What Really Works? Retinol
Guess what? Retinol is back and this time with more elegant formulations—as well as a better understanding of how to use it without having to suffer to get skin rejuvenating results.
Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that speeds up skin cell turnover, which is how it clears up acne-prone skin and erases fine lines and wrinkles. The end result? Healthy, glowing skin. Years ago, however, we knew retinol as the acne treatment with skin benefits that came after the pain and suffering with red, irritated, dry and flaking skin. Not a pretty picture, to be sure. As a result, it wasn’t at the top of the “must-have” for beautiful skin list. But today we have more options and better guidelines for how to make retinol work for everyone. Here are 3 ways to make work for you:
1. Use Clinical Formulations
With the resurgence of retinol, all the major beauty brands have jumped on the bandwagon. Which one to choose? That’s where it gets tricky. First thing you need to know is that there is a 2% (0.02) potency limit to over-the-counter brands. (5%, 0.05, available from physicians.) As the percentage drops, so do the results—and potential for those pesky side effects. At the same time, many of the national brands keep their cards close when it comes to letting you know just how much retinol is really in their products. Our advice? Shop clinical formulations. For example, the JF Aesthetic R•nol 20 has 2% retinol and will last more than six months for $99. Compare that with La Prairie’s Cellular Power Charge Night, a combination of what the company calls “time-released” retinol and an oxygen-boosting cream. Not only is the level of retinol undisclosed on the product site, but it’s diluted with the addition of the cream and comes at $475 a pop. (Yikes!) At the other end of the spectrum is Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair. Also an undisclosed percentage of retinol in the product, at $20.99, it’s safe to assume it’s very low. Also important to note is that this product includes “fragrance,” which can also be a skin irritant, especially when combined with active ingredients on the skin.
2. Don’t Stop Using It
Regardless of strength or brand, some skin types are simply more prone to irritation. If you experience redness or any of the known related retinol side effects don’t stop using it. Instead, use it every other night, or try diluting it with your nightly moisturizer to reduce the signs of irritation. After a couple of weeks, your skin will adjust and you too will see beautiful results.
3. Use an SPF
Retinol makes skin extra sensitive to the sun and therefore should only be used at night. Retinol products that claim to safe to use during the day likely include only a minuscule amount of retinol that won’t deliver the results you’re looking for. Regardless of strength, you must use a broad-spectrum sunscreen during daylight hours. Protecting your skin is yet another way to keep retinol-related irritation at bay.