Beauty

Everything You Need to Know Before Using Retinol-Based Products

Retinol is not for everyone. Find out if you can reap this skin savior's benefits.
IMAGE CHRISTOPHER CAMPBELL/ UNSPLASH
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The word “retinol” is often thrown around by dermatologists and highlighted on boxes of skin care products. From these labels, consumers get a general idea of what retinol is: it reduces wrinkles, we learn, and Retin-A is used to treat acne.

But like all other beauty ingredients, we must understand what exactly retinol is, how it works, how to use it to maximize its potency, and how to avoid any problems it may cause with misuse.

What is retinol?

Topical derivatives of vitamin A, retinoid variants Retinol, Retinaldehyde, and Retinyl Retinoate are converted by the skin into an active ingredient, dermatologist Sam Bunting says on the Telegraph. Since retinoids are not naturally found in the skin, they are incorporated into skin care products for their many benefits. They've been known to boost cell turnover and stimulate collagen production. They also benefit the skin as antioxidants and neutralize free radicals. One can commonly find them in products that treat anti-aging.

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How does it work?

Retin-A was the first retinoid to be used in drugs in the 1970s, when doctors prescribed it as a solution to acne. It was later found to be just as useful when treating pigmentation, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Retinoids work in smoothing wrinkles and fine lines because of their ability to increase collagen production. Over time, they also reduce the appearance of age spots and improve complexion. The latter function of a retinoid is a result of retarding the production of a dark pigment called melanin.

Chicago-based dermatologist Carolyn Jacob explains that retinoids also “hamper the breakdown of collagen and thicken the deeper layer of skin where wrinkles get their start,” which is why retinoids have been known to thicken the skin.

How should one use retinoids?

Dermatologists prescribe retinoic acid (Retin-A) to their patients with aging skin. The retinaldehyde variant is highly efficient in reviving older skin. Since retinoids have been known to cause skin dryness and irritation, especially on sensitive skin, it’s recommended that Retin-A be used only every other day. Apply sparingly every day, or once every other day until the skin warms up to it.

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For first timers, New Orleans-based dermatologist Patricia Farris tells WebMD that she starts her patients with low dosages and gradually ups the retinol over time. Users of non-prescription retinoids may notice a difference in three to six months of regular use, while prescription users may see its benefits after six to eight weeks. Retinol must also be accompanied by sunscreen use.

Who should avoid retinoids?

For those plagued with eczema or other inflammatory skin conditions, it might be best to skip the retinoids, as it’s been reported to worsen the inflammation. Those with rosacea may gradually incorporate a retinoid into their skin regimen.

While retinoids are recommended to treat acne, they might only harm some types of acne-prone skin—those that typically swell and turn red, according to Byrdie’s retinol guide.

Bunting also advises against the use of retinol-based products on pregnant women.

Which products work?

For women looking at products that harness retinol’s many powers, Murad’s Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum and Retinol Youth Renewal Youth Cream both pack anti-aging properties. In a study commissioned by Murad, the retinol-infused eye serum saw a 93 percent reduction in line and wrinkles, and an 87 percentage of those attesting to firmer skin in four weeks’ time. Both products work through a retinol tri-active formulation that hastens cellular turnover, melts into the skin with lipid-encased retinol, and promotes efficacy and absorption. To keep irritation at bay, a Swertia Flower Extract aids in regenerating the skin after being exposed to burns and balances out any harsh effects retinoids may have. Murad is available in all Rustan’s Department Stores.

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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