Rebecca Treston, Founder of The Rebecca Treston Method discusses whether you should be using retinol or not?
Retinol is an exfoliating, anti-aging, anti-breakout skincare ingredient. It can increase the appearance of firmness, diminish the look of fine lines and wrinkles, significantly improve uneven skin tone, smooth and finally, refine the surface of skin as well, making it a powerful multitasker. It has achieved a cult-like status amongst beauty brands and skincare companies.
Retin-A is a prescription level retinoid that is stronger in nature, used for acne as well as aging, while retinol is the over-the-counter version of Retin-A, which becomes the active retinoic acid when it hits the skin. Enzymes in the body covert retinol to retinoid acid, an active form of vitamin A. This increases cell turnover, stimulates collagen, and helps with elastin production, so it is appropriate for treating everything from pigmentation to cystic acne and wrinkles. Strong research also shows that it clarifies and evens skin tone. In many ways, it is considered the miracle ingredient, but it is important to note that, if used improperly, retinol can compromise the epidermal barrier.
Furthermore, not all retinol products are created equal, with brands relying far too heavily on the fact that it is included rather than on the formulation it has and how effective it will be when using it. Consider that cosmeceutical retinols (which needs to be converted into retinoic acid before the skin can use it and which generally come in concentrations of between 0.1 and 0.5%) use around ten times more retinol content than prescription retinol but are not always as effective and you get some idea of how key formulation is. This proves that there is a lot more to consider than just the percentage of retinol: molecular weight (which brands don’t have to disclose on packaging) is a massive factor, as is how often you use your chosen retinol.
I have three pieces of advice that are important to keep in mind. Firstly, never use retinol with acids. Benzoyl peroxide, AHA’s and BHA’s are known to reduce productivity within retinoids, so do not mix them. These will also compromise the skin, as both acids and retinol can cause irritation. Also, consider how it is packaged. Retinol breaks down in sunlight, so the best retinol products will be held in opaque packaging. Finally, Retinol is prone to increase photosensitivity within the skin, so you must use a high, broad spectrum sunscreen when using any product that has this ingredient.