Retinol, the reigning queen of skincare ingredients, is praised across the board by dermatologists, skincare gurus, and celebrities alike.
Hailed for its age-defying, skin-smoothing abilities, retinol is a staple ingredient that can transform your skin, no matter whether you have ageing skin or acne-prone skin. But as powerful as it is, it can be a little daunting to introduce into your routine, especially if you’re a first-time user.
Fear not, because we’re about to delve into the world of retinol, breaking down what it is, its benefits, and how to incorporate it into your skincare regime.
Let’s take a look!
What is Retinol?
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, one of the body’s key nutrients for boosting cell turnover. In the world of skincare, retinol is part of a larger group of retinoids, which are varying strengths of vitamin A.
When applied topically, retinol has the power to communicate with our cells, effectively teaching ageing or damaged cells to behave more like youthful, healthy ones. Its transformative power lies in its ability to accelerate skin renewal, diminish the appearance of fine lines, and enhance collagen production.
Benefits of Retinol
Fights Fine Lines and Wrinkles
First and foremost, retinol is famous for its anti-ageing benefits. As it boosts cell turnover, the skin’s surface is rejuvenated, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles is reduced. This action helps to smooth the skin, giving it a fresher, more youthful appearance.
Improves Skin Tone
Retinol also offers significant benefits for your complexion, as it can help to fade dark spots and pigmentation, resulting in a more even skin tone. By stimulating the production of new blood vessels in the skin, retinol can also improve skin colour, adding a rosy, healthy-looking glow to your complexion.
Retinol’s ability to speed up skin cell turnover also makes it a helpful ally in the fight against acne. By increasing cell turnover, retinol helps to unclog pores, reducing their appearance and decreasing the likelihood of breakouts.
Refines Skin Texture
Retinol has a distinct power to improve the texture of your skin. By exfoliating at a cellular level, it helps to smooth the skin’s surface and promotes a more radiant appearance. This effect makes retinol a fantastic choice for dealing with common skin texture issues, such as rough patches, skin redness, or a dull appearance.
How to Use Retinol for Smoother Skin
Navigating the retinol route for the first time can seem like a complex task. But with a bit of guidance, you’ll be a retinol pro in no time. Here’s how to incorporate it into your skincare routine for smoother, healthier skin:
Retinol is potent, and your skin needs time to adjust to its strength. Begin with a low concentration (look for products containing 0.1% retinol) and use it once or twice a week to start. As your skin becomes more accustomed to it, you can gradually increase frequency and strength.
Apply at Night
Retinol should ideally be applied at night, as it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. After cleansing and toning your skin, apply a pea-sized amount of retinol to your entire face.
Follow With Moisturiser
After applying retinol, it’s crucial to hydrate your skin with a nourishing moisturiser. This step will help combat any potential dryness or irritation caused by retinol and will keep your skin feeling soft and plump.
Protect Your Skin
Remember, your skin will be more sensitive to UV rays after applying retinol, so don’t forget to apply sunscreen every morning when using it, even on cloudy days. A broad-spectrum SPF of at least 30 is a must in order to shield your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Listen to Your Skin
Always listen to your skin when using retinol. If you notice any redness, flaking, or discomfort, it’s a sign that you may need to cut back on your retinol use. It could mean that you’re using it too frequently, or that the concentration is too high.
Best Retinol Products 2023
So, you’re sold on the wonders of retinol and ready to incorporate it into your skincare routine. But with the myriad of retinol products on the market, where do you start? We’ve curated a list of the best retinol products of 2023 to guide you on your journey to smoother skin:
Best for Beginners
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane is an affordable retinol serum that’s perfect for beginners. With a low concentration of 0.2%, it offers a gentle introduction to retinol. For those on a higher budget, skincare giants Drunk Elephant have also developed a beginner-friendly retinol oil (A-Gloei™) with just two potent ingredients: 0.5% retinol and Virgin Marula Oil. The Marula Oil acts as something of a “buffer” for the higher concentration of retinol, and is gentle enough for everyday use.
Best for Sensitive Skin
First Aid Beauty’s FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum (0.25% Pure Concentrate) has been specially formulated for sensitive skin: this retinol serum blends 0.25% retinol with soothing ingredients like aloe, colloidal oatmeal, and ceramides to reduce potential irritation, leaving you with smooth, soft skin and no irritating side-effects!
Sunday Riley’s A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum is a high-dose retinoid serum that combines a 6.5% retinoid blend with botanical extracts for a potent yet gentle formula – perfect if you’re looking to splurge on something that’ll look fantastic on your dressing table and make your skin look equally fantastic.
Best for Eyes
RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream is an affordable eye cream specifically designed to target crow’s feet and under-eye wrinkles with a gentle yet effective retinol formula. Make sure to start slowly and don’t apply the retinol too close to your eyeline – you could end up with stinging, irritated, red eyes!
Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream packs a punch, and with 1% vegan retinol (alongside nourishing ingredients like passionfruit, apricot, and jojoba oils) this retinol cream is a heavy-hitter in combating signs of ageing, uneven skin tone, and acne. But do be careful with this higher dose; only opt for higher retinol concentrations once your skin is used to handling lower amounts without irritation.
Whichever product you opt for, remember: retinol is a journey, not a race. Be patient and consistent, and you’ll start to see changes in your skin in no time.
Navigating the world of retinol might seem daunting at first. Its potency may sound intimidating, and the initial adjustment period can be off-putting. However, the benefits of retinol are too profound to overlook. With its ability to promote cell turnover, boost collagen production, and minimise the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, retinol truly is a powerhouse ingredient in the skincare universe.
Starting slow, listening to your skin, and choosing the right retinol product are crucial steps towards a smoother, brighter complexion. And remember, patience is key. While you might not see results overnight, consistent and mindful use of retinol will eventually lead to radiant, smooth, glowing skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section we answer your questions about starting a retinol skincare routine.
Is retinol dangerous?
No, retinol isn’t dangerous, but it is powerful. When used correctly, it can offer immense benefits for your skin. However, because it accelerates cell turnover, it can initially cause redness, dryness, and peeling, especially if you start with a high concentration or use it too often. This is why it’s recommended to start with a lower concentration, use it a few times a week, and always follow up with a moisturiser and sunscreen. Do note that pregnant women should NOT use retinol products during pregnancy, and should also avoid retinol when nursing.
What percentage of retinol should I start with?
If you’re new to retinol, it’s advised to start with a low concentration to allow your skin to adjust. A product with 0.1% or 0.2% retinol is a good starting point. You can then gradually increase the strength and frequency of use as your skin builds tolerance.
Can I use retinol every day?
While it’s possible to use retinol every day, it’s not recommended for beginners. Start by using retinol once or twice a week, then gradually increase the frequency as your skin adjusts. Remember to listen to your skin—if you notice any signs of irritation, such as redness or peeling, cut back on your usage.
Can I use retinol with other active ingredients?
Retinol can be used alongside other active ingredients, but it’s crucial to do so wisely to avoid overloading your skin. For instance, retinol can be paired with hyaluronic acid for added hydration, or niacinamide to boost the skin’s barrier function. However, it’s generally recommended to avoid using retinol with other potent active ingredients, like vitamin C or AHA/BHAs, as the combination could be too harsh on the skin.
Should I use retinol in the morning or at night?
It’s best to apply retinol at night. Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so using it in your evening routine followed by a broad-spectrum sunscreen in the morning is the ideal approach.
Can I use retinol if I have sensitive skin?
Yes, but you need to be extra cautious. Start with a very low concentration, perhaps even a retinol-infused moisturiser, and use it just once a week initially. Look out for retinol products formulated for sensitive skin, as these often contain soothing ingredients that can help mitigate potential irritation.