In the ever-changing world of skincare, Retinol has remained a constant in serums and creams to reverse the signs of aging. Fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and even acne scars have all been smoothed by this powerful anti-aging ingredient. Retinol products are everywhere! You’ve probably been told to start using one if you’re close to the age of 30 but there’s still a lot of confusion about how to best use this wrinkle-fighting ingredient to transform your skin.
What Is Retinol?
Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is actually a potent form of Vitamin A. It’s used in anti-aging products to increase cell turnover and boost collagen production. With consistent use,Vitamin A helps minimize the appearance of pores, fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration and acne scars. It’s basically a miracle in a bottle but only if you know how to use it! When this wrinkle-fighting ingredient is misused it causes severe dryness, which can make signs of aging look worse and can even cause breakouts by clogging pores with flaky dead skin cells.
If you’re going to start using Vitamin A, it’s important to know your options and figure out the best ingredient to start with for your skin type. There are a few different kinds of Vitamin A. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Retinoids: This ingredient is available only in prescription formulas prescribed by a dermatologist. It’s considered the strongest form of Vitamin A. Popular brand names include Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, and Renova.
Retinol: A popular cosmetic form of Vitamin A, sold in many over-the-counter anti-aging products. Retinols are about 20 times less potent than prescription strength retinoids. Even though Retinol is gentler than retinoids it can still deliver the same results over time.
Retinyl Palmitate: This version of Vitamin A is much weaker than a retinol, making it ideal for sensitive skin and a good place to start for retinol newbies.
Retinaldehyde: Another gentle version of Vitamin A. It’s ideal for people with thin or sensitive skin. Gentler versions of retinol are also best to use if you still have acne breakouts or a lot of sun damage.
Most dermatologists recommend starting a retinol regimen between the ages of 26 and 30, as long as you don’t have regular breakouts. If you still have acne and are worried about signs of aging, you can use a product with retinaldehyde or retinyl palmitate until your skin clears. Although it can be tempting to start using retinol to prevent wrinkles before they’re even visible, it’s not recommended. Using strong anti-aging products before the age of 26 can backfire, bringing breakouts to the surface and disrupting your skin’s natural cell turnover process.
A lot of people reach for high strength products as soon as they see any signs of aging. Using a prescription strength retinol can actually damage your skin no matter what age you start. High strength products can dry out your skin making it look more aged over time. Here’s a breakdown of how to ease your way into using a retinol product to effectively prevent signs of aging without damaging your skin.
1. Start With a Gentle Version
It can be tempting to buy the strongest form of retinol you can find as soon as you see wrinkles forming, but a milder formula can give you the same results over time. While you might be able to see results from prescription strength products faster, you’re more likely to end up irritating your skin in the long run, ruining the initial results.
Start with an anti-aging product that contains Retinaldehyde or Retinyl Palmitate. You’ll get noticeable results in under three months without drying out your skin. Once your skin has adapted to using the gentler ingredients without irritation, you can switch to stronger products.
Retinyl Palmitate Serum: Skin Inc. Vitamin A Serum $35.00
2. Use a Small Amount on Totally Dry Skin
Less is more when you first start using a retinol. Damp skin can interfere with how it’s absorbed and lead to irritation and dryness. After using a gentle cleanser, dry your face and wait a few minutes before applying your product. Once skin is dry apply a pea-sized amount, using your fingers to smooth evenly over your face. Start with your forehead, work your way down to the nose, cheeks and chin. Don’t try to spot treat with retinol products. Retinol actually travels underneath the skin. Even if you just apply it to your eye or forehead area it will work everywhere.
Gentle Cleanser: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser $18.00
3. Wait 20 Minutes Before Applying Other Products
Make sure you wait at least 20 minutes before applying other products like serums, creams, moisturizers and acne products. If your skin is prone to dryness you can reverse this process and apply a moisturizer first. The results won’t be as potent, but at least your skin will be intact! Make sure you use a sunscreen during the day. Retinol can make skin more sensitive to sunlight and cause redness and peeling without sun protection.
4. Wait a Week Before Applying Again!
Yes, that’s right! When you first start using retinol it’s important to gradually get your skin used to the intensity to avoid drying it out. It’s always best to err on the side of caution even if your skin isn’t sensitive. When first starting out, apply once a week for one week, twice a week for two weeks and then three times a week for three weeks. After your skin has adjusted you can use a retinol every day or try two nights on, two nights off to avoid dryness.
Gentle Formula: The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane $5.30
5. Work Up To Higher Strength Retinol Over Time
After starting with a retinaldehyde or retinyl palmitate product you can switch to a higher strength product with about 0.2% retinol. Use each new retinol product for at least a month before graduating to a higher strength. I love The Ordinary products because they have a range of products that are super affordable and effective. After using a high-strength, over-the-counter retinol product for at least six months you can try a prescription-strength product.
Higher strength: The Ordinary 1% Retinol in Squalane $6.70
Looking for hydrating products to use after your anti-aging products? Here are the Top 5 Products to Help Hydrate Skin During Winter.