expert advice

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RETINOL

Get under the skin of the biggest skincare phenomenon
(and reap the rewards, too).

expert advice

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RETINOL

Get under the skin of the biggest skincare phenomenon
(and reap the rewards, too).

What is retinol?

Retinol is a topical derivative of vitamin A that exfoliates the skin, regenerates cell production, and boosts collagen over a matter of hours. Boasting both anti-ageing and acne-reducing superpowers, this multi-tasking saviour will also help your skin to better absorb any other products you apply afterwards (meaning more bang for your buck with follow-up serums, night creams or overnight masks). Nice one, retinol.

 

Why should I use it? 

If tackling acne and scarring is high on your skincare agenda, retinol speeds up cell turnover in order to help heal the skin, while exfoliating the outer layers, preventing pores from clogging and reducing breakouts. Anti-ageing more of an issue? Retinol helps with that, too – it stimulates collagen and blood vessel production, helping to reduce fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation spots.

 

How do I use it?

As sunlight is to retinol what kryptonite is to Superman, retinol should only be used during your night-time routine, a couple of times a week (increasing to every other day, if needed, once acclimatised). Start by applying a pea-size amount all over the face, followed by a nourishing moisturiser. Lastly, remember to use an SPF come morning as retinol can harshen the impact of UV on your skin. The effects of retinol build over time and take roughly three months to work, so keep the faith if you don’t notice results straight away.

 

Take note:

While the powers of retinol are undeniable, if you’ve got a sensitive skin type, keep an eye out for any irritation. While some dryness and/or redness is normal initially, if this persists and causes discomfort then it might not be for you. Plus, be careful when layering up skincare – never use a retinol in combination with other exfoliants like glycolic acid.

Retinol: our top picks

YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED BY EXPERTS

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Paula Begoun

Author and founder of Paula’s Choice
What advice would you give to those wary of trying retinol?

My sincere advice is to absolutely give retinol a chance, but be sure it’s a beautiful formula with no irritants of any kind. Make sure the rest of your skincare routine is extremely gentle and that you’re applying SPF30 or more every day.

What advice would you give to those wary of trying Retinol?

My sincere advice is to absolutely give retinol a chance, but be sure it’s a beautiful formula with no irritants of any kind. Make sure the rest of your skincare routine is extremely gentle and that you’re applying SPF30 or more every day.

 

There are so many retinol products it can be overwhelming! What are the main things to look out for when choosing one?

Believe me, I understand the confusion. Here are some helpful tips: firstly, start by experimenting with a low strength applied a few times per week to see how your skin responds; secondly, no single ingredient can do it all – the skin is too complex. Look for other beneficial ingredients such as vitamin C, niacinamide, peptides, hydrating ingredients and antioxidants which help to deliver faster, better results. Thirdly, always choose a product that’s fragrance-free (that’s including essential oils) as they can trigger irritation.

There are so many retinol products, it can be overwhelming. What are the main things to look out for when choosing one?

Believe me, I understand the confusion. Here are some helpful tips: firstly, start by experimenting with a low-strength formula applied a few times per week to see how your skin responds; secondly, no single ingredient can do it all – the skin is too complex. Look for other beneficial ingredients such as vitamin C, niacinamide, peptides, hydrating ingredients and antioxidants, which help to deliver faster, better results. Thirdly, always choose a product that’s fragrance-free (that’s including essential oils) as they can trigger irritation.

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Janine Da Costa

Dermalogica’s Education Manager
How do I go about choosing between retinol strengths and the best one for me?

Choosing the best retinol strength will depend on your key skin issue and whether you have used a retinol before. To target breakouts and the visible signs of ageing, reach for a powerhouse formula that tackles both in a gentle, time-released manner. Retinol Clearing Oil is a night oil that combines retinol and salicylic acid into one skin-soothing formula. If fine lines and wrinkles are your concern, Overnight Retinol Repair uses 0.5% retinol and is concentrated yet customisable – so it’s ideal for new retinol users.
For more progressive signs of ageing (wrinkles and uneven skin tone), it’s time to step it up with a potent formula. Overnight Retinol Repair 1% helps accelerate skin renewal with a powerful bioactive peptide and antioxidant vitamin C that delivers powerful results for the more advanced retinol user.

How do I go about choosing between retinol strengths and the best one for me?

Choosing the best retinol strength will depend on your key skin issue and whether you have used a retinol before. To target breakouts and the visible signs of ageing, reach for a powerhouse formula that tackles both in a gentle, time-released manner. Retinol Clearing Oil is a night oil that combines retinol and salicylic acid into one skin-soothing formula. If fine lines and wrinkles are your concern, Overnight Retinol Repair uses 0.5% retinol and is concentrated yet customisable – so it’s ideal for new retinol users.
For more progressive signs of ageing (wrinkles and uneven skin tone), it’s time to step it up with a potent formula. Overnight Retinol Repair 1% helps accelerate skin renewal with a powerful bioactive peptide and antioxidant vitamin C that delivers powerful results for the more advanced retinol user.

 
How do I slot retinol into my skincare routine?

Apply your retinol onto cleansed, toned skin and then follow with moisturiser. Always apply retinol at night to avoid irritation from sun exposure.

How do I slot retinol into my skincare routine?

Apply your retinol onto cleansed, toned skin and then follow with moisturiser. Always apply retinol at night to avoid irritation from sun exposure.

THE RETINOL CHEAT-SHEET:

Active ingredients:

An ingredient that is biologically active,
such as acids.

 

Bakuchiol:

A natural ingredient that has similar superpowers to retinol, deriving from the Babchi plant. It has a lower chance of irritation and is suitable for vegans.

 

Retinoid:

An umbrella term for the entire family of vitamin A derivatives – including both the gentler over-the-counter beauty products and targeted prescription-based treatments.

 

 

Retin-A:

A potent prescription product that vigorously
speeds up cell production.

 

Retinoic acid:

Retinol in its active form. Retinol is converted to retinoic
acid once applied and gets to
work on your skin.

 

Packaging symbols:

All beauty products that contain active ingredients have a symbol on them with a number and letter ‘M’ (for example ‘12M’). This is the length of time you have to use the product before its active ingredients expire.