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Retinol What You Want to Know

Posted on Sep 12, 2016

If you have been paying any attention to skin care products over the last few decades, chances are that you have heard of retinol. It seems as though it is in everything from acne creams to anti aging serums. However, knowing of retinol and understanding what it is and how it works are two different things. Retinol has been touted as a type of miracle worker when it comes to skin care, and the truth is that in a sense it really is. This is your chance to get better acquainted with retinol and really understand what this magical beauty wand is, how it works and how it can enhance your natural beauty and skin care routine.

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which are the chemical compounds that are related to vitamin A. You may also be familiar with other retinoids, such as the pharmaceutical grade retinoic acid, also known as tretinoin. The main difference between prescription strength applications that contain retinoic acid and the commonly available retinol preparations is simply a matter of strength. When retinol comes into contact with the skin, enzymes in the body go through the process of turning it into retinoic acid, the most active form of vitamin A. The prescription form is stronger, and produces results faster. That said, for most people, retinol in its gentler, non prescription form is the best choice for their skin care needs.

That brings about the question, what is it exactly that retinol can do for your skin? The answer is pretty much everything! As a component of skin care, retinol was first used as a treatment for severe acne beginning in the mid twentieth century. By the 1980’s retinol was gaining a name as an anti-aging element as well. To say that something is effective on everything from acne to wrinkles is almost unbelievable; however in this case, it is very much true. The molecular structure of retinol is extremely small, making it possible for it to absorb easily into the deeper layers of the skin. Once there, retinol encourages the rapid turnover and renewal of cells and prevents the premature breakdown of collagen. Basically, retinol makes it possible for your skin to always be working with a clean, healthy canvas of new strong skin cells and a supportive network of collagen. What are the results of the relationship between your skin and retinol? Here are just a few:

  • Reduces fine lines and deeper wrinkles
  • Unclogs pores and prevents dead skin cells from accumulating on the skins surface
  • Reduces the size and appearance of pores
  • Helps keep skin properly hydrated
  • Improves elasticity
  • Evens out skin texture and reduces patchiness
  • Evens out skin tone and reduces the appearance of hyper pigmentation
  • Rebuilds collagen
  • Speeds up cell regeneration
  • In essence, retinol leaves you with glowing, healthy skin!

Here we have this amazing, naturally occurring ingredient that can have such an a dramatic impact on the health and appearance of our skin. But, what about some of the negative things you might have heard about retin-A and other retinoid products? Not long after retinol was becoming widely used as an anti-aging additive in skin care products, there was a period of time when retinol gained a bad reputation for side effects such as redness, dryness and irritation and many people began to shy away from it. It is true that retinol can come with those side effects, however they are usually short lived and there are ways to minimize or eliminate them. First of all, start with the lowest strength possible for your individual skin needs. A good place to start with your first retinol product is in an over-the-counter cream or serum that is produced by a company that emphasizes natural ingredients. Retinol by itself is a strong contender, but once you start adding in unnecessary additives and harsh chemicals, you can end up with a concoction that is could to overwhelm or irritate your skin. When it comes to choosing which retinol product to use, the more natural, the better.

Secondly, closely follow the directions for use. Some redness, dryness and flaking is normal as your skin adjusts to the retinol. Keep in mind that this reaction should not be severe. If you experience redness that is visibly noticeable to someone several feet away from you, or itching or dryness that interfere with your daily activities, then either you are applying too much, the strength is too strong for you or the product contains additional additives that are too harsh for your skin. The simple solution to this is to apply no more than a pea sized amount a day to your facial area. You might even want to start with applications once every two or three days as your skin adjusts. If you follow these guidelines, or those set by your dermatologist, any side effects that you experience should be mild and last no longer than a couple of weeks.  There are sensitive skin types for whom retinol just doesn’t work, but if introduced slowly and conservatively, most skin types adjust without significant irritation.

Retinol is a beauty buzzword. The popularity of retinol makes it especially susceptible to misunderstandings and widespread misconceptions regarding its use. What you have heard or read about retinol may or may not be correct. To help you better understand and sort through the myriad of information available, here are a few of the most common misconceptions about retinol:

  • You can only apply retinol products at night. It is true that retinol breaks down when exposed to sunlight. This is the reason that you should only buy retinol products that are packaged in opaque or darkly colored glass containers. The exposure to sunlight can render your retinol containing products inactive. However, it is safe to use retinols during the day, as long as you use adequate sun protection. Always use an SPF30 sunscreen every day, whether you apply your retinol product during the day or at night.
  • Retinol produces immediate results. Many retinol products contain ingredients that help your skin appear smoother almost immediately. Retinol itself takes a bit more time to work. Once you apply it, it does begin increasing cell rejuvenation, and it is obvious that your skin is adjusting. However, the true long term benefits of retinol use can take anywhere from eight to twelve weeks to become noticeable. So, if you are using a retinol product and feel that you just aren’t getting the results that you expected, give it some more time. In a just a few more weeks you will possibly have the best skin of your life.
  • If your skin becomes red and irritated, you should discontinue use. Mild redness and irritation are a normal part of your skin adjusting to retinol and will usually go away within approximately two weeks. That said, you should always start with the lowest possible strength of retinol and then build up toward a stronger concentrate as you your skin adapts. It is best to stick to natural retinol products and those designed for sensitive skin.
  • You shouldn’t use retinol products around your eyes. The skin around the eyes is very delicate, and it is also one of the first places that those subtle signs of aging are likely to show up. You can use retinol products around your eyes, unless the instructions explicitly say not to. Research shows that people, who use retinol on their entire face, including the eye area, have the best overall results. Just remember that you really don’t need more than a pea sized amount for your entire face. That means that the amount you might apply to your eye area is going to be very small. Don’t overdo it and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Retinol really isn’t as mysterious as it appears. While it may seem there is something magical about the results that it produces, there is no reason to shy away from it because it seems too complicated. If you are interested in trying a retinol product, here is a brief rundown of how to use and apply it for the best results.

  • First of all, choose a retinol that suits your skin type at this moment. You might be tempted to pick a product that is aligned with your long term skin goals, but take a moment to analyze where your skin is right now and choose accordingly. For instance if you have very dry skin, you will want to go with an emollient cream base. If you have an oiler skin tone and suffer from acne or congested skin, you will want to choose something less creamy, like a high quality serum.
  • Don’t immediately jump to anything that appears extra strength. Take note about what you have already learned about retinol in this article. Start gentle, according to your current skin type and change as needed to suit your new skin needs.
  • Do not use retinol products if you are experiencing, or planning on experiencing, any unusual irritation. For example, do not apply immediately after and do not use retinol on any area that you are planning on waxing. Additionally, take precautions if you are planning on an activity where you are increasing your chance of skin damage from excessive UV exposure.
  • Cleanse your face as normal, and gently pat dry. You do not need for your face to be completely dry unless specifically indicated.
  • Apply the retinol product to the whole of your face, neck and chest for best results. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, either. This is an area that can have some of the most tell-tale sign of aging, and where retinol can really be a benefit.
  • Apply any moisturizers or additional facial care products after the retinol application. Not only can you use other skin care products with retinol, but many times they also increase the overall effectiveness.
  • Start by applying every other day and then build up to daily use.
  • After six to twelve months, evaluate if you are ready, or in need, of a new retinol product. Sometimes, your skin adjusts to the retinol strength that you have been using and you may need to go a little stronger after about a year.

There you have it; everything you need to know about using retinol in your natural skin care routine. How many times have you wished that you had a second chance, or were able to turn back time just a little? Second chances sometimes happen, but time travel doesn’t. However, retinol can help you once again have the fresh, glowing skin that you once had. Here in one single ingredient is the capability to improve acne, smooth skin, even discolorations, diminish fine lines and reduce sagging and puffiness. When you choose a natural, quality retinol you hold the key to unlocking the true beauty of your skin.

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