Retinol is found in many creams and serums, yet people are often nervous about trying it in case it causes irritation. However, when used correctly, it can transform skin, rejuvenating tone and texture.
Derived from vitamin A, retinoids – of which retinol is the best known – are one of skincare’s most potent ingredients.
They smooth the complexion and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
“The fibroblast cells in our skin produce collagen and elastin, which give it its natural bounce,” explains Dr Sophie Shotter at GetHarley (getharley.com).
“After the age of 25, these skin cells switch off and produce less collagen.”
This is where a topical retinoid comes in.
“Retinoids work to increase the number of fibroblast cells in the skin and to boost levels of collagen and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr Shotter. “This means plumper skin, fewer lines and wrinkles and more refined-looking pores.”
TYPES OF RETINOID Dr Angela Tewari, consultant dermatologist (dermatologystudios.co.uk), says:
Retinol: the most well-known retinoid, it accelerates cell turnover, boosts collagen production, and evens out skin tone.
Retinal/retinaldehyde: a new kid on the block, this delivers the same results as retinol with less irritation because it reaches the skin in a more stable form.
Plant-based alternatives: these are natural ingredients, such as bakuchiol, which mimic the effects of retinol.
Granactive retinoid: contains HPR retinoid and retinol, and is thought to be more stable than traditional formulas, meaning products have a longer shelf life.
THE RETINOL RULES
Retinol can irritate skin so incorporate it gradually into your skincare regime.
“I recommend starting with twice a week, then increasing after two weeks to every other night or more,” says Dr Shotter.
People with more reactive skin types may find they can only use a retinoid once a week.
Retinol is most commonly found in 0.3, 0.5 and 1 per cent concentrations. Occasionally you will find 2 per cent and above, but stronger isn’t always better – how your skin tolerates it is more important. Start with a lower concentration and build up to minimise side effects and irritation.
Retinol does make your skin more sun sensitive, so dermatologists recommend using it at night and wearing SPF every day.
Patience is key
“It can’t work miracles, however, you will see an improvement in skin texture within a few weeks,” says Dr Tewari. “The skin will look brighter as dry skin is removed and the epidermis plumps up.”
It’s not just for the face
While most people apply a retinoid to their face, it can be used anywhere from the neck and decolletage to the hands. There are many great eye creams on the market too.
CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum, £18.99, Superdrug, is a super gentle formula, with a small dose of retinol, suitable for even the most sensitive skin.
Skin Rocks Retinoid 1 Vitamin A Face Serum, £65, skinrocks.com, is a beginner-strength formula created by skincare guru Caroline Hirons. Perfect for first-timers.
The Inkey List Retinol Eye Cream, £12.99, lookfantastic.com, is a beauty bargain which is designed to treat lines around the eye area.
Farmacy 1% Vitamin A Retinol Serum, £55, Space NK, contains retinaldehyde and encapsulated retinol. It’s a product that’s ideal for someone whose skin is accustomed to retinol and is taking the next step.
La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum, £45, laroche-posay.co.uk, has been formulated with reactive skin in mind, containing low-dose retinol and soothing vitamin B3.
Indie Lee Retinol Alternative Cream, £67, indielee.uk, is a natural alternative that harnesses the skin-rejuvenating properties of the paracress plant.