A Quick Guide to Retinol

by Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Retinol is one of the best anti-ageing ingredients on the market but it also seems to be one of the most confusing. With its rapid rise in popularity, retinol advice is becoming one of our most frequently asked questions. Whether you’re a retinol novice or an experienced user who’s just not quite sure if you’re using it correctly, here is our handy how to guide.

What is retinol?

It’s an effective cell communicator that helps to normalize the function of the skin, making it a great product for improving lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, enlarged pores and sun-damaged skin.

When should I apply retinol and how regularly should I use it?

Retinol is best applied as part of your evening regime. It can increase skin’s sensitivity to UV damage, so a broad-spectrum sun protection should always be applied the following morning (you should be wearing your SPF everyday anyway if you want to prevent signs of ageing, but I’ll leave that lecture for another post!)

On the nights you are using your retinol, you would cleanse the skin with a gentle cleanser, apply your retinol and that’s it. We want to let the retinol do its thing, so adding other products into the mix can counteract its work or dilute its potency. If your skin tends to be on the drier side, wait at least an hour before applying any hydrating serums/creams, but nothing exfoliating.

When getting started with retinol, or stepping up to a new level, it’s important to slowly build up usage so the skin can develop some tolerance. Start by using once or twice a week and gradually increase this to use every other night.

What level should I be using?

When it comes to purchasing retinol, you’ll notice they are available in differing strengths, generally 0.3%, 0.5% and 1%. The way most of us think is “I have visible signs of ageing, so the highest strength formula will give the quickest results”. Although it seems logical in most cases, that is definitely not the way to go with retinol.

Retinol is a form of vitamin A. While vitamin A is one of the best anti-ageing actives, our skin is naturally intolerant to it. To get the most out of the product, the old ‘slow and steady wins the race’ approach should be used.

You should always start off on the lowest level available, stay on this level for a couple of bottles and, if the skin reacts well, you can then step up and follow the same principles again. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so those who take their time will see far superior results to those who rush to reach the highest level.

I’ve stepped up a level and my skin has become very dry!

When moving up to the next level, it is completely normal to experience a little dryness initially. This is why we would only apply once or twice a week – so as not to over dry and sensitize the skin – until it has got used to the higher strength and we can apply more regularly. Some skins are more tolerant than others, so you may find that you can move on up without any problems, however, for some people there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Certain skins can’t tolerate high levels of retinol. Any dryness should be quite minimal and settle down after the first few weeks, but if it is extreme or persistent, that’s your skin telling you it’s not working out. If you’ve tried to get up to a 1% but your skin isn’t happy, don’t feel disheartened that you have to step back down to a lower level. Many people see this as a set back and that they won’t see the best results, but we want the retinol is work within those cells to make a positive change, not create a negative impact. It’s like pushing it too hard at the gym; working out beyond your means will cause you to crash and burn, while working at a level that suits you will only increase your fitness levels and allow you to exercise much more frequently.

It may seem more effort than your usual serum and it’s definitely not a quick-fix solution, but if you’re serious about improving the appearance of your skin with visible, long term results, retinol is 100% the way to go. Hopefully this post has answered any questions you may have but if there’s anything else you need to know, ask our skincare experts by calling 0113 282 3181.

Written for you by: Ellie, Face the Future