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Is Retinol right for you?

Updated: Apr 17

If you made it onto this blog it means that we have a few things in common. We may both enjoy the finer things in life like a good night out, working out, a great dinner at a nice restaurant and a nice glass a wine with friends. But the most important one, that aspect that draws us closest together is an appreciation and interest in doing what is best for our body, specifically our skin. There are some basics we all follow like protecting ourselves from the sun by always wearing sun block, covering our heads with hats and otherwise spending time in shade. Sure, we may love to have that great tan and sun-kissed look, but we understand that the sun is both friend and foe. We’ll have a separate discussion about the sun when the temperature warms up.

For today, I wanted to talk to you about another product which we’ve heard about and we’ve seen in the ingredients some of the creams and serums we use, but we’re maybe still not quite too sure how to best implement into our daily routines – retinol. Can we put it one during the day? Is it exfoliating? Can I use it if I have sensitive skin? How long does it take to work? And so on, and so forth. Just asking all those questions can make me dizzy. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that hard to figure it. So now that we’re warmed up, let’s take a dive.

First of all, retinol, is a derivative of vitamin A. OK. That’s easy to digest. Next, what does it do? In essence retinol changes the behavior of our skin cells. We see terms like age-defying, but what does it mean? What does younger looking skin actually mean? It means our skin becomes smoother, has less sun spots (that pesky sun again!), and those fine lines and wrinkles around our mouth and eyes are reduced. Our overall skin’s texture becomes more refined, more radiant.

Please take a moment here and re-read those lines, because it sounds like the holy grail of skin care, and in a way it kinda is. What retinol does is actually making our skin younger, at a cellular level! When applied to your skin retinol converts into retinoic acid, which is the form of Vitamin A that actually repairs our skin. It’s increasing our natural production of collagen, which is one of the key elements to plumping up your skin, which in turns makes those lines disappear.

You should know that there are prescription grade retinol products out there and you should always consult with a professional dermatologist if you’re looking to use one of those products. What we’re talking about here today are the over-the-counter brands you can find at your favorite beauty store.

So what else should you know? Quite a lot in fact, and I’m here to walk you through it as best as I can. Most instructions recommend you make retinol part of your night routine and there are some common myths that say you shouldn’t wear it in the sun because it can increase your chance of sunburn. The fact is that retinoids can break down in sunlight which is why they come in dark or opaque bottles/packaging, but they will not increase your chance of an actual sunburn. Like in most case, follow the instructions but don’t get swept away by generalities.

When we’re doing the kind of science that retinol performs, there are a few consequences that we should all be aware and the most visible one is that it can cause our skin to redden and slightly peel when we start using it, but it has nothing to do with exfoliation. This is actually why most retinols are formulated to included moisturizing ingredients to minimize the potential irritations.

When you start to use retinol it's like starting to go to the gym after not having gone for a long time. You want to start off nice and easy. And even then, you’re still sore the next morning. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go back to the gym. It just means maybe you need to adjust your routine to start. So start off small at first until you get used to the “work-out”.

Take a smaller amount for your entire face, use it once a week or try a smaller dose until you feel comfortable to move to two to three times per week, then onto every other night and maybe add some more of your favorite moisturizer. This is something you should expect the first few weeks, but I promise you your skin will get used to it just like your muscles get used to heavier weights.

Let me be clear about something else here. Just like you won’t start losing weight after 2 weeks of going to the gym, you’re not going to start seeing results in the first few weeks some of the brands are promising you. If this is your first time reading this blog, or if you are repeat reader, which I hope you become, I trust you know that I will tell the truth. And the brutal truth is that it could take 2-3 months, yup up to 12 weeks, to really see results. But stick with it at least that long to see the benefits.

Let’s take this home.

1. Retinol works! It helps rejuvenate your skin by smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles while fading out age and sun spots. It’s not considered the gold standard of skin care for nothing

2. When you start using retinol there could be some slighting reddening of your skin so work to find the right balance that works for you. This could mean adjusting the percentage of the active retinol ingredient in your product, changing the frequency of how many times you take it per week and including your favorite moisturizer to your routine. After a few weeks your skin will start to better tolerate retinol

3. Stick with it! You will see results to your skin, but it takes time. Your skin is not only the largest organ of your body, but the most visible and it deserves the time and effort you will put into to make it look its best possible.

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