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Retinol is a much talked about ingredient. With that, it’s only natural that not everything said about this powerhouse ingredient can be true. Just as gossip builds when an actress rises in popularity, when an ingredient gets more and more attention, certain myths are bound to enter the lexicon. On the flip side, however, according to Dr. Rocio Rivera, PhD, and head of scientific communications for L’Oréal Paris, retinol is actually the most researched molecule. This means that while there are myths you may have heard—and even unknowingly repeated—there’s research to debunk them. To make sure your knowledge of retinol is accurate, we turned to Dr. Rivera for her expert take on nine common myths about retinol.
There’s one myth we want to bust right off the bat: the idea that retinol is bad for your skin. We can guess where this one comes from. When you first start using retinol, it’s normal to experience redness, tingling, or dryness. However, this doesn’t mean it’s too harsh for your skin. Retinol is a powerful ingredient, and it simply may take your skin time to adjust. This is why an acclimation period is key. Dr. Rivera recommends building up your usage with time. First, use retinol every second or third night on dry skin and apply moisturizer on top. After a week, she says you can switch to applying it every other night if your skin is not experiencing any discomfort. That said, a little goes a long way when it comes to retinol, so use it sparingly. Also, if your skin continues to be irritated, it may be time to discontinue use of the product.
Pure retinol and retinol derivatives are not quite the same. While they’re often used to address the same skin concerns, Dr. Rivera shares, “Dermatologists recommend PURE ingredients because they work faster on skin. Pure retinol has no other additives, and it’s actually the pure molecule in itself. Derivatives of pure retinol typically contain other components and additives.”
You can easily add pure retinol to your routine with the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum, 0.3% Pure Retinol. Dr. Rivera reveals that when it comes to starting to use retinol, dermatologists will recommend an efficient and safe starting point for pure retinol concentration. “It’s 0.3%, which is the sweet spot of efficiency and safety for everyone.”
While an initial period of dryness is possible, retinol doesn’t have to dry out your skin. In fact, our L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum, 0.3% Pure Retinol makes skin feel moisturized while delivering powerful anti-aging results.
You can also help reinforce hydration by layering the right moisturizer over a retinol serum. Dr. Rivera also has a helpful tip to cut back on your number of skin care steps; mix two to three drops of retinol with your moisturizer. As for what to moisturize with, we recommend our L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Anti-Aging Overnight Mask, which is formulated with three proven anti-aging ingredients: Pro-Retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid.
Speaking of moisturizers with Pro-Retinol, that’s another tip in and of itself. Those with dry skin can opt to introduce retinol via a retinol cream, which also nourishes skin, too. You can also increase skin hydration by layerin our L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid Serum over-top.
Don’t let retinol mythos stop you from using it the right way. It’s true that you should build up to nightly use, but retinol can absolutely be used every day. Dr. Rivera confirms, saying, “Retinol can be used every day after an acclimation period. Retinol is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Retinol may be a popular ingredient thanks to its anti-aging benefits, but that isn’t all it can do. It’s a key component in any preventative skin care routine. “If you have problematic skin or are prone to breakouts, retinol has been proven to help,” shares Dr. Rivera. The Mayo Clinic backs this up, stating that retinoids are one the most common topical treatments for acne.
Editor’s tip: Keep in mind, even if you’re most interested in retinol because of what it can do to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, you don’t have to wait until your skin shows noticeable signs of aging to use it. Dr. Rivera filled us in on this topic: “Dermatologists typically recommend to start retinol usage in your late teens and early 20s.” You can read all about when to start using retinol in our article, When Can You Start Using Retinol?
We’ve heard lots of rumors about ingredients that can and can’t be used with retinol—there’s truth to some and not much to others. For example, if you’ve ever heard retinol shouldn’t be mixed with vitamin C, you can push that idea from your mind. Dr. Rivera recommends the opposite, “You should use both vitamin C and retinol in your routine.” Try pairing L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum with the retinol serum we told you about earlier in the morning. You can layer the vitamin C on after your retinol serum or mix the two together in your hands.
As for ingredients not to mix, Dr. Rivera says this: “Dermatologists typically recommend not to use benzoyl peroxide and retinol on the same application.” If you aren’t sure whether ingredients in your routine will work well together, consult with your dermatologist.
Retinol is sometimes assumed to be a chemical exfoliant like an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), but retinol does not exfoliate the skin. Research from The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology states that retinol and AHAs differ in their mechanism of action. AHAs do, indeed exfoliate. According to research in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) library, retinoids, on the other hand, interact with receptors inside epidermal cells to strengthen the skin’s barrier function, reduce transepidermal water loss, and protect collagen to prevent it from degrading.
If you’ve ever brushed off warnings about waxing and retinol, assuming they were a simple overreaction, think again. When using retinol, it is just as important as you’ve heard to not pick waxing as your hair removal method. If you won’t take our word for it, the Food & Drug Administration advises against waxing areas you’ve used a retinoid (which retinol is a specific type of) on because your skin will be more sensitive after waxing. You don’t want to be left with major redness or irritation post-wax..
Next up: Retinol isn’t the only skin care topic that’s inspired its fair share of myths. Here are 7 Pimple Myths To Stop Believing Now.
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