The Power of Retinol
Updated: Apr 26
We have all seen those meme’s of the spice girls where one is hyaluronic acid, one is SPF, the third is vitamin C and the last spice girl (but never the least) is retinol. For many who don’t know much about skincare this is just a comical post that encourages us to go to Sephora and get whatever was listed. Gotta say, a hell of a job done on the marketing aspect… but, as for educating the viewer, the ad lacks in this department. Even after seeing the meme the question still remains. What is retinol? Why is retinol so popular? Is retinol that important? What does retinol do?
Let's clarify a few things so the next time you see that spice girl meme you know what’s up with retinol and know the power behind this ingredient!
Retinol is derived from vitamin A, and is typically formulated in a serum or cream base. Retinol's are to be applied topically to the skin. So far you’re probably thinking easy peasy,why did this chick take the time to write up a blog about this (queue eye roll). Except retinol is not that simple. There are many types of retinols which also means you have to be very careful with when, how much, and how often you apply retinol. It is not like your friend SPF or hyaluronic acid that can be applied as often and whenever you want. In order to prevent further skin damage, skin sensitivities and to save your product, make sure you are applying your retinol at night before bed!! NEVER apply during the day before you head out (especially if you are off to the beach). Retinol can cause or exacerbate existing sun damage. Retinol does in fact cause the skin to be hyper photosensitive. Seems contradictory because one of the amazing benefits of retinol is to treat and lessen the severity of sunspots, so it seems ironic that it can cause pigmentation too! This is because retinol is so active in treating the dead skin and causing cell regeneration that the sun can impede on this intense process. The sun is incredibly strong which breaks down retinol, therefore another reason to skip this step during the day, talk about wasting product!
So to keep it easy just remember retinol helps treat sun damage and is only to be used at night! This is
so our skin has safe sun free time to regenerate new cells and slough off any old dead skin cells that may be contributing to the darkness of our pigmentation. To play it on the extra side of caution, I would also recommend avoiding use in the evening after a full day in the sun. Skip your retinol that night and use another serum that is safe and extra hydrating and get back to your retinol routine when you haven’t just had a fun day in the sun.
As previously mentioned, retinol is derived from vitamin A and is complex in regards to the types and levels. Think of retinol as an umbrella term for all retin-A and retinoids. Retinol can be purchased off the shelves at a low percent or it can be purchased from a skin specialist at a higher percent and prescribed by a doctor at the highest percent. Like most things, there are levels of potency and effectiveness and retinols defiantly fall into that category. The retinol family is quite extensive and no retinol is the same. You may notice on product labels different names for retinols. Retinol is available over the counter or from your aesthetician, Where as retin-A can only be prescribed by your doctor.
Lets un-package this a little more. 1. Retinyl (retinol) Palmiate – weakest retinol available. This retinol is a common ingredient in drug store product; especially in sunscreen -- (eeeekk used in sunscreen!?;SO many issues with that) This type of retinol is a synthetic alternative and is high on the dirty scale, meaning it is carcinogenic and is often used in animal testing. 2. Retinol- which is most commonly used and most tolerable for skin types. Retinol is a weaker tretinoin(what the doctor prescribes) 3. Reinaldehyde- (typically the percentage ranges from .05-.1%; This level and type of retinol is effective to help shrink black heads and treat cystic acne) This type of retinol is used in skin specialists products and able to be purchased from your aesthetician or prescribed by a doctor. 4. Differin Gel – (Doctors prescribe for acne) 5. Adapalene- strongest over the counter option (be careful) 6. Tretinoin/tazarotene – an acid converted from Vitamin A. Dr. Prescribed only! Not many skin types can handle this strong retinol as it can be extra irritating. This strength can only be prescribed by a doctor and should be used on a client who has had retinol exposure prior for at least a year. Do not ask the doctor to prescribe this if you are new to retinols! For those who cannot tolerate this strength it is beneficial for them to be using a retinol from a skin specialist.
Lets trace back to being careful with how often retinols should be applied. Beginner retinol users; you should be using the lightest professional grade to start and only using your retinol before bed once a week. Apply your pea sized amount of retinol covering your full face (avoiding your lips) once a week for two weeks, then by the third week you can use your retinol two times a week before bed, continue this routine for two weeks. By the fifth week of which your skin has been exposed to retinol you can then use the retinol three times before bed in one week. This is where you need to be extra cautious with how much you are applying, how your skin is responding and how your skin feels and appears. Please note if you know you have sensitive skin to begin with, maybe stick with using a retinol once a week for a longer period to avoid increasing your skins sensitivities. Always listen to your skin! What works for you might not be optimal for another skin type. Do not over do it and do not over use retinols because you want ‘better results’, I assure you the opposite will happen. Beginners, since you started with the lightest percent, you can increase your percent IF your skin feels good and ready to tolerate a higher dose each time you apply. I typically recommend increasing the percentage of your retinol when your tube is complete (depending on the size), and depending on the age of the client and the severity of their skin. If it is a client in their 20’s I will likely keep them on the lightest percentage until they turn a few years older (I have been using and am continuing with the sensitive PCA retinol option and still find it effective). My clients who are in their 50’s I will encourage them to increase the percentage or the targeting retinol as soon as their skin feels ready. This is simply because their skin is harder to treat and likely has stubborn spots to reverse. Once you are passed your years of living the dirty thirty’s your cells don’t regenerate as quick (your cells went from regenerating every 28 days to approx. every 50-70 days), therefore you can logically see how using a higher percentage of retinols would be optimal for mature skin. Use retinols in your routine for three months to see results (side note: I personally saw results quicker then the projected 3 month period. I found results within a few weeks. My skin texture was soft and fine lines were smoothed out and are less prominent- however I am still in my 20’s so results will differ based on age). I personally only use my retinol once a week and use my Arbonne Age Well Bakuchiol Retinol serum the other nights. Bakuchiol is a plant based retinol option, safer for highly sensitive skins. Therefore you can use it daily and still get many healthy aging benefits.
For my retinol users that have been around the block a few times, questions you can ask yourself are: - what percent retinol did I start with? - what percentage of retinol am I using now? - How long have I been using retinols? - How often am I using my retinol? - Have I increased the percentage of my retinol recently? Once you answer all or some of these questions it can lead to you your answer whether you need to change up how you are using your retinols.
In regards to our users of retinol the step of when to apply retinol is also important. Always apply pea size amount of retinol on dry clear skin. I will walk you through the important steps of a good skin care routine and when to add in your pal retinol. First, cleanse (always use lukewarm to cool water, move in upward circular motions), tone entire face, use eye cream, NOW apply retinol; gently pat the retinol on your entire face (except lips) and lightly dab/rub into the skin and let it absorb. After the retinol apply your night time moisturizer. Therefore, your routine should look no different on your retinol nights except that your nightly serum was skipped and retinol was used. Hot damn, you didn’t think it would be that simple did you?
What to expect when using retinol's. Some may experience dryness and flakiness; this is more then normal to begin with. This reaction is the exfoliation provided by the retinol which is a process called retinization (simply put this term means: a process of your skin getting used to retinol's) My experience was very mild and easy to tolerate. I just counteracted the dryness with my hyaluronic acid serum and night time repair cream and continued to consume lots of water.
Now, as many questions are flowing through your brain one of them is where do I get retinol? What brand do you recommend?! The answer is easy. Come visit me at 611 Hamilton Road London Ontario, I retail it in my beauty clinic. I use, love and recommend the PCA brand.
Being responsible when it comes to skin care is not only knowing about what products to use and why but also knowing what products may not be suited for you and why. Now, unfortunately I am going to rain on a few peoples parades… just as I have explained and probably got you excited to use retinol.... if you have inflamed chronic active rosacea, are pregnant and or breast feeding do not use retinols! If you have sensitive skin please avoid retinols and focus on hydrating your skin creating that equal balanced skin tone and lessening the redness, swelling and or burning in your skin before adding retinol to your routine. Retinol will just make those sensitivities worse and redness brighter. As for my pregnant and or breast feeding ladies your skin is likely already facing some changes and is hypersensitive, so logically stay away from something that can accelerate any of these symptoms. Retinol's are also used for preventative and healthy aging; many (not all) mindful aging products are also recommended to be avoided while pregnant. Unfortunately, there are not many articles explaining exactly why to stay away from anti-aging products and specifically retinols but it is highly advised. It has been said that high doses of vitamin A can be harmful to unborn children if taken orally or applied topically. Vitamin A can also weaken a pregnant woman’s immune system which causes severe stress on the baby.
When using retinol's to keep on topic of keeping it safe and responsible, avoid using retinol right after an intense exfoliation or after using salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid or any chemical peels. Do not use before any photosensitive facials (LED, IPL) and if you are using a retinol in your night time routine, SPF 30 (minimally) is a NON negotiable step in your morning routine! Retinol's will make your skin more likely to burn due to sun exposure (don’t even get me started on tanning beds). Want to know how serious I make this rule? I do not allow any of my clients to purchase a retinol serum unless they have a sunscreen that I approve of/ have sold them. Don’t jeopardize your skin after investing in the right things.
I just want to highlight, to be safe and careful. This was unfortunately one of my clients who was excited to try retinol but unfortunately chose a cheaper brand and a higher percent, and this is what happened to her skin. Extreme sensitives and flakiness were the main things this client experienced.
Since a few of the many benefits have already been listed lets uncover all of the benefits retinol has to offer.
Retinol helps with cell regeneration, which leads to healthier cells that produce faster. While new cells are being produced at the cellular level simultaneously the old and dead skin cells are shedding. This not only contributes to brighter, tighter healthier skin, but also significantly helps prevent aging. Which means it prolongs healthy taught skin and works through those fine lines and wrinkles smoothing them out for a better complexion! In addition, the same cell regenerative process helps treat scaring and prevent any future sun damage. It also works hard at minimizing the size, depth and darkness of the existing sun damage and or scaring that may be present in the skins layers. Even though you must be careful with retinols while treating acne, it is highly effective in treating blemishes, cystic acne and shrinking pore size! The gentle exfoliation cleans out the blackheads shrinking them in size creating a smaller pore for bacteria to find a home in. Say hello to this hero ingredient, jack-of-all-trades, and master of all!! Retinol works as an antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals on top of all its other functions. Think of retinol like it is re-programming your cells in believing they are young again so they regenerate quicker, and improve and heal complexion quicker. Once the cells are reprogramed they no longer will act slowly like old cells do.It is also training your cells to fight off the bad guys that harm the skin- how wicked is that?! I told you retinol was a power ingredient.
If we are being honest... If you are old enough to be reading this blog, and old enough to worry about wrinkles forming or old enough to be already treating them; then you are old enough to prevent or reverse them. OOPS... I just went there.
Did someone mention saving money? I did now! Saving money catches everyone’s attention. How does that relate to this blog in talking about retinols? Let me tell you! Start envisioning dollar signs flowing around you because this will save a lot of people a lot of money! Retinol has been around for quite some time but thanks to social media it seems to be much more popular in the last few years. Everyone is talking about it, posting about it or using it. Since it is such a big trend many companies are just using the word retinol for attention and for that immediate purchase. Some products don’t have a high enough percentage to do anything for your skin, but since it says retinol it flies off the shelves. You will also be paying for the marketing they put into that product, as well as the product just jumped in price because retinol is on the packaging. Therefore your first way to save money is to know the percent of retinol and know its from a professional source. Secondly, retinol's will also be added to cleansers, exfoliants, masks and even foundations; again simply because it is such a trend on the market and that word retinol gets everyone thinking they are doing amazing things for their skin. In these products don’t focus on retinol being an ingredient, in fact I give you permission to not have any retinols in these specific products for the following reasons. One; so you are not over doing it with retinols and causing more damage then creating goodness and reason two; cleansers, exfoliants and masks are rinsed and wiped off your face, oh and foundations and makeup is worn during the day and retinol during the day is a no no... so skip it sister! Therefore, the retinol ingredient that you paid extra for being in that product is actually treating your drain pipes rather then your skin. OOPS. So save your money and simply invest in a product that you know will work and that you know will stay on your skin topically for more then 32 seconds. Another money saver tip is to make sure your retinol is in a tightly package squeezable tube or in a dark pump bottle. Retinols are hard to keep potent. If exposed to too much oxygen or sunlight; the retinol's will loose their effectiveness. Once you open and get on your retinol routine in place make sure you are using it up within a couple of months! I hope you enjoyed learning about one of the famous spice girls; retinol!(I kept looking for this meme by the way and couldn't find it on google, which surprised me!) I hope we can get in contact soon so we can introduce the retinol family into your routine. Feel free to give me a call, txt or email. I look forward to treating your skin with you, and fighting those wrinkles, sun spots, scars and free radicals. If you have any further questions or information you think is important to be added PLEASE share, I welcome any feedback! Cheers to the power of retinol! Please see attached links where I sourced lots of my information from. Don't mind the in-formalness of how they are listed.