The Power of Retinol – 5 Things You Should Know

An important distinction: Retinol is OTC, Retinoids are prescription-strength

Retinols (which are over-the-counter), along with the family of retinoids (which are prescriptions like tretinoin and Refissa) they belong to, have become power products in any skincare enthusiast’s arsenal. And for good reason; the transformative effects of retinol are well-known and evidence-based: it hikes up the speed of cellular turnover and promotes collagen production, leading to softer, younger, smoother, scar-free, and more radiant skin. Too good to be true? Raving aside, all beauty and skincare hobbyists and gurus alike should take the time to get to know this dermatological panacea along with all its powers (and that includes its possible hazards). If your knowledge about retinol is only skin-deep, here are 5 things you and your skin are probably better off knowing.

1. If you're serious about harnessing the power of retinol, get a prescription.

While OTC retinol creams and serums can be effective, their lower concentrations and weaker formulations mean that positive impacts on your skin can be somewhat muted compared to prescription-strength retinoids. It will also take longer to see results. Tretinoin, for instance, which is a prescription retinoid , can be 20+ times more potent than OTC retinol products, leading to much speedier transformations within your skin. The bottom line is, unless you’re a beginner to retinol or have super sensitive skin, consulting a dermatologist and acquiring that prescription will not only ensure you get results at a faster and more magnified scale, but you’ll also feel better equipped to navigate retinol’s common side effects.

2. Women and men of all ages could potentially benefit from retinol.

Long gone are the days when women jump on the anti-aging train only once they experience visible signs of aging. Age simply isn’t a factor when it comes to nourishing your skin with the protective ingredients it needs, and with retinol’s proven effects, many dermatologists recommend individuals in their 20s to start incorporating a retinol product into their nightly skin routine. The reason? While the damage may be largely invisible, skin in your 20s may already be undergoing the early stages of photoaging. Apart from the daily and religious use of sunscreen, dermatologists overwhelmingly agree that retinol can be effective in actively slowing down that aging process. Beyond that, though, dermatologists prescribe retinoids all the time for teenagers to combat acne, and go on to advocate the regular use of OTC retinol even after their skin clears up.

3. Yes, you're still better off just using retinol at night.

Most retinol and retinoid products advise the use of sunblock while using them. Since the products promote new skin growth, the new skin cells are more sensitive and need to be protected from the sun. Therefore it’s not a good idea to pile on retinol before exposing yourself to sunlight. Also, while retinoid ingredients themselves don’t make your skin more sensitive to the sun, they do essentially disintegrate in sunlight and lose their potency. You won’t garner much benefit from using retinol throughout the day. That said, as long as you’re using a sunscreen and practicing good suncare habits there’s no need to worry excessively about potential sunburn just because you’re using retinol.

4. OTC retinol creams and serums are better suited for your eyes.

Most dermatologists will agree that the skin around your eyes can benefit from retinol. After all, the eye region is extremely susceptible to wrinkles and other signs of aging, so including a retinol product can be a great practice in improving sun damage and smoothing out the skin surrounding the eyes. However, retinol around the eyes can be tricky to manage, so this should only be done after a proper consultation with your aesthetician or dermatologist. What you’ll need to bear in mind is that anything you apply around the eyes experiences faster absorption with amplified effects, as the skin there is super-thin and delicate. To minimize unnecessary side effects, it’s best to either completely avoid retinal around the eyes, or at least stick to only OTC retinol products in order to benefit from their gentler formulations.

5. Be aware of the common mistakes when using retinol.

While the upsides of retinol usage are tantalizing enough to keep skincare enthusiasts committed to their regimen, retinol’s downsides can be equally frustrating and even somewhat scary. Many experience irritation symptoms when they first start using retinol, and they can be unsettling enough to quit before you start seeing its magic work on you.

Protect yourself from unnecessary anguish by keeping in mind these three common, retinol-related mistakes and make sure you don’t commit them, especially if you’re just starting out:

1) using a too-large amount of product (a pea-sized amount is generally advised)
2) using it too frequently (start out twice weekly, and slowly build your way up)
3) not being patient (even with prescription retinoids, you might have to wait up to six months to see results)

With these five insights in mind, you’re now on your way to harnessing the true powers of retinol while minimizing its downsides. Remember, everyone’s skin is different, and the same applies to the skin’s reaction to retinol and other retinoids. The golden rule of retinol usage is this: If in doubt – or you’re experiencing prolonged side effects – consult your dermatologist or aesthetician.

Add the power of retinol to your skincare regimen!

Skin Deep offers a carefully chosen selection of retinol and retinoid products in our webstore.

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