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Know Your Retinol Rules

Retinol is the only ingredient that requires a training manual and a testing initiation period before providing you with results, but the complexions of those who stick with it are always the best in the room.    

Speak to any skin care expert or dermatologist and they will be united in their appreciation for Retinol and all it can do for the skin. Speak to users of Retinol and they will more often than not describe their experience with the ingredient as a bit of a love/hate relationship. The things they love? The amazing texture-smoothing, dark spot lightening and fine line-plumping benefits that come with consistent application. The things they are less keen on? The uncomfortable skin sensitivity, the redness, the peeling and flaky skin, and the fact that consistency is key.  

If you are new to Retinol or want to give it another shot, these are the golden rules you need to live by.

Rule #1: Pick the Right One

It sounds obvious, but most people underestimate Retinol on their first try, so they pay less attention to the details of the product. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all version of Retinol, so make sure you read the product description and check the ingredients list to find out what the product is focused on (is it better at clearing up breakouts or plumping wrinkles?) and what type of Retinol it uses, as some brands create their own derivatives and some encapsulate the ingredient to make it less irritating. Trust us, it’s worth the extra couple of minutes. 

Rule #2: Start Small and Slow

This is probably the most flouted rule in the Retinol Handbook. Using a Retinol product that is too strong for your skin or using it too frequently is the quickest route to red, angry and itchy skin, which is why most people give up on the ingredient on the first try. The secret is to play the long game. Start with a low, tolerable concentration of Retinol – we’re talking 0.1-0.3% – to get your skin used to the ingredient and how it works. That tingling sensation is the ingredient stimulating your cells, but it needs to err on the side of noticeable not painful. New users should try a product like the Medik8 Retinol 3TR serum or the PCA Skin Retinol Treatment for Sensitive Skin to get a taste of what the ingredient can do, without any of the major side effects.

Unlike many other skin care products, formulas enriched with Retinol need to be introduced to the skin slowly. Instead of applying it every day, take a two-day break between applications for around three weeks before increasing how often you apply it.

Rule #3: Stick to a Schedule

We all have those products in our bathroom cupboard – let’s call them problem solvers – that only get used when our skin needs them, such as during a nasty breakout or after a particularly stressful week. Retinol is not one of those kind of products. It needs to be applied regularly, in the evening, and it needs to be monitored. Once you have built up to nightly application, you need to keep using it in order to improve or maintain the results you are seeing. Using it once a week when you remember to won’t get you anywhere.

Rule #4: Don’t Mix it with Acids

While there is no concrete scientific evidence to say that combining Retinol and AHAs in the same routine is detrimental for the skin, it can prove too intensive for most users. Retinol speeds up the skin cells’ natural renewal processes – hence the peeling and flakiness during the first month – and acids like Glycolic Acid exfoliate the surface layer of dead cells. Mix the two together and your skin can quickly become overwhelmed by the desire to shed, which can lead to increased sensitivity, prolonged redness and a burning sensation. However, you can use both ingredients in the same routine by giving them some distance. On the evenings when you don’t use Retinol, apply an AHA-based mask or overnight cream or, alternatively, use an acid in the morning and a Retinol in the evening. 

Rule #5: Know When to Back Off or Push On

There comes a time in every Retinol user’s life when they have to make the decision to either carry on with the ingredient or to stop and call it quits. This usually happens after around two or three weeks, when the skin is still flaky and a little delicate, but the visible rejuvenation is yet to impress. If you haven’t suffered any major reactions to the ingredient, carry on using it for another couple of months and, if after increasing the number of nights you apply it hasn’t worked, take the executive decision to try something else. Not every skin type will love Retinol, so don’t feel bad if the ingredient hasn’t worked for you. If all is good, keep going!

Rule #6: Take the Next Step

After around six months, your skin will be used to Retinol and will start to become lazy and stop responding the way it used to. This is when you can take the next step and move on to a product with a slightly stronger concentration of the ingredient, such as 0.5% and, eventually, 1%. Try the SkinMedica’s Retinol Complex 0.5 or the Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Booster

Rule #7: Don’t Neglect the Basics

You’ve heard them time and time again, but sticking to the basics is essential for continued Retinol success. Whether you are using the ingredient for the first time or taking the plunge and switching to a stronger percentage, start off with minimal applications in the evening while your skin adjusts. Be consistent and always, always, always use a sunscreen during the day. Retinol, on any scale, thins the top layer of the skin and makes it prone to sun damage, so sunscreen becomes an even more important part of your routine. So don’t forget it, or any of these rules, if you want to achieve a complexion free of fine lines, pimples and dark spots.

Article from Skin Health Magazine

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