Source; Which Magazine
Retinol belongs to the ‘retinoid’ family – a range of vitamin A compounds that are beneficial for skin, helping to:
- Reduce fine lines and wrinkles
- Reduce pigmentation and sun damage
- Clear pores and tackle acne by exfoliating skin and improving cell turnover
- Smooth and brighten skin
It does this by exfoliating the skin and increasing the turnover of cells, helping the skin to renew, as well as stimulating collagen production to firm up skin.
Does retinol really work?
Yes, it does and it can work fairly quickly: scientific studies show that retinoids can reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation after 12 weeks of use.
In terms of when you should begin using a retinol product, consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto says: ‘The skin loses about 1% of collagen (a protein which gives skin its structural support) per year from your mid-twenties. Therefore starting a retinoid from your late 20s onwards is reasonable.’
However, starting later can still be of benefit when it comes to tackling signs of ageing that have already started – you might just prefer a different type of product (for example, one that is more moisturising).
When it comes to which products work best, spending lots doesn’t guarantee that the product is any better than some cheaper ones, especially if they have the same retinoids in them.
Retinol vs retinoids
Retinol is a type of retinoid, but retinoids differ in their effectiveness.
The most powerful retinoids contain retinoic acid, and are only available on prescription in the UK. For example, tretinoin (e.g Roaccutane) which was the first to be used in skincare in the 1970s and is still used for conditions such as acne.
Over-the-counter products contain one of four types of weaker retinoids, which rely on conversion into retinoic acid once on the skin.
Although they all eventually do this, some have to go through more steps than others, and this matters. The more steps needed, the longer the product takes to work.
Retinol is the best known of these retinoids, but there are others that are take fewer steps, including:
- Retinaldehyde (or retinal)
- Retinoic acid esters (often listed as granactive retinol, or HPR/hydroxypinocolone retinoate)
Both convert to retinoic acid in just one step compared to retinol’s two steps.
- Retinyl esters, such as retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate
These take three steps to convert, but being the least potent has its own advantages – retinyl esters are a good gentle retinoid option.
You’ll frequently find more than one type of retinoid in a product, though and ultimately they will all lead to retinoic acid.
A higher percentage of retinol isn’t always best
Over-the-counter retinol products state on the packaging the percentage of retinoid they contain. This can be anything from 0.1% up to 5%, so how do you know what to go for?
The advice is usually to try one with a lower amount as a starting point, then if your skin tolerates it you can increase the strength gradually.
Some mild burning, irritation, stinging and peeling skin are common side effects when starting retinoids, but your skin shouldn’t be sore. If it is back off to give your skin a break.
Dr Mahto warns that if you have sensitive skin or an underlying inflammatory skin condition such as eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, you should speak to a dermatologist first, as retinol products can potentially cause problems.
Our face creams that contain retinol are in concentrations of up to 1% so this is a safe amount for any skin type.
The key with retinol is to keep using the products as you will not see overnight results.