The Holy Grail of the skincare world - Retinol

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All things Retinol vs. Retinoids

What is Retinol and how do you use it?

The term Retinol has been trending for a while now. Be it via the Instagram pages you follow, or your best friend going gaga over it and stating its benefits, or simply amidst conversations in your local drugstore, everyone is talking about it. Retinol is said to be a magic potion, one that transforms the way your skin looks and feels. But what is retinol and what does it do exactly?

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A, which is known to help the skin in more ways than one. It prevents breakouts, reduces the appearance of acne scars, prevents wrinkles, and cellulite, exfoliates, and much more. As per the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, retinol is able to unclog pores and gradually boost collagen production levels, so as to aid in the formation of new skin cells. It was approved back in the 1970s as an ingredient to treat acne. In fact, in 2016, FDA approved selling retinol gel over the counter to help treat acne for those aged 12 and above. Before you introduce your skin to retinol, it is important to understand your skin type. If you’re a beginner with retinol products, we’d recommend you start with the lowest concentration - 0.25%. Do consult a dermatologist should you wish to increase it, we would highly recommend speaking to one even before use. Not only will they be able to recommend what’s best after examining your skin but they may even suggest a higher concentration or diluting even the lowest concentration of retinol products depending on your skin type. If you’re new to retinol, start by applying it once a week.

Increase the percentage you use as your skin acclimates to the product. Regular and unmonitored usage of retinol could lead to skin redness and immense damage, hence do this, with the guidance of a dermatologist.

How does it work?

Retinol penetrates quite well through the epidermis, not only eliminating dead skin cells but working to prevent reduction in collagen production. This process takes time and once it reaches the middle layer of the skin, it neutralizes free radicals to boost the production of collagen and elastin. It leaves the skin plump and eventually reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. For someone struggling with acne and scarring, this product is meant for you as it unclogs pores by creating comedolytic agents to help prevent the formation of comedones or blemishes in the pore. If your acne is severe your dermatologist may prescribe additional treatments along with the retinol or possibly retinol with high concentration. This, of course, must be supplemented with a balanced lifestyle - yes sleep is key, exercise is paramount and all good habits take president - a healthy diet and overall mental well-being.

Are Retinols and Retinoids the same?

While both are the chemical derivatives of Vitamin A, Retinols and retinoids aren’t the same. The two also serve a similar skincare function ie reducing wrinkles, improving collagen production, and treating acne. Retinoids are more potent and classified under pharmaceuticals with variants such as tretinoin and tazarotene consisting of retinoic acid, which means it will need a prescription. Retinol, on the other hand, is classified under cosmeceuticals are something that is easily accessible. In a very recent development, adapalene 0.1% gel has been made available without a prescription, however, as a rule of thumb, you must use it under the guidance of a dermatologist. The two work in a similar fashion as both have years worth of scientific evidence of improving skincare.

What do the two have in common?

Retinoids are power ingredients that show results faster than retinol. Even though similar in nature, you can say retinoids are multitaskers because they speed up the production of collagen, minimize fine lines and wrinkles, and also even out the skin tone. Additionally, they also reduce the appearance of pores. With retinol, you will see the same results but at a slower pace. Consulting a dermat and understanding what your skin needs is important.

How should you use it?

Known as the younger sibling of the powerful and must be prescribed Retinoids, retinol is easily available at your nearest pharmacy waiting to work its magic on your skin. Prior to purchase, we always advise speaking to a professional. If you would like to simply dip your feet into the water of the ocean that is Retinol, start slow and use less. Below is a list of steps you can take to ensure smooth application.

The great and the not-so-great effects of retinol.

It may be tempting to use a retinoid-based product every night for a faster turnaround but it is important to understand the side effects which are skin sensitivity, dryness, and peeling. Retinol is also known to make your skin sensitive to the sun so it’s always advised to use this in your nightly routine just before bed. They are photo-unstable and tend to break down under the sun thus rendering them ineffective and harmful. After application, you may want to evaluate the way your skin feels. If the product makes your skin feel red and flaky, apply a moisturizer, and increase the duration in between uses. Once you have started using retinol, you must use a sunscreen of SPF 50 daily regardless of being indoors or outdoors. In case of any skin irritation, using a cica balm is recommended as it has been endorsed for ages to boost skin’s moisture balance and appearance.

Apart from the above, Retinol is one skin ingredient that is very economical. You can choose one depending on your budget. In a case where you have to get a slightly expensive one, trust this one to be worthy of every penny spent. Note, no matter which product you buy, all Retinols usually take about 10-12 weeks of consistent usage to work their magic on the skin. Most importantly, do not assume that more is better or might show quicker results.

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