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Retinol : What, Who, When, Where, and Why?

Retinol is an ingredient that many people shy away from using in their skincare routines. It can be intimidating and also has a reputation for making skin peel and flake and so on. And, I'm not going to lie: Sometimes that's true. BUT another thing that is invariably true is that Retinol is an amazing product, so I'm going to answer those five sneaky questions: What is Retinol? Who should use it? Where should they use it? When should they use it? and WHY?

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What is Retinol?

Retinol is a Vitamin A derivative that essentially acts as a different kind of 'exfoliant' (it's technically an antioxidant, and acts differently than AHAs and BHAs). When applied topically, it encourages aging or dying skin cells to slough off and consequently spurs cell regeneration. It hampers the breakdown of collagen and promotes photo-damage repair, all leading to healthier, glowier, more beautiful, and more youthful skin.

Who should use Retinol?

Retinol is suitable for pretty much anyone interested in retaining youthful skin. The caveat is that MOST people initially react negatively to Retinol, even people who have experience with other types of chemical exfoliants. You may peel or flake, or experience some irritation for a while, but that initial period is not a narrative of how your skin will react to it forever. With that being said, it can take anywhere from 8 to 18 weeks to see any benefit from Retinol; but the benefits are vast, and clinically proven. It's usually recommended that people begin with a lower concentration of Retinol, which is intuitive, but also sometimes not understood, as the retinol content of a product is not always apparent from the front of the bottle. There are a ton of Retinol products available OTC and I would whole heartedly recommend looking into product information before committing to one specific product. *Retinol is NOT suitable for expectant or breastfeeding mothers.*

When should Retinol be used?

Retinol is best used at night. There is a pervasive idea that the reasoning behind this is that it greatly increases the chance of sunburn. That is not true. The reason Retinol is best used at night is because sunlight renders it ineffective, or at least hinders its performance; which is why you should store it in a dimly lit or dark space, use it within a few months after breaking the seal, why most Retinol products come in dark packaging, and why you should use it when it is dark outside. Along with that myth comes the idea that it is bad to use when traveling. This is both true and false, but not for the reasons most people present. It is not bad to use when traveling because of any type of real environmental factor, but traveling does lend itself to more sensitive and less hydrated skin. When people travel they are historically more dehydrated, and are usually exposing themselves to different climates that their skin may react adversely to. Using a Retinol while traveling is totally OK, but being aware of the condition of your skin is important. Make sure you bring hydrators to encourage moisture retention, try to be conscious of your water consumption, and consider refraining from use if your skin feels damaged or inordinately sensitive.

Where should Retinol be used?

Retinol can be used ALL over the face, including around the eyes. In fact, the people who saw the most benefit from consistent Retinol use were those who used it all the way to their lash lines. The reason behind this is that aging shows around eyes first. Retinol can be an irritating product, at first, which makes many fearful of putting it near their eyes, but it is not unsafe, and the use will eventually normalize, and the irritation (if there is any) will subside.

Why should anyone consider using a Retinol?

  • It boosts collagen production.
  • Aids in targeting textural irregularities, fine lines, and scarring.
  • It has been shown to reverse UV damage.
  • It tightens pores.
  • It stimulates blood flow, which lends itself to plumper and brighter skin.
  • It promotes cellular growth.
  • It hampers the breakdown of collagen.

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To be noted:

Apparently the use of one specific concentration of Retinol is only deemed effective for a period of 12 months. At that point, it is recommended to increase the amount that is used to continue seeing the benefits.

This information was gathered using journal articles, product page information, and memory. Thanks for reading XO