What is Retinol Used For?

Retinol is one of those skincare ‘buzzwords’ brands love to include in commercials and marketing. TV commercials are now focused on the target word ‘retinol’ assuring you it is the main ingredient within their particular facial cream or eye serum. When visiting your favorite cosmetic retailer, the staff will likely point out some of the retinol products available, especially if you ask about the best anti-aging, fine-line, and wrinkle-fighting products. All of that is fine and good, but what is retinol, and what is retinol used for? And How does one use it?

It’s always best to know what a particular ingredient is used for and how it will affect your skin. Anticipated reaction to any product or ingredient is key to assuring it is right for you. Here’s what you need to know about retinol and why it may be a powerful addition to your skincare routine.

What is Retinol?

The short answer to this is retinol is a form of Vitamin A. On some labels, you might see it referred to as Vitamin A1, but the word retinol has become such a selling tool these days that you’ll almost always see it referred to as “retinol” on product packaging.

Retinol falls under the category of vitamin A retinoids. These retinoids are commonly used to address skincare conditions. When looking for over-the-counter retinol products, you will see products of up to 2%. Anything above this, and you will need a prescription.

What Does Retinol Do?

Whether you use retinol in serum, an oil, or cream, the same results are obtained. It really depends on how your skin reacts to the other ingredients found with the retinol. Some may react better to a cream that can be easily massaged into the skin, while others may prefer a serum. Regardless of what the delivery product is, once retinol is absorbed into the skin, it will penetrate down into the dermis levels of the skin (the lower levels).

Once the retinol has been absorbed, it converts into what is known as retinoic acid. In this state, the acid can improve cell recovery and growth. This is important because as you age, your body does not produce as many new skin cells. This can result in not only dry skin but sagging, thinning skin and wrinkles. The boost in cell production will help not only reduce this, but in some instances, it can help reverse it.

Additionally, once retinol becomes retinoic acid, it will also help reduce collagen breakdown. Collagen is a necessary skin protein that gives skin its structure, suppleness and promotes elasticity in the skin.

What is Retinol Used For?

While on the surface, it might seem obvious retinol is used to fight the signs of aging, reduce fine lines and help smooth out wrinkles, there are other benefits to using retinol as well.

Fighting and treating acne is one of the major benefits of using a topical retinol product. One of the biggest culprits behind blackheads, whiteheads, and other pimples is dry and dead skin blocking pores. To avoid breakouts, you need the pores to be clear and free to breathe. Retinoids help reduce excessive dry and dead skin, control oil production thus cutting down on acne breakouts. Now, it depends on the cause of your breakouts; if it is due to a medical condition, diet, or other environmental circumstances, retinol may not help, which is why it is best to consult with a skincare professional to pinpoint what is causing your breakouts.

Are There Side Effects?

Can there be some side effects to using retinol? Yes, that is why it is always important to spot test any new products on your skin before fully applying them to your face. Some individuals cannot use certain retinol products without breaking out in rashes. However, sometimes this can be due to other ingredients within the particular product and not specifically because of the retinol.

Due to these issues, flaking of the skin, dryness, and itchy skin are all common side effects of using the product. If used correctly this can be avoided. It also may occur when using a higher percentage of retinol. Retinol requires a slow and gradual usage to allow the skin to become tolerant of the product. Two percent is the most powerful OTC option, (and not recommended without consulting a physician or skin health expert) so for anyone who might experience some skin reactions, it is recommended to find a product with a lower percentage. The best practice is, to begin with, a .25% or .05% and overtime (long time) work up to 1.0%. Also, using 1-2 times per week for 1-2 months and then increasing days also help avoid unnecessary side effects.

There are some less common but still possible side effects when it comes to using retinol. Stinging, tingling, blistering, or skin sensitivity as well as mild discoloration of the skin. Most common and essential to know are sensitivity to UV light. Retinol use makes the skin more sensitive to sun damage, it is highly recommended that you apply a broad-spectrum SPF of 45 or higher any time you are using retinol products in your regimen. It is best to avoid applying retinol products if you plan on going directly out into the sun (such as if you are on vacation and you’re heading to the beach. Make sure the retinol is fully absorbed and your sunscreen has been applied before going out into the strong sun).

Remember, retinoids are a class of chemicals that penetrate deep into the skin, though weaker forms are available OTC, they should always be used with caution.

The key to success with retinol:

Begin with a low dosage and go slow. To better ensure you are applying for even coverage and to ease the amount being absorbed (thereby reducing irritation) we recommend mixing a small amount (1gm or pea size) with your PM moisturizer. Use retinol only 1-2 times per week when beginning a new regimen, slowly build up over time. Most importantly, keep it away from the orbital (eye) area. Apply it no higher than the zygomatic (cheek) bone. Enough product will slowly move up through the skin without drying out, causing puffy, or rashey, irritated eyes.

If you do experience side effects, make sure to consult a skin care professional to find out what might be causing it and if there are other retinol options available for you to consider.

Discover More Specifics About Skincare

Retinol is just one of the many powerful tools you have access to when improving the appearance of your skin. Your skin is unique from the next person’s, which means you will respond to products and ingredients differently than friends, family, and influencers. The best way to choose the right products for your skin concerns is to have a professional, in-office consultation with one of our master skin health providers at The Skin Center By CPS. 

We take the time to listen to your concerns, provide an in-depth analysis of your skin and recommend the most effective treatments for your specific concerns. Whether your focus is breakouts, improving skin tone or you desire to smooth out fine lines, the right skincare products can have a dramatic effect on providing a solution. We want to help you find the perfect products that meet your goals while revealing the most beautiful, radiant skin possible. So give us a call to schedule your in-person consultation today.