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Should you be using Retinol?

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

There is plenty of research showing that Retinol has numerous benefits for skin. It boosts collagen production, increases cell turnover and accelerates skin renewal to even out discoloration and smooth the skin. It is one of the most recognized cosmetic ingredients for reversing the signs of aging. Retinol is a form of Vitamin A, and is one of three different types of retinoids, which have varying degrees of potency.

  • Retinoic Acid (RA) is the only biologically-active form of a retinoid. This means that all other forms must be converted to RA to be effective. RA is available through prescription only (such as Isotretinoin and Tretinoin) and has the most potential for skin irritation.

  • Retinol is the strongest form available without a prescription. While still highly effective, it is about 20% weaker than RA. In the skin, enzymes convert it to RA. One major advantage is that it is more easily tolerated by skin than prescription RA.

  • Retinyl Palmitate is the mildest retinoid and it takes longer to convert to RA, minimizing the possibility of skin irritation.

While prescription strength retinoids are clearly the most effective in treating skin aging, they are also much more likely to cause irritation and drying of the skin. The good news is that Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate can deliver similar results without irritation, but because the skin must convert them to the biologically active form, it takes longer. When choosing a Retinol product here is what to look for:

  • 1% Retinol is highly effective for increasing cellular activity and collagen production, however it is too strong for the eye area. Look for 0.1% in an eye cream.

  • Airtight, contamination free packaging is a must since Retinol degrades when exposed to air and light. Tightly capped tubes are your best bet.

  • Also look for a form that is Microencapsulated, as this ensures the stability of the highly active Retinol. Microencapsulation provides controlled release delivery, and allows for more effective penetration into the skin.

Other key ingredients to look for:

  • Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) - this is a stabilized form that stimulates collagen synthesis in conjunction with Retinol.

  • Palmitoyl Tripeptide -5 and TAUT Peptide. These two peptides (made up of amino acids) act as cellular communicators, initiating collagen synthesis.   The TAUT Peptide also stimulates hyaluronic acid which increases hydration in the skin.

  • Bioenergized Copper Amino Acid Complex - boosts the ability of aging skin cells to produce collagen, elastin, and improve skin density and firmness.

  • Ceramides and Polysaccharides - help retain water in the skin.

  • Lavender and Licorice Root - help soothe skin and calm irritation

Because Retinol is degraded by sunlight, it should be used only at night, after cleansing and toning and followed by a moisturizer. Another reason to use it at night is to coordinate with the body's natural nighttime circadian rhythm when cell renewal is at its prime, maximizing nighttime skin repair. If you have never used a highly active Retinol, you might need to transition slowly, following the advice of your skin therapist. Note: If you receive facials or services such as waxing, sugaring, electrolysis or laser, be sure to tell your practitioner about your Retinol or Retinoic Acid use. Retinols increase the skin's sensitivity to chemical peels and to hair removal and you may be advised to stop use for a certain period of time before receiving treatments.

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