Beauty,  Skincare

The low down on: Retinol

There are a lot of scare stories about retinol, but most of them are unfounded. Yes, it can be a bit much for certain skins, but as with anything, it’s how and when you use it.

It is the gold standard of non-invasive anti-aging, so I chatted to Dr Judey from Biomedical Emporium about why you should look at incorporating it into your routine.

What is it?

Retinol is a form of Vitamin A – a skin care active ingredient that forms part as member of the retinoid family. Retinol is metabolically converted to retinoic
acid within the skin, which inherently causes the desired biological skin cellular response.

What does it do?

Retinol is a “multi-bioactive molecule” – This molecule comprises of a variety of applications, from treating severe acne conditions to advanced anti-aging, and anti-pigmentation therapies, or acting as a skin nutrient and anti- oxidant agent. The effects of retinol are largely attributable to the fact that retinol promotes cellular growth, differentiation and preservation of epithelial tissue, i.e. skin cells. This process leads to an improved skin barrier function and assists by retaining skin moisture; inherently skin elasticity is improved that prohibits new wrinkle formation.

Will my skin handle it? So many scare stories.

As a newbie I recommend a percentage of 0.05 % (pure retinol), the amount can increase over time as the skin is conditioned with the application of retinol. Cognisance should however be taken that the skin of a newbie should undergo the process of “retinisation” i.e. the process of introducing a very active molecule such as retinol to the skin, and also allowing ample time for the skin to adjust to the advanced treatment. Slight irritation may be experienced at first, but the use of retinol should NOT BE STOPPED at all. Just reduce the frequency of use or the amount applied to the skin until the irritation subsides. Additionally, applications close to the eyes should be avoided.

A specific scientific rationale and scarce skill is required when formulating with retinol. The functionality and efficacy of an active ingredient such as retinol should be explicitly preserved and encapsulated within a formula that will assist in acting as a sufficient “vehicle” to deliver the active ingredient, such as retinol to a particular cellular target site, that will activate a cellular response. The concentration, and purity of retinol is thus an important factor, but just as important are the additional molecules added to a formula that will assist and enhance the retinol to work at an optimal cellular level.

What are the side effects?

Downside:Retinol is a very instable molecule – i.e. photochemical instable and extremely sensitive to light. It is thus extremely important to buy retinol containing products that preserve the efficacy and quality of the retinol product. Retinol should be kept in airless and lightless or pharmaceutical grade glass packaging. The use of degraded retinol can cause irritation to the skin.

Upside:retinol recovers the overall condition of prematurely aged skin. Retinol improves the appearance of existing wrinkles, and prevents the formation of new wrinkles. Retinol regulates skin cellular activity, improves the skin barrier function and assist with the normalising effect on skin pigmentation, i.e. normalises the holistic physiology of the skin.

Where does it fit in my skincare routine?

A myth exist that retinol may increase sensitivity to sunburn. This is in fact not the case. Due to the advanced potency of retinol and the respective biological responses retinol stimulates, a high cellular turnover is obtained and cell migration and proliferation takes place. This process may in some instances cause slight flaking and slight irritation.

Any ingredients I can’t use it with (layering)?

Vitamin C is one of the best anti-oxidants you can treat your skin with, but use it at different times to retinol, as your skin may react. Use your Vitamin C in the morning and retinol in the evening.

I hope that was helpful to those of you who are new to or wanting to try retinol. Please let me know if you have any questions, or if you are unsure of anything.

I use the Biomedical Emporium Retinol Serum (R915) or the Biomedical Emporium Retinol Night (R1480). You can shop them online here, along with the rest of the Biomedical Emporium range.


Vitamin A image: Shutterstock