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Here’s how retinol became the stuff of skincare legends…

Far from being a one-size-fits-all beauty wonder, retinol is a mainstay in the skincare routines of beauty editors, dermatologists, and skincare enthusiasts. A hero ingredient in the fight against fine lines and wrinkles, retinol has become an essential part of some women’s beauty regimes just like the best eye cream or the best SPF moisturizers – and it’s not hard to understand why.

In fact, this renewal ingredient is so popular that 100,000 people signed up for No7’s Retinol Cream waiting list before it was released. Pretty impressive, right?

Never used it before and want to know the best way to apply it in your skincare routine? Want to know the do’s and don’ts, or just brush up on your skincare knowledge? Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about this wonderful ingredient.

What is Retinol?

“Retinol is pure vitamin A and is used to treat specific skin concerns such as skin prone to large pores (acne-prone skin) and mature skin,” says Linda Blahr, National Health Manager. education and science at SkinCeuticals.

“Retinol reactivates the skin’s renewal process and can be an excellent priming treatment to prepare the skin for chemical peels and other medical procedures.”

Does it really work?

In short – yes. Retinol is one of the most revered ingredients in the beauty industry and has been shown to fight the first signs of aging such as pigmentation, including sun damage, fine lines and spots. wrinkles.

In addition to having “an exfoliating effect that smoothes the skin texture and gives a natural glow, it also has antioxidant properties and reduces the appearance of dark spots”, specifies Dr. Bernard Hayot.

Dr. Hayot explains that retinol “boosts skin suppleness and elasticity, collagen and also helps create a luminous complexion as well as replenish melanin to fight pigmentation.”

Be sure, however, to use a product that contains the correct form of retinol. Check the ingredient list first to make sure it contains “retinol or retinaldehyde, rather than one of the less effective derivatives such as retintyplalmitate,” Dr. Stefanie Williams recommends.

Is retinol the same as vitamin A?

Retinol is a form of retinoid, which is a derivative of vitamin A. Dr. Hayot adds, “Retinol is an acid of vitamin A, which is the natural precursor to retinoic acid. Then, the body converts retinol into retonic acid.

It is in this form, as retonic acid, that the benefits of retinol are really felt on the skin.

How to use retinol

“Start, at the latest, when you see the first signs of diminished skin elasticity, fine lines and also uneven pigmentation,” advises Dr. Stefanie Williams, dermatologist and director of the Eudelo Clinic.

When first using retinol, you may experience some irritation such as dryness, redness, and even flaky skin. So if this is your first time, apply a low percentage and only use twice a week at regular intervals, gradually increasing to daily use if your skin tolerates it well.

As your skin adapts and if you don’t suffer from too much sensitivity, you can also increase the percentage. “Even if you can’t save more than two days a week, it’s still effective and worth doing, so don’t get discouraged,” says Dr. Stefanie.

When you first apply, use only a pea-sized amount. Trust us, a little is enough.

What to apply after retinol

We spoke to Dr. Eleanor Bradley, Head of Scientific Accreditations at No7, about what you should apply after using retinol.

“When using retinol, it’s very important to use nourishing products that can help hydrate, calm and support the skin barrier as part of your nighttime regimen. This is because your skin can be prone to dryness and redness due to the action of retinol on the skin, especially at higher and more potent concentrations.

“That’s why we developed the No7 Pure Retinol Post Retinol Soother, a retinol-free formulation that’s been specifically designed for use with high-strength retinol products like No7 Pure Retinol 1% Night Concentrate. The Soother Post-Retinol No7 Pure Retinol contains a range of nourishing and protective ingredients, including niacinamide, ceramides and Japanese lily turf, as well as soothing bisabolol, licorice and restorative centella asiatica – helping to support recovery. skin tolerance to retinol ensuring skin is deeply hydrated, soothed and more resilient.’

No7 Pure Retinol Post Retinol Lollipop, £14.95 | Boots
No7’s Post Retinol Soother helps support skin’s tolerance to retinol by ensuring skin is hydrated. Skin is visibly healthier and feels hydrated and soothed from the first use.

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What percentage of retinol is the best?

“The higher the concentration, the more the skin will react with visible shedding and redness,” says Blahr. “But it’s equally important to note that this is exactly the reaction we want for optimal results – it’s not irritating at all.”

“However, skin without retinol experience should always start low (with 0.3%) and increase in level (up to 0.5% then 1%) with each bottle.” If the skin is quite sensitive, stick with 0.3%. The 1% is best for visible signs of aging or photodamage (hyperpigmentation) and acne scarring, but you’ll only get it on prescription.

When do you use it?

Retinol can cause skin sensitivity and after use it is important to be especially careful in the sun and apply a high SPF of 30 or 50, even if it looks cloudy or gray outside. You’ll find formulas for day and night, but we’d err on the side of caution and stick to it in your evening routine. You will find it in many forms, but mainly as a night serum or in the best night creams.

Where should it be applied?

It is effective on all parts of the body; it’s even included in some hand creams, though it’s most commonly found in facial care products like the best face serums and hyperpigmentation treatment products. A good routine is to start with something like La Roche-Posay Retinol 0.3% + Vitamin B3 and apply to forehead, then nose, cheeks and chin. Be careful to avoid the eye area and around the nostrils as this area is prone to dryness.

“Avoid using retinol around the eyes because the skin is thinner, more delicate and sensitive there,” advises Dr. Bernard Hayot.

When to start using retinol?

It’s important to remember that everyone’s skin is different, but Dr. Ewoma Ukeleghe of the SKNDOCTOR Clinic tells us that as a rule of thumb, age 25 is a good time to start using retinol because it’s This is when the collagen levels in our skin begin to deplete.

Is retinol good for acne?

“Vitamin A acid or retinoic acid was first used to treat acne in young adults before its skincare benefits were fully realized,” says Dr. Hayot. Isotretinion, more commonly known by the brand name Roaccutane, is a form of vitamin A.

Be careful if you are taking prescribed acne medication. Some ingredients commonly found in acne medications, such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid, can cause irritation and redness if combined with retinol. So be sure to consult your doctor before using it.

How long does it take to work?

As with all skincare products, you have to be patient with the results. “The skin renews itself after 28 days on average, which means that the new cells migrate to the surface of the skin, after which you should start to see results,” says Dr. Hayot.

Then get your hands on the best retinol products on the market. Take a look at our edit of the best below. We tested each product as part of our evening skincare routine and looked at things like formula, texture, ingredients, price, and of course, results.