Retinol gets a bad wrap because so many people have experienced redness, irritation, peeling and dryness. It can feel like the skin is actually getting damaged rather than being helped! And that’s true to some degree, but that’s actually because of excessive use of retinol, not retinol itself. There are too many drug store, and even prescription level!, formulas out there that are loaded with way too much retinol. Plus, brands often tout the need for retinol in multiple products that build up on your skin: in your moisturizer, your serum, and your under-eye brighteners. Simply put, it’s just way too much of this potent and strong ingredient. And as it goes, too much of a good thing can turn sour. The more retinol you put on, the poorer the barrier function of your skin becomes.
The good news is that when applied correctly, retinol is not only completely safe to use on your skin, but can be an effective restorative skin care ingredient.
What is retinol?
Retinol is just Vitamin A. Most formulas on the market derive the Vitamin A from animal sources like beef, chicken liver, eggs, and fish. Talk about gross. But as the clean beauty industry trends, more and more plant-based and cruelty-free companies are sourcing their Vitamin A from the plant world. After all, animals get their vitamins from vegetables! Vitamin A can be found in many plants and vegetables like cantaloupe, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins.
How does it work?
As you age your cell turn over and collagen reduces giving way to the signs of time and life’s wear and tear: fine lines, wrinkles, saggy and leathery skin. Retinol helps reactive the regeneration of cells and stimulate collagen production helping you naturally restore your skins elasticity, even texture, and brightness.
After a deep dive into the interwebs and all there is to know about retinol, I discovered a plant-based and cruelty-free brand developed by a dermatologist. Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Overnight Serum derives its retinol from carrots. Additionally, the formula is paired with ferulic acid which is an antioxidant found in artichokes that helps bolster the skin's defense against UV rays. One legitimate concern about retinol is that it does make your skin more sensitive to the sun's rays. I specifically sought out a formula that contains ferulic acid because this combination tempers retinol and protects the skin against sun damage.
How to use retinol
First and foremost, only use retinol in your evening skin care routine. As mentioned above, retinol is photosensitive and therefore it’s best to let it do its magic after twilight. When choosing a retinol serum, try to get it with .2% of retinol. You can always increase in the future. Anything above 1% is way too excessive. First begin applying it just 2-3 times within a week, applying every other day or every 2 days. Gradually over the course of 3-4 works, work up to applying it every night. This gives your skin time to adjust to the increased cell turnover that comes with the added vitamin A. It’s normal for your skin to experience dryness with the use of retinol and so you should be sure to consistently moisturize to hydrate the skin. Additionally, be sure to wear an SPF on your face during the day time.