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All you need to know about Retinol

Skin expert Emma Hobson of the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica has written a great article on the ‘it’ ingredient of the moment, Retinol.

Retinol really is the ‘it’ ingredient in skin care when it comes to achieving amazing results for anyone concerned with ageing. A well formulated Retinol product is a powerful tool in your product arsenal if you want to achieve visible and tangible skin improvement. Retinol (being a derivative of Vitamin A) treats skin discolouration and brown spots, smoothest out fine lines and wrinkles, improves skin elasticity and tone and provides a smooth skin texture. It’s also great for the treatment of acne breakouts, being an excellent skin clearing agent as well as accelerating skin renewal. It’s not called the ‘normalising Vitamin’ for nothing, it can transform a dull complexion and really assists the skin in achieving and maintaining a healthy glow. Outside of a sunscreen, Retinol is the best anti-ageing ingredient available.

How does Retinol work?

Our clever skin has the ability to convert Retinol into another form of Vitamin A called Retinoic Acid, it does this by virtue of enzymes within our skin. Retinoic Acid is the active form of Vitamin A that triggers our cells to stimulate collagen and elastin and normalise and repair the healthy functioning of our skin cells. Applying Retinol is the favoured choice over applying Retinoic Acid, one, because Retinoic Acid is only available on prescription and two, because there is a greater incidence of skin sensitisation and irritation. By applying Retinol to the skin we get all the long term benefits of Retinoic Acid without the associated challenges.

How do you know which product to buy?

This is where it can get a bit tricky as there are so many products on the market using Retinol. At this point it’s important to say that not all products are created equal, so make sure that your expectations are aligned with what the product is designed to do. When choosing your Retinol product you’ll need to consider its strength, but more importantly, is it’s delivery system and the other active ingredients within the product that makes it so effective.

With regard to strength, the strongest (non-prescription) product available is 1% but that does not mean that it’s stronger or more active than a product containing say .05%. Why? Because Retinol is extremely volatile in nature and is not easy to stabilise within a product. Great care needs to be taken to protect its integrity and keep it active. It’s for this reason Retinol needs to be housed within a protective carrier system, the more sophisticated the better such as the highly advanced non liposomal carrier of a liquid crystalline membrane which microencapsulates the Retinol sphere keeping it highly potent and active, once on the skin it divides and conquers by delivering the Retinol to exactly the part of the skin where it has most benefit and at the same time creates a protective shield on the skin surface to prevent dehydration, pure genius!

It’s also vital to ensure Retinol has minimal exposure to air, therefore it needs to be packaged within a nozzle nosed tube Vs being in a jar which ensures its potency. Retinol can also be damaged by sunlight, which is why its recommended as a night time use product, which also happens to be the best time to apply Retinol as it assists the skin during its repair and regeneration mode, which includes the creation of new collagen and elastin.

If you’re eager to use Retinol around your eye area (and who wouldn’t be?) you’ll need to be cautious, the skin is very delicate and fine in texture and easily prone to sensitisation. Therefore ensure you use products specifically designed for this purpose.

The key with Retinol is ‘building tolerance’, your skin needs to get accustomed to the product, build the mechanisms within the skin which allow the Retinol to work but without causing any associated skin redness, irritation or dryness, all of which can result if you go in too hard too soon. It’s important to start with a small amount, ideally controlled by adding a buffer to ensure it’s the perfect ‘fit’ for your skin, used every second or every other day before moving to a daily application.

Dermalogica’s new Overnight Retinol Repair is the only customisable retinol treatment on the market. Containing a buffer cream, it allows you to adjust your treatment dosage to avoid any skin irritation as you start building your tolerance to Retinol.

Can everyone use Retinol?
Caution must be used if you are pregnant or breast feeding, it is advised to avoid the various forms of active Vitamin A, therefore consult with your physician. Do not use Retinol based products for at least 72 hours if you have recently waxed, lasered or exfoliated the skin and don’t apply on sun burnt or abraded skin.

Why do I have to use a daily sun screen if I only use this product at night?
If you want to keep that amazing, glowing skin it’s imperative to wear a sun screen with a minimum SPF30+ during the use of Retinol products. Retinol can make the skin more susceptible to burning in sunlight if unprotected.

When should you start to use Retinol products?
Since Retinol is best suited for those with visible signs of ageing, it’s ideally used by anyone in their mid to late twenties upwards, unless you’re using it for the treatment of acne.

When can I start to see the results?
Patience is required as it can take anything from around 8 to 12 weeks to really start to see the results of using Retinol. That said, if the Retinol is in a product that also contains age fighting ingredients such as Peptides and other Vitamins you can expect to see the visible changes much sooner.

Yours in skin,

The Prodermal Team X

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