Everything You Need To Know About Retinol – The Holy Grail Of Skin Care

All you need to know about the superstar of the ingredients, ‘Retinols’ and its derivatives, to up your skin care game is right here. Without much ado, let’s dive right in!

Retinols, Retinoic acid, and Retinoids! Confused much?
Retinols vs Retinoids: Both are part of the vitamin A family, but their intensities differ. Retinols are basically a weaker form of retinoids, which is why they are over the counter. Retinoids, on the other hand, are available at higher concentrations, mostly by prescription. Also known as the precursors of Retinoic acid, these are popular for their property to regenerate cells, amping up collagen formation and providing comedolytic effects to the skin. 

Basic functions/uses:
Retinoids are widely used to minimize pores and blackheads, anti-ageing, hyperpigmentation, wrinkle treatment, to build firmer skin, blemish therapy, and to maintain overall skin health.

Before we delve deeper into the retinoid gyan, there are two categories of them that are available:

  • OTC (over the counter) retinoids
  • Prescription retinoids 

Not all retinoids work the same. They come in different concentrations and the efficacy of the product is directly proportional to the dosage plus the concentration. There are five most important retinoids that are available for use predominantly. The further they go down the chemical chain, the strongest they are. Some of the most used ones go like this in the increasing order of strength- retinaldehyde, retinol, adapalene, tretinoin and tazarotene.

OTC Retinoids in skin care:
The weaker types of retinoids like retinaldehyde and retinol are great for collagen boosting, treating fine lines and wrinkles, anti-ageing, general maintenance, and glow. OTC retinoids are perfect to start off with if you are a beginner who is buckling up to jump on the skin care wagon, and for people with sensitive skin. 

Prescription Retinoids:
The stronger retinoids like adapalene, tretinoin and the strongest of all, tazarotene are used to treat thickened hyperpigmentation, acne, scars plus all the skin renewal issues. These basically address the targeted concern.

How do Retinols and Retinoids work?
The active agent in retinol and the retinoids is retinoic acid, that’s responsible for increasing cell turnover. As per the research, retinol undergoes many changes to its formulation to become retinoic acid, whereas retinoids directly get converted to retinoic acid, so they are faster acting and more potent. 

How does it act on the skin to be precise?
The topical application of retinol significantly affects both the cellular and molecular properties of the epidermis and dermis. Essentially, the acid works by diffusing through the cell membrane and binding to receptors on the cell’s nucleus, where it performs like a gene to promote cell growth. Based on the clinical study on the efficacy of retinol, the magnitude of the retinol tends to be smaller when compared to the application of retinoic acid, but retinol induces similar changes in skin histology, and gene and protein expression. 

Retinols act on the skin by cell proliferation, collagen, and elastin formation, thereby minimizing the appearance of pores and fine lines/wrinkles and immensely boosting overall skin health.

Retinols as formulations!

In topical applications, they come as serums, creams, and gels. 

Which one to prefer?

Creams are ideal for people with dry skin since they provide a bit more hydration for their emollient properties. Gels on the other hand are ideal for people with oily skin. They penetrate the skin faster than a cream, making them stronger and effective. 

For oral use, they come as tablets and capsules available in a variety of doses.

Trigger Warning: Dosage should be strictly prescribed by a doctor and should not be taken without a prescription.  

How to pick the right product?
Products are selected based on your skin concern. Most of them are available in concentrations of 0.25, 0.5 and 0.1 per cent. The higher the concentration, the stronger the product will be. Does that mean the products with weaker concentration doesn’t work? Absolutely not! Just that it might take a longer time to see the results. Consistency is the key. It might take 12 weeks to see the difference and almost a year to see the most significant changes. 

General steps to be followed:

  • Get an assessment
  • Know your target, as it helps decide the strength and potency
  • Formulation (oral or topical form)
  • Brand 

Risks and Potential Adverse Effects Associated with Retinols and Retinoids

Retinols and Pregnancy
Retinols are teratogenic (causes birth defects in a developing embryo). They do not cause any proven harmful effects to the mother but impacts the growing fetus, also known as the fetal retinoid syndrome – predominantly suppresses the CNS, craniofacial region, and cardiovascular system. So, retinol, retinoids and retinoic acid are a strict no-no during pregnancy and lactation. It is mandatory to stop using them at least three months prior to planning a pregnancy. 

  • Redness, purging, scaling, and peeling are common side effects of using retinol derivatives. Most dermatologists recommend starting them every third night for a week or two, followed by every other night and eventually every night.
  • It is advised to use retinol and retinoids at night right after cleansing the face, as sun exposure may deactivate retinoic acid. Retinoic acid also thins the epidermis and makes the skin more sensitive. Hence, it is mandatory to slather your face with a copious amount of sunscreen while on retinol usage. 

Myths and Facts linked to Retinol/Retinoid Usage

  • Myth – All retinols are the same. As mentioned above, the more the concentration/strength, the more potent is the product. Apparently, not all retinol is the same.
  • Myth – You can’t include retinol with other chemical exfoliants.  It is not a good idea to combine chemical exfoliants like AHA, BHA and retinol in the beginning. Usage of retinol leaves the skin dry and patchy, which leads to redness. It’s advised to add them into your skin care a few weeks into retinol therapy as the skin gets more tolerant. Exfoliants can be used during the day and retinol during the night. Else, you can use them on alternate nights if you wish to. Usage of Vitamin C serums, BPO/Salicylic acid for spot treatments can be preferred too. Plus, the sunscreen and the moisturizer!
  • You are too young to start retinol. Retinols are scientifically proven to increase collagen production. If you start using them early, your collagen levels remain higher as you age. If you are all about preventive skin care, then retinol is for you. Try them and thank us later!
  • Retinol is safe during pregnancy. By now, you all know it’s not.
  • You can go out in the sun if you’ve just used retinol. No! Never do that. UV rays in the sun deactivate retinol and make it less potent. Also, the new skin on the top is photosensitive to sunlight. Sun and retinol are a no-no!  Follow the three-finger rule to apply sunscreen and you are good to go.
  • Retinol makes your skin super sensitive. You might experience irritation during the initial phase of the application. Three weeks into it and trust us when we say you’ll love it. Your skin gradually builds retinoid receptors to control the sensitivity. 
  • Retinol works the best on people with oily skin. People with oily skin tend to tolerate irritation better as compared to people with dry skin. Just that it takes a few attempts to get adjusted to the acid.
  • Retinol only works as anti-ageing. False! It’s a one-stop solution to make your skin look plumper and healthier.
  • More retinol, more benefits. A no again. A pea-sized amount is always recommended as using it more causes your skin to dry a lot. Be cautious as to how much amount you use. Always pat the product and never rub/massage it into your skin.
  • Retinol shows overnight results. It never does. Acts slowly and shows results only when used consistently.

List of Products To make Your Job Easier

St. Botanica, a made in India clean beauty brand has neatly formulated serums and creams with retinol that are just perfect to start off. Click on the link below and buy off!

St. Botanica Retinol Advanced Anti-Aging Night Cream

St. Botanica Retinol Facial Serum

Olay, one of the renowned brands in the skin care industry, stock up on a few retinol-based products that your skin would clearly love. Linking them down here.

Olay Regenerist Retinol Night Serum

Olay Regenerist Retinol Night Moisturiser  

Plum, another cool clean beauty brand, houses some nice serums that are ideal for beginners. Go try without much hesitation. There you go, making your job easier!

Plum Bakuchiol Retinol Face Serum

Who doesn’t love some sheet masks either after a long day or just to pamper yourself? A bonus? Masks that give the best glow for your skin.

Mamaearth Retinol Bamboo Sheet Mask 1S

health glow Retinol Vitamin C Sheet Mask 1S

Winding Up!
Retinol answers the best of your skin care queries. Start off small, and slowly build the routine to address your concern. Although it takes its sweet time for the results to be seen, you for sure won’t regret incorporating it in your skin care regime. A total game changer! Try away and let us know all your experiences.

Note: Vitamin A derivatives (Retinols) should never be used if one is planning a pregnancy, pregnant or lactating. 

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