What is Retinol?
Retinoids, the umbrella term for retinol products, are powerful enough to improve skin texture, pigmentation and skin tone, and stimulate collagen production. Reinoids are derivatives of Vitamins A and break down into 3 categories:
Retinoic Acid: Tretinoin - prescription strength for acne & stretch marks
Retinol: Over the counter nonprescription - medium strength
Pro-Retinols: Over the counter - gentler and in lower concentrations
Biochemically they all do exactly the same thing, it may just take longer to see results with weaker concentrations.
What do Reinoids do?
Retinoids work by exfoliation. The magical ingredient fights visible signs of aging. It helps diminish fine lines and wrinkles, minimize pore size, brightens skin tone and stimulates collagen production. It is not an exfoliation like a face scrub or from an ingredient like glycolic acid. There's often peeling and redness which is why most people give it up. It’s important to understand that peeling and redness is just a side effect to its many benefits. You just need to let your skin get used to it. Retinoids work at a much more profound level by affecting gene expression and causing enhanced collagen production, smoothing the surface of your skin, and diminishes pigmentation. Push through the irritation if it flares up, it’s normal. Skin cells adapt after 2 or 3 weeks to retinoids and begin to tolerate the ingredient. If the discomfort is prolonged or very uncomfortable, use it once a week or switch to a weaker formula.
How and When to Use
There are 2 ways to incorporate Retinols into your skincare; MOISTURIZERS that have retinol in their ingredients, and RETINOL SERUMS. Both are good options. I personally prefer the latter because I like to control the application frequency and dose. Some people don’t like the extra step of applying a serum before moisturizing, but it’s all about preference.
Moisturizer with Retinol
If you use a moisturizer with retinol it's a no brainer! Apply your moisturizer after cleansing day and night. Most moisturizers labeled as "night moisturizers" have retinol in it and instruct to only use at night, but you can use night moisturizers during the day. They are usually heavier in moisturizer and contain no SPF. Always apply sunscreen after you moisturizer during the day.
As I said, I like to use serums. Not only do you have the ability to control when you use it, but you control where it goes and how much you apply. Retinol serums come in various combinations of ingredients, too many to go into. You can use serums during the day and night. After cleansing and toning apply the serum. I like to wait a minute before I apply sunscreen or moisturizer, but there is no actual need to wait for your skin to dry. ALWAYS apply a moisturizer and/or sunscreen during the day. It helps against evaporation of the serum and allows it to penetrate further into the skin.
When to Apply
After you let your skin get used to retinol you can apply it in both your morning regimen and at night before bed. People always comment on my skin when I use retinol during the day because it has an immediate smoothing and brightening effect. If you only apply retinol once a day choose the night time. When your body goes to sleep your organs, including your skin, the largest organ in your body, goes into repair mode. In an environment free from pollutants and debris, there is no better way for your skin to heal itself than with a good night's sleep and to have this magical ingredient absorbing into your skin.
Don’t forget to apply it under your eyes.
You can apply it to the fragile skin around the orbital area, and you really should! That's where most of the damage shows up. Studies have shown that people who apply retinol right up to the eyes get the best results. The skin there is no more likely to get red or flaky than anywhere else on the face.
Retinol in the Sun
You've probably heard that you shouldn't use retinol if you're going to be in the sun. Some say it causes your skin to be more sensitive to sun exposure and inevitably you'll burn, but that's a myth. The fact is sun breaks down the efficacy of retinoids and that is an excellent reason not to apply it before sun exposure, but retinoids do not make the skin more prone to sunburn. Clinical studies have shown pretty definitively that retinoids do not lower the MED, or Minimal Erythemal Dose, which is the amount of UV light your skin can take before the it burns. It may even be a good thing to wear retinol when you are out in the sun. They not only boost collagen production, but have the potential to stop photoaging before it starts. Studies have shown that retinoids prevent the rise of collagenase, the enzyme that breaks down collagen after UV exposure. Before going into the sun, it’s a good idea to layer a heavier moisturizer over your retinol to avoid dryness, which makes skin more susceptible to irritation in general.
Wait to See Results
People often give up on retinol because they don’t see desired changes on the skin after their bottle or jar is gone. It is important to continue! It has taken many years for your skin to show visible signs of aging and you're asking this product to do miracles in a month? That’s just not realistic. According to Gary Fisher, Professor of Dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School. "Many over-the-counter formulas claim you'll see results within weeks, but in my experience, it takes an average of 12 weeks for retinoids to produce noticeable changes in the skin. So stick with it for at least that long to see the benefits.”.