What is retinol?
“Retinol is one of the main forms of vitamin A. It is an essential vitamin needed for new cell growth, and the health and maintenance of tissues and skin cells, and plays an integral role in anti-ageing skin care,” explains Tracey Wilmot, director of education.
“Retinol works in three ways: It exfoliates, fights free radicals and aids in production of collagen, one of the essential building blocks of youthful skin.”
In the pursuit of permanently youthful skin, could taking preventative measures too early actually render our efforts futile?
Dr Stefanie Williams, dermatologist and medical director at European Dermatology London
“If there is no collagen decline happening in the skin, you don’t need to be using a collagen-supporting active ingredient such as retinol too early. I wouldn’t recommend a 24-year-old use retinol products routinely unless his or her skin is prematurely sun-damaged, but it is never too early for preventative measures such as topical antioxidants and sun protection. On the other hand, if somebody in their 40s tells me they have never used a retinol, my heart sinks. She will have missed out on 10 years of topical anti-ageing effects and it is near impossible to make that up.”
Dr Howard Murad, dermatologist
“I always tell my patients they are never too young to care for their skin. Products marketed as anti-ageing typically contain retinol, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid and other exfoliating and hydrating ingredients. These certainly won’t make skin ‘lazy’ but will help to remove the dead layers of skin that contribute to a dull, sallow complexion, fine lines and wrinkles, patchy rough spots and even breakouts. While anti-ageing ingredients may not be appropriate for those who have yet to enter their 20s, they’re ideal for adults who want to be proactive about preventing and treating the visible signs of ageing. The earlier, the better!”
Von dem Hagen highly recommended incorporating a retinol product into a skin care routine at age 30, three to four times a week. By the 40s, every other night is beneficial and in the 50s, 60s and beyond, incorporate a retinol product five to seven times per week.
“I would advise starting as soon as you see ageing issues arise,” says Abi Cleeve, founder of Skinsense “For most, this is in our late 30s and early 40s, but there is also an argument, depending on your skin type, for starting earlier.”
When used correctly and consecutively, retinol has been shown to deliver results—brighter, smoother skin—in as little as four weeks. However, some people find retinol too harsh on their skin, so they discontinue the treatment before they even see visible results.
“There is a lot of concern about retinol/tretinoin being harsh or irritating to the skin. This is a misunderstanding,” explains Dr. Rogers. “These products stimulate cell turnover, meaning that new cells push out old cells. It’s a wonderful thing! However, if you use too much you will stimulate too much cell turnover, and your skin will get flaky and red.”
So how should you use retinol to achieve the results you’re after and without irritating your skin?
The trick, according to Dr. Rogers, board-certified dermatologist, Heather Rogers is to use less and to start slow. “Retinol is a treatment, not a cream. You do not need to cover your entire face with it. Use a pea-size amount or less and dab a touch on your forehead, cheeks and chin and then massage in. It will feel like half of your face did not get any. Not to worry, the cells talk to each other and the message is passed along. Follow the retinol with your favorite nighttime moisturizer.”
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