How to Use Retinol: A Basic Introductory Guide

Retinol has been the buzzword of the beauty scene for some time now. From the latest retinol cream to the biggest breakthrough in retinol serum technology to date, retinol is the talk of the town in high-profile beauty circles.

But what is retinol, and what does it do? How often should retinol be used to ensure its maximum effectiveness, and what is the best retinol cream money can buy right now?

What is Retinol?

In simple terms, retinol is a derivative of vitamin A. It is a substance naturally produced in the human body, which research suggests has an extensive list of potential benefits. Capable of kickstarting collagen production and accelerating cell turnover, retinol has proven highly effective in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Considered the Holy Grail of home skincare by many experts, retinol boasts the kind of effectiveness that comes close to powerful prescription retinoids.  Essentially, retinol is a form of vitamin A that is friendly to the skin, and has been adopted by many of the world’s most prominent skincare brands.

What Does Retinol Do and What Are its Benefits?

With regular use, retinol gets to work on some of the most prominent signs of aging. It helps unblock pores, it smoothens and exfoliates the skin, and it even gets to work on hyperpigmentation. Over time, skin hydration improves, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles diminishes.

Some studies have also highlighted the potential benefits of retinol as an effective treatment for acne. Contributing to a smoother and more even appearance, retinol contributes to the plumpness of the dermis, resulting in a more youthful and supple look.

Are Creams with Retinol Suitable For All Skin Types?

As retinol is a powerful active ingredient, people with fair or sensitive skin types are advised to exercise caution when getting started with its use. Retinol is considered safe for all skin types, but should be avoided by individuals with excessively sun-damaged skin. Some experts also advise pregnant women not to use products containing high concentrations of retinol.

As with all skincare products, suitability varies in accordance with the full composition of the formulation – not the presence of one particular ingredient.  If in doubt, consult with your dermatologist or skincare specialist, in order to ensure retinol products are safe for you.

When Should I Start Using Retinol?

Skincare products containing retinol – particularly retinol eye cream – are most effective when used as preventative treatments. They can be hugely effective in reducing the visible signs of aging, but nonetheless work best when adopted at an early stage.

Dermatologists and beauticians, therefore, recommend using products with retinol after turning 30, given how this is when the skin’s collagen levels begin deteriorating more rapidly. When retinol is used to treat acne, it may be recommended for teenagers or younger users.

For anti-aging purposes, retinol products come highly recommended to anyone in the 30+ age bracket – men and women alike.

How Do I Incorporate Retinol into My Skincare Regime?

The general rule of thumb when bringing new skincare products into your routine is to start out slowly and carefully. This is to ensure that if you do have a reaction to any of the ingredients in the product, you can stop using it right away before causing any harm to your skin.

If you’ve never used a retinol before, we highly recommend starting slow. Use a small quantity of medical-grade retinol cream once a week to start, in order to see how your skin reacts. Then, you can build up to twice a week, and eventually moving up to three times a week. Most experts recommend incorporating retinol into your evening skincare regime, as it can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

If you use retinol products during the day, you should also be wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 50. But even on days when you don’t use retinol, protecting your skin from the sun is still the best way of delaying the earliest visible signs of aging.

What Should I Do If My Skin Has a Reaction to Retinol?

Reactions to retinol are comparatively rare, and are almost always minor in nature when they occur. Individuals with particularly sensitive skin can experience dryness and irritation after using retinol products, but this may also be attributed to the other ingredients in the product’s composition.

If you experience a reaction of any kind to a retinol product, discontinue its use and consult with your dermatologist or skincare specialist. It could simply be that your skin needs time to adjust to the use of retinol, which your dermatologist will advise on.

What is the Best Form of Retinol?

The quality of a retinol product will always be determined by the sum total of its formulation. The higher the quality of the ingredients and the more concentrated the dose of retinol, the greater the effectiveness of the product. It’s why we always recommend medical-grade skincare products.

Three of the most outstanding retinol skincare products currently available in our shop with high concentrations of retinol include the following:

ZO Retinol 0.5% Skin Brightener

Designed to effectively brighten and even out the skin tone, ZO Retinol 0.5% Skin Brightener takes aim at pigmentation issues and skin discoloration. All with the added benefit of antioxidant protection, helping prevent future skin damage.

Vivier Retinol 1% Night Complex

A potent and powerful anti-aging complex, Vivier Retinol 1% Night Complex gets to work against fine lines, wrinkles and open pores. The formula is hypoallergenic and suitable for most skin types – the perfect complement to any existing evening skincare routine.

SkinMedica RETINOL Complex 0.25%

Clinically proven to contribute to the skin’s youthful glow while refreshing its texture, SkinMedica RETINOL Complex 0.25 is also effective against the development of fine lines and wrinkles. Another potent formulation with high-quality retinol, which is nonetheless suitable for most skin types.

When Can You Expect Results?

Last up, it’s important to have realistic expectations when bringing retinol into your skincare regime. Products containing retinol are not designed to offer a quick fix, but to build towards supple and youthful-looking skin long-term.

Positive results may be visible within a few weeks, but it can take several months for the full effects of high-quality retinol to become apparent.