Skincare innovations have a tendency to hit stores quicker than a new Instagram update, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re always to be believed. We may be able to run off a list of ingredients we *should* be looking for in our skincare as we age, but when it comes to fully understanding the purpose of an individual ingredient many of us struggle. Retinol is a so called ‘wonder ingredient’ that’s being touted as one of the most important things in beauty, promising to help create a youthful and radiant glow while minimising the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In my opinion it’s something that every woman (and man) within the 30+ category should be embracing as a way to keep their complexions looking fresh and full for as long as possible. But what is it and why do we need it?
“Retinol signals to your body to produce collagen and new cells for firmer and smoother skin, while also reducing hyperpigmentation and clogged pores,” says New York based dermatologist Anne Chapas. Retinoids first came to market in the early 1970s as an acne-fighting drug, but since then they’ve also been used to treat psoriasis, wrinkles, blotchiness and ageing skin. Simply put, Retinol is another name for vitamin A. It’s an extremely effective cell-communicating ingredient that has the ability to tell almost any skin cell to behave like a healthy, younger version of itself – as well as encouraging the production of new skin cells altogether. This is hugely beneficial for those of us experiencing the first or latter signs of ageing, as Retinol can help reduce the appearance of enlarged pores, increase collagen production (essential for that youthful ‘bouncy’ texture that we lose over time,) improve the texture of skin and help to overcome discolouration caused by sun damage.
Retinol works by prompting surface skin cells to turn over and die rapidly, making way for new cell growth underneath; it does its work by stimulating cellular turnover from the deeper layers up, not in the uppermost layers where AHAs step in to help skin shed unhealthy, dead, built-up skin cells. (Although Retinol may cause flaking and peeling for some, this shouldn’t be mistaken for exfoliation; flaking is a form of irritation.) Although the common misconception is that Retinol can thin the skin, they actually help to hamper the breakdown of collagen and thicken the deeper layer of skin where wrinkles start. Retinol also functions an antioxidant that can interrupt the free-radical damage process that causes wrinkling and other signs of aging – meaning it’s not only great to overcome damage, but to prevent it occurring in the first place.
This super-charged ingredient can be prescribed by a dermatologist, but increasingly Retinol products are available on the high street thanks to brands identifying the desire for such a supportive component within our skincare regimes. Most formulas contain a maximum of 1% concentration of the active ingredient, which over the course of three months should help to provide a smoother, brighter and more youthful complexion. Unlike a lot of skincare that provides results in as little as 2-6 weeks, you do have to be patient to see the results of Retinol – but they’re absolutely worth it. Some of my current favourite products include:
Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum (£65.00)
A beautifully light serum that contains three types of Retinol for both short and long term results. A fast-acting retinoid accelerates results, time-released retinol delivers sustained benefits and the retinol booster enhances efficacy; in trials 93% saw a reduction in lines and wrinkles in two weeks, which is definitely unusual for such a product. I love the Murad brand as a whole, so as soon as I found out they were launching a Retinol product I was all over it – and it doesn’t disappoint.
Ren Skincare Bio Retinoid Anti Wrinkle Concentrate Oil (£35.20)
Rather unique in its texture (I don’t think I’ve ever come across another Retinol ‘oil’ before,) this non-greasy concentrate combines potent and 100% naturally derived Vitamin A, Pro Vitamin A and a Retinoid Analogue that together combat the appearance of wrinkles, imperfections and age spots without the usually irritating effects of synthetic Retinol. I like this not only because it can be added to my usual night creams or layered on for a more intense overnight treatment, but because I can easily massage my skin pre-bed to ensure the blood flow is stimulated and my complexion is left radiant. As you only need a few drops, this bottle goes a long way too.
MeruMaya Retinol Resurfacing Treatment (£33.50)
With Retinol used in the maximum permitted dose, this creamy formula also contains Matrixyl 3000: a peptide blend with powerful skin repairing effects that help to restore key proteins that are broken down with ageing. MeruMaya are a brand a trust completely with my skin, particularly as I know how much love goes into producing quality products that perform as best as they possibly can; this is not a fluffy brand. I love applying this before bed as it’s super creamy, so much so I don’t feel like I need another product on top.
The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2% (£8.00)
It may be a budget brand, but that doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. This contains two forms of Retinol that together provide a high potency product that also avoids irritation, delivering better visible results against signs of ageing. The Ordinary have revolutionised the way we buy skincare, proving that if you know what to shop for you don’t have to spend a fortune; this is a great starting point for those wanting to gently ease into a Retinol routine, being light enough to use under your usual nighttime skincare or mixed with your favourite cream.
So have I convinced you? If you want to start using Retinol within your daily regime, here are the things you need to be aware of before taking the plunge:
1. Only buy a Retinol treatment if it is packaged in an airtight container; all forms of Vitamin A break down and deteriorate when repeatedly exposed to air and light, so you’ll only be wasting your money on pots of cream that won’t do anything.
2. Start slowly and apply your Retinol product three times a week, or alternatively mix it with a moisturizer or facial oil. This lets your skin gradually acclimate and theoretically should prevent irritation (although many of the new products claim to avoid irritation altogether.)
3. Don’t use Retinol during the day, only at night. Unprotected exposure to sunlight compromises Retinol’s stability, meaning it won’t be as effective or provide the results you’re looking for. Apply it before bed underneath your usual night cream or oil for maximum results.
4. Be patient, because you won’t see immediate results – this is a slow burning skincare gem, so keep with it and you’ll start to see an impact in a few months. I promise you the end result is worth the wait.
Retinol is such a great addition to any regime (the earlier the better in my opinion, within reason!) and it’s great to see so many more affordable and accessible options launch on the high street. It’s a name you’ll be hearing more and more in the coming months, so get on-board with it now and stay ahead of the trend.