Wrinkles are a sign of a life well lived, and they are in no way something to be ashamed of. However, if they’re something you’re not so fond of, retinol is a popular skin care ingredient commonly found in anti-aging skin care products, and it can help to reduce their appearance. Before you make the decision to update your routine with retinol products, it’s not a bad idea to learn a little more about the compound. Below, more about what retinol is and some tips on how you can incorporate this powerful ingredient into your routine.
What Is Retinol?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, retinol is a derivative of vitamin A that is often found in anti-aging skin care products. In case you were wondering, retinol is actually a type of retinoid — which is an umbrella term used to describe all the different vitamin A products.
How Does Retinol Work?
Retinol has many different functions. According to the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, applying retinol topically impacts cellular and molecular properties of the epidermis and dermis which can lead to anti-aging functions. This can be seen in the improvement of the appearance of fine wrinkles associated with natural aging. Additionally, the Cleveland Clinic shares that retinol also helps unclog pores, which can make your skin look brighter, and which is also why it’s commonly prescribed in the treatment of acne.
Beyond that, the Mayo Clinic states that retinol also works as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals on the skin, which can break down skin cells that result in the appearance of wrinkles, hence why it’s most commonly used for preventative anti-aging measures.
How to Use Retinol in Your Skin Care Routine
If you’re interested in using retinol products as part of your skin care routine, the Cleveland Clinic recommends starting slow until your skin builds up a tolerance, since, as we said, retinol can be drying to the skin. Keep in mind that while retinol for skin is often found in over-the-counter skin care products, other types of retinoids, such as tretinoin, may require a prescription from a dermatologist because it has a much stronger concentration of vitamin A than over the counter varieties.
Generally, retinol for skin should be used as part of your nighttime skin care routine. Since using retinol can cause skin dryness and irritation, always follow the advice of a board-certified dermatologist for frequency guidelines before you add it to your skin care routine. In many instances, following up with a moisturizer could help counteract those drying effects of the ingredient.
In the Morning
Let’s face it, you should be wearing SPF 30 or greater daily. When you’re using retinol, it’s especially imperative because retinol makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. Apply SPF, like L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion, as the last step in your facial skin care routine before putting on any makeup.
Additionally, you should take other sun protection measures recommended by the FDA, which include reapplying sunscreen every two hours, covering up exposed skin in long sleeves, pants, a broad-brimmed hat, and blocking sunglasses, seeking shade, and limiting the amount of time you spend in the sun, especially during the sun’s peak hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
That being said, if you’re using a prescription retinoid, your dermatologist will also explain how to use it, so always follow your doctor’s recommendations and the instructions on the packaging.
Can You Use Retinol Daily?
Retinol can be used daily, so long as your skin can tolerate it without irritation. If you’re a retinol beginner, daily use is typically not recommended, but again, follow your derm’s recommendation — especially for anything prescription.
Can You Leave Retinol on Overnight?
Products with retinol can be left on overnight like the rest of your skin care. In fact, it’s best to use retinol at night because the sun can make it less effective. When you wake up in the morning, simply rinse or wash your face as normal and follow up with your morning skin care routine. L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Triple Power Anti-Aging Moisturizer Fragrance Free is a moisturizer that contains retinol; it can and should be left on overnight to provide skin hydration.
How Long Does It Take to See Results From Retinol?
Retinol is a very powerful ingredient, but when you’re using it, don’t expect overnight results. With any new skin care product or ingredient, it typically takes three to six months to see a difference, per Harvard Health. Remember that just because you don’t see surface results right away does not mean it’s not working its magic on your skin.
Can You Put Moisturizer Over Retinol?
Moisturizer should always be layered over retinol as the last step of your routine to lock in all the ingredients from your prior skin care and to provide hydration. If your skin is sensitive, you can also try the sandwich method which goes in this order: moisturizer, retinol and moisturizer. The first layer of moisturizer creates a protective barrier on your skin so you can get the benefits of retinol without the drying effects. This typically works best with prescription retinoid creams because they are stronger. Remember it’s best to layer your skin care from thinnest to thickest.
Our Favorite Over-the-counter Retinol Products
For most retinoids, you’ll need to book an appointment with your dermatologist to get your hands on one. However, the same isn’t true for retinol. Over-the-counter retinol is becoming increasingly popular and more accessible. If you want to get started with an OTC option, here are a few to consider, all of which are available at the drugstore.
This anti-wrinkle night serum contains pure retinol and the formula is fragrance-free, silicone-free, and paraben-free. After day one of using it, skin feels moisturized, and its texture feels more refined. Over time, wrinkles and deep wrinkles are visibly reduced on areas like your forehead. skin also appears smoother, and the complexion will look bright, luminous, and glowing.
Formulated with Pro-Retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid, this anti-aging moisturizer helps visibly reduce wrinkles and firm and brighten skin, leaving it feeling softer, smoother, and plumped with hydration. Smooth the retinol cream on as the last step in your morning skin care routine.
This rich night cream contains retinol and niacinamide in a pressed-packed jar to keep application hygienic and to make dosing easy. It’s packed with retinol, which as we mentioned helps reduce wrinkles, fine lines and uneven skin tone, and formulated with niacinamide, which has a reputation for brightening and soothing the skin. This moisturizer is great for retinoid beginners because it has the benefits of retinol without the potential drying effects. Smooth it on at night as the last step of your routine.
Are There Downsides to Using Retinol?
One important thing to keep in mind is that despite the many retinol benefits you may experience, according to the Cleveland Clinic, retinol can also be drying, depending on the sensitivity of your skin. This means you’ll want to be mindful when you’re using products formulated with it. When applying retinol, remember the saying, “less is more.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of L'Oréal Paris
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