Anti-aging creams may come and go, but one ingredient remains the gold standard: retinol. Derived from Vitamin A, retinols have been used safely since the 1970’s.
The most famous retinol product is Retin-A, which was approved by the FDA in 1971 as a prescription treatment for acne. But while user’s pimples were vanishing, they started seeing other benefits to their skin. Fine lines and sun spots were fading, and skin texture looked smoother. Even pores looked smaller. Skin just looked better, glowier and more vibrant. Sounds like a miracle product? While there’s no such thing as a miracle, retinols come close. Or put another way- retinols are the best anti-aging product money can buy that isn’t an injectable.
Since the debut of Retin-A, retinols have found their way over the counter, at drugstores and department makeup counters in products that contain high doses of retinols in safe but effective formulas.
Think of retinols as a multi-tasker and one of the hardest working products in your beauty arsenal.
Here’s how they work.
Retinols exfoliate the skin, getting rid of old skin cells and creating new ones, which results in new, fresh skin with a smooth texture. They also help to shrink pores and increase cell turnover inside the pore, making it less likely to clog with dirt and oil. Retinols work by thinning the top layer of the skin, while thickening the smoother second layer (the epidermis) which makes skin look dewy and firm.
But perhaps retinol’s biggest claim to fame is that they help boost collagen production. When it comes to tackling the signs of anti-ageing, collagen is key as it’s what gives skin elasticity and firmness. Think of it as a support structure for the skin, and keep in mind that collagen creation starts to diminish in the 30’s.
If you have never used a retinol product before, start slowly to prevent any redness, flaking or irritation. Apply a pea-sized amount of product once or twice a week and gradually build up to using it every night. And be patient. While some women see improvements in as little as two weeks, it can take up to six months to see a change. Make sure to incorporate a good moisturizer into your skincare regimen when using a retinol to offset any dryness. Take extra precaution when in the sun and be sure to apply a SPF daily — which everyone should do regardless of retinol use.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Vitamin A is not stable- meaning it breaks down when exposed to sunlight and air. Try to choose products that come in a sealed tube or pump but if you do buy a product in a jar, try to select one in a dark container.
Further reading: What is retinol