Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that has two categories: retinoids and carotenoids. It is important for the functioning of human skin, eyes, immune systems, embryonic development, and reproduction among others.
Retinol is a formulation of vitamin A that is applied topically to the skin to reduce the effects of ageing and acne. Retinol is a form of retinoids and is manufactured and sold over-the-counter in the form of serums and creams for skincare uses.
Retinol is also referred to as vitamin A1 and can be found in natural form in foods like butter, liver, and oily fish. The skin is responsive to retinoids hence why applying retinol topically is effective in reducing acne, ageing, and treating psoriasis.
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How Does Retinol Work?
Retinol is an antioxidant that stimulates cell turnover. It operates in the deep layers of the skin on any skin type and stimulates the synthesis of collagen. Since it’s a mild derivative of vitamin A, for it to be effective, the skin’s enzymes first convert it into retinoic acid. You need about 8-12 weeks to see the results of using it on the skin.
Benefits of Retinol
It has anti-inflammatory properties which block inflammatory pathways in acne and prevent cellular inflammation. Topical retinoids also reduce visible lesions in acne cases and stop the growth of new lesions. In the case of acne treatment, consulting a doctor is important because this may require prescription retinoids which are much stronger than over-the-counter products.
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2. Wrinkles and Fine Lines
Since it acts in the deeper skin layers, it thickens these layers enhancing the retention of water by the skin which improves the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
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Retinol is most popular for its anti-ageing property. Since retinol binds to retinoid receptors present in the human skin, this triggers the production of collagen and elastin. This helps in dealing with both natural and photoaging.
How To Use Retinol
1. Use Gentle Cleansers
While using retinol in your skincare routine at night, your first step should be using a gentle cleanser to remove any pollutants from the skin to help in keeping the skin pores clear. You can then use a toner and moisturizer before applying retinol.
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2. Use a Moisturizer
Your skin can become very dry from the use of retinol so it’s important to moisturize. Using a product like hyaluronic acid is advisable since it holds water on the skin’s surface.
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3. Use Sunscreen
One of the side effects of using retinoids is that it makes the skin more sensitive to the sun so it’s important to always use sunscreen.
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4. Start Off Slowly
Retinol is effective for the skin but the amount and frequency of use should be increased gradually. It can have significant effects on your skin depending on your tolerance and skin type thus you should monitor your skin’s response first before increasing the amount used.
5. Don’t Forget To Drink Water
Water is important for skincare but it’s even more essential when using retinol because it causes a significant drying effect.
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Products Not To Use With Retinol
We all want to get the maximum benefits from the products that we use on our skin. However, in the quest to do this, we could end up mixing products that cause our skin harm.
1. AHA or BHA
Both alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid are exfoliants. AHA exfoliates the skin’s surface which helps in improving the skin’s texture. BHA works in the deep pores of the skin, exfoliating them and killing bacteria. Using AHA and BHA at the same time with retinol would cause excessive skin dryness, increase the chances of sun damage and skin irritation. You can however use them together in a skincare routine but they should be used at different times of the day.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps with brightening the skin and reducing dark spots and wrinkles. Retinol helps with the generation of new and radiant skin cells. When it comes to the use of vitamin C together with retinol, the jury is conflicted on this one. The debate arises from the pH levels required for the functioning of both. On one hand, vitamin C requires low pH levels for the skin to absorb it while retinol requires higher pH levels for absorption. Some experts believe that the differing pH level renders the combination ineffective while a study conducted argues that using the two together treats photoaging effectively.
For best results from both retinol and vitamin C, include both in your skincare routine but use them at different times. You could apply retinol at night since it increases sensitivity to the sun and heat. You can then use vitamin C in the morning. Another option would be to use both products on alternate days. Alternatively, you could apply vitamin C first then wait for at least 30 minutes before applying Retinol since vitamin C requires a lower pH. Your skin’s pH level goes back to natural pH levels after absorbing vitamin C which allows for the absorption of retinol.
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3. Benzoyl Peroxide
Using benzoyl peroxide with retinol cancels out the effectiveness of each product thus not advisable for people dealing with acne or clogged pores.
Possible Side Effects of Retinol
Use of high strength retinol or applying too frequently, especially at the beginning can lead to
- Scaly patches.
People with sensitive skin, breastfeeding women, and pregnant women are advised to be cautious about its use. Too much vitamin A can be harmful to a growing baby which is why pregnant women are advised not to eat food with concentrated amounts of vitamin A such as liver and are also advised to avoid supplements containing vitamin A while pregnant or applying skincare products with retinol.
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Despite the benefits associated with the use of retinol on the skin, it’s advisable to consult your dermatologist before incorporating it into your skincare routine to get the appropriate amount for your skin. It’s also recommended that you use it at night and don’t forget to use sunscreen during the day to protect your skin from the sun.
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