiny bit interested in looking after your skin then you’ve heard about retinol. Though the ingredient is one of the most lauded in the skincare world, it still manages to mystify causing many to misuse it or under utilise its benefits.

A form of Vitamin A, retinol is a superstar skincare ingredient that targets multiple concerns at once. It’s the gold standard in anti-aging skincare for its ability to actually reverse signs of aging and skin damage, rather than just prevent it. It’s the go-to ingredient for targeting fine lines and wrinkles, loss of volume, discolouration, and even skin congestion such as acne and blackheads.

To put it simply, retinol speeds up skin cell turnover to assist with collagen production. It has a resurfacing effect on the skin. It also acts like an anti-oxidant in neutralising free radicals in the skin to prevent damage including ageing and dullness.

In speeding up skin cell turnover, retinol is able to brighten and plump the appearance of your skin, pushing out fine lines and working to reverse the look of sagging skin. When it comes to your pores, retinol is helping to prevent blockages by ensuring none of that top layer of dead skin that is notorious for causing blackheads is hanging around.

The most confusion is caused when you look at the varying concentrations and forms of retinol. You’ll find it everywhere from your local drugstore to department store counters and there are even varieties that can also be prescribed by a doctor or dermatologist and in concentrations ranging from 0.01% to 2% over-the-counter (prescription-only varieties can be higher).

Then there are retinoids, another derivative of vitamin A that work similarly to retinol but is said to be gentler on the skin. The active percentages in retinoids are far higher than pure retinol making it even more confusing to choose the right product.

Luckily, there are some fairly straightforward rules to follow to ensure you’re getting the most out of retinol. The first, it’s always best to start low and increase your dosage over-time. Retinol has the ability to cause a little redness and irritation as your skin acclimates to the powerful ingredient so the lower the percentage of active ingredient in the product, the less impact it will have on your skin.

Next, you should only ever use retinol at night. There’s no need to weave it in with your line-up of day time skin serums, and oils. Retinol is best used twice a week in a simple routine of cleanser, toner, retinol then moisturiser. As your skin becomes more used to the ingredient you can increase the frequency of use but always stick to night-time so that you’re not subjecting your freshly turned over skin to the sun’s harmful rays.

And on that note, always, always, always wear sunscreen. This goes for every day, no matter what your skincare routine is, but it’s especially important when using retinol. Because it’s producing a fresh layer of skin, you become much more susceptible to sun damage including pigmentation and wrinkles.

As for when to start using it, you really can’t start too early. It’s always better to be preventing skin problems, rather than treating them. For that reason, starting retinol use in your mid-twenties helps you get the most out of it. If you’ve already passed that milestone, there’s no time like now to get started!

Here’s some retinol products we love…

PCA Skin Intensive Age Refining Treatment 0.5% Pure Retinol

Sitting somewhere between a serum and cream, this treatment from PCA is a great choice for those wanting to dip their toes into retinol use. At 0.5% concentration, it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin and is formulated to deliver results deep so you’ll still see major benefits. It’s also really nice to put on and doesn’t feel sticky or pill.

Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0

This product is praised the world over and for good reason. It’s effective yet gentle and you begin to see results just a few weeks after regular use. It’s carefully formulated to be suitable for all skin types from dry to oily and is paraben, fragrance and alcohol-free. As the name suggests, it has 1% concentration of pure retinol so is perfect for retinol users who are looking to kick things up a notch from their first buy.

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum

It’s unusual for a retinol to feel like it’s simultaneously refining and hydrating but this one by PTR does just that. The serum has an incredible slip to it so it glides over your face and sinks in almost immediately. And with vitamins C & E carefully combined into the formula, you can be sure your skin will be looking smoother and brighter after just a few uses. It’s a stronger formula at 1.5% so best for seasoned users or those who have tough skin.

Ultraceuticals Ultra A Skin Perfecting Serum Concentrate

A lot of research has gone into perfecting the delivery technology of this retinol by Ultraceuticals. It’s their strongest formula and is very potent so we’d only recommend this one if you’ve regularly used retinol for a while with no adverse reactions. After just a few uses it goes to work on improving the appearance of fine lines, skin texture and congestion leaving you looking brighter, smoother and clearer.

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