A superhero among skincare ingredients, retinol takes multi-tasking to the next level. Worshipped by the young, the aging, the skin-obsessed, and Dermatologists for tightening, brightening, decongesting, and delivering that mega-watt glow. Despite more than 20 years of clinical data supporting the transformative effects on the skin, retinol maintains steadfast skeptics.
There numerous reasons why your retinol skincare failed to dazzle and ways to avoid disappointment.
Retinol-Free – Skincare with retinol in the title may contain absolutely no retinol. Instead, it may contain a far less potent pre-Vitamin A like Retinyl Palmitate or Beta Carotene. Best to confirm retinol listed as an ingredient prior to purchase. Yes, you really do need to read the ingredient label.
Retinol is the gold standard. Other retinoids are good, but won't deliver equivalent skin improvements.
Mystery Strength – Although retinol is effective as low as 0.1%, potency typically ranges from 0.25% to 2%. Both retinol newbies and veterans should seek retinol products with disclosed strength to avoid the guesswork and PTRS (Post Traumatic Retinization Syndrome). For example, a "2% retinoid" skincare may only contain 0.15% retinol.
When purchasing a "retinol complex", determine the specific retinol concentration prior to purchase. Unless otherwise stated, the "complex" may be less costly, non-retinol ingredients.
Important to know, because retinol reigns over all other OTC retinoids, including bukuchiol. Until clinical studies prove otherwise, retinol reigns.
Past Prime – Like most retinoids, retinol becomes less active with time. Diminished potency accelerates when exposed to light, heat or air. Look for opaque glass, airless, or metallic packaging, along with expiration and/or best use by dates. If the packaging feels warm in the store, the bright lighting may the culprit – put it back on the shelf and step away.
Small-batch skincare has a distinct advantage, as with most skincare containing antioxidants.
Retinol Overkill – The “take no prisoners” approach doesn’t work with retinol. Whether using too much, too often, or at full-strength concentrations, aggressive retinization may compromise skin barrier function or trigger chronic inflammation. At the first signs of stinging, burning, or redness, consider reducing the application frequency or buffering with moisturizer.
Just like the first trip to the gym, retinol requires dedication and a good deal of patience. Results can take 4 to 5 weeks, but can last 2 months after retinol cessation – so worth the effort.
Resistant Receptors – Miraculous improvements rely on the retinoid receptors within the skin. Receptors diminished by age or plateaued by previous retinol use of 6 months or more, may be time to bump up to a higher strength retinoid for continued improvements. Look for formulations with Caprylic/Capric Acid Triglyceride, which can boost retinol’s efficiency.
Skipping Sunscreen – Retinol increases sun sensitivity making skin more prone to sun damage. The benefits of retinoids can be undone by 1 day in the sun without sun protection. Wear sunscreen daily or forgo retinol, it really is that simple. Don't forget your funscreen - hats, sunglasses, scarves, etc.
Solo Act – Retinol works better with help from complimentary skincare. Like never before, moisture and skin barrier protection are crucial. Look for moisturizers with niacinamide, ceramides, and/or probiotics.
If clear, ageless, and radiant skin is appealing, retinol should make the short list of skincare, unless pregnant or nursing. The above tips help first-timers and pros alike to maximize the benefits of retinol.
Cheers to better skin!