There are many ingredients in skincare products that claim to do what most people want, which is to keep skin looking young and supple. From the hailed anti-aging and skin-smoothing benefits of alpha and beta hydroxy acids to the favorite vitamin C, sometimes our skincare collection can become rather overwhelming.
While it seems like an all-encompassing product may not exist, there is one tried and tested ingredient that has gained a cult-like following recently: retinol. In fact, PR Newswire reports that retinoid therapy accounts for 32% of the market value share globally. This is because of its effectiveness in treating acne, controlling its spread, and reducing the appearance of scars. However, with so many retinol and retinoid products on the market, knowing where to start can be confusing.
Here’s everything you need to know about retinol:
What is Retinol?
To understand what retinol is, it’s important to know the basics of how the body breaks down vitamin A and reap its benefits as a skincare ingredient. Retinoic acid is vitamin A in its purest form and is a naturally occurring molecule in nature. When we use retinoids (or topical vitamin A), our body needs to process them to break them down into a form we can use. Prescription retinoids are often purer forms of vitamin A, which makes them much stronger. Drugs like tretinoin are considered the “golden standard” of topical vitamin A products.
Retinol, on the other hand, is in ester form, which means it needs more steps to be converted into retinoic acid and used by the body. This also means its strength is reduced, though this may not always affect its efficacy in the long term. A study by the University of Alberta also discusses how synthetic retinoids on the market, including adapalene, tazarotene, and trifarotene, can also be great options. The skin is quite responsive to topical retinoids and will usually take to these various forms of vitamin A quite readily.
What Can it Do for the Skin?
Retinol has lots of advantages for the skin. In fact, these benefits have led it to be considered one of the best skincare ingredients available on the market today, especially since it is backed by decades of research. An article on medical-backed content platform SymptomFind discusses how retinol changes cell function in the skin, facilitating a faster turnover rate. This means that newer and healthier skin cells are pushed to the surface more rapidly to produces collagen and elastin fibers. The result is a stronger top skin layer that keeps the skin looking young, which is why the product is considered an anti-aging treatment.
Retinol and other topical vitamin A derivatives are also used in the treatment of acne. Because of its collagen-stimulating properties, this ingredient blocks inflammatory pathways that cause pimples and acne. And since dead skin cells are continuously being shed, leading to the expulsion of mature comedones (acne papules) and the prevention of microcomedone formation.
How Do I Use Retinol in My Routine?
The key to getting the best results from retinol with minimal side effects is gradual incorporation into a basic skincare routine. Since retinol is a powerful ingredient, it’s best to hold off on using your other actives and stick to the bare minimum: cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen, some of which we discuss in our ‘Skin Care’ articles.
After cleansing your skin in the evening, apply a light layer of moisturizer and let it dry. Then, taking a pea-sized amount of your retinol product, apply evenly on the face, taking care to avoid the eye area. Let that dry before applying another layer of moisturizer. This prevents your skin from drying out and becoming excessively irritated. Finally, since retinol is light sensitive, do not use the product in the morning. Be sure to apply a generous layer of SPF 35 or higher to ensure your sensitive skin is well protected from harmful UV rays.
Retinol is just one of the best skincare ingredients you need to try. For more skincare tips, visit our other posts on Skincare Beginner.