Buzzwords like “life-changing” and “wonder product” immediately make me as sceptical of a product as I am of things like Scientology, the concept of soul mates, and anyone who is unquestionably fine with Uggs becoming a socially acceptable garment to wear outside the house in 2017. Very. So when retinol crept onto the scene a few years ago — touted by every media outlet as the next big thang in skincare — I approached it with mild suspicion. I veritably took the idea that it could save me and tossed it in the bin, in much the same way as I did things like alkaline water and true love.
I recently decided to forego my cynicism-for-cynicism’s-sake approach to life (for once), and actually gave the super product, and by virtue my face, a chance. As a result of this ‘tude shift, you are now looking at the latest #blessed retinol convert. The first step on my path to spot-free enlightenment was to get educated, and for that I enlisted the help of super humans/super facialists, Melanie Grant and Jocelyn Petroni.
Let’s start with the basics: the difference between retinol and retinoid. Retinol is a gentler form of vitamin A that the skin needs to convert into retinoic acid to yield results, which can take up to several weeks. Retinoid, on the other hand, is a derivative of vitamin A that comes already formulated as a retinolic acid, which doesn’t require any conversion by the body. While results can be attained faster with retinoid, there’s a higher chance of side effects and irritation.
According to Melanie, Retinol is “one of the best skincare ingredients ever discovered. It’s tried, tested, and proven to treat many skin conditions including large pores, fine lines, wrinkles, acne, blemishes, pigmentation, and dull or uneven skin tone.” But how? “Retinol works by speeding up the turnover of dead skin cells, making way for fresh new cells to come to the surface.” Promising. “It also thickens the deeper layers of our skin by stimulating the production of collagen, as well as preventing collagen loss.” Electrifying.
Jocelyn recommends it to her clients who are concerned with “sun damage, ageing, pigmentation, and fine lines and wrinkles” and sees it as an “amazing skin booster that makes all skin types dewy, glowing and radiant.” Sign us up.
In terms of who should be using it, Melanie assures me that retinol is suitable for almost every skin type, except for “hypersensitive or compromised skins, and those who are pregnant or nursing.” When starting out — which can be “as early as your 20s” — she suggests that you slowly introduce it into your skincare routine “to avoid any irritation.” Jocelyn agrees, saying that “sensitive skin types should avoid vitamin A, as prescription-strength formulas can cause redness (unless you use one of Ultra MD’s Vitamin A formulas that are anti-inflammatory).” Retinol encourages cell turnover, in much the same way as an exfoliating scrub does, meaning that your skin becomes more sensitive to sun exposure. As such, it’s imperative that you wear an SPF if you’re jumping on the retinol bandwagon. But, since you should be wearing sunscreen every day anyway, that’s a no brainer, right?
If you’re new to the game, Melanie suggests you “try using a retinol serum after your evening cleanse two or three times per week before applying your night cream, eventually building up to every night.” She continues, saying that “retinol products have come a long way in recent times with lower dose, time release formulas being far gentler on the skin. So even those with sensitive skin can tolerate the gentler formulas that are now on the market.” Melanie’s pick for sensitive skin is Retinaldedyde, and in particular the Osmosis Calm Serum.
If you’re not plagued with sensitive skin, Jocelyn recommends the following retinol product as a standard: Ulta MD Ultimate A2 Anti-Ageing Serum — “The suspension delivers potent prescription strength vitamin A into the skin without the side effects of redness or flaking.” Melanie recommends almost all of her clients use a retinol serum at night after cleansing, and before applying their night cream. In particular, she loves Cosmedix Serum 16 and SkinMedica Retinol Complex .25.
And when it comes to usage, Jocelyn recommends the following:
“Vitamin A is applied at night before bed (best to avoid during the day, as vitamin A makes your skin sun sensitive). Always apply to clean skin. Apply two nights per week for 1 month, then increase to every second night for the second month and finally, in the third month, apply every night. You can follow with a moisturiser or oil if you have dry skin. Always wear a SPF 30+ sunscreen during the day when using a vitamin A product.”
Despite confirmation from two leading skin experts that retinol is probably/definitely the best anti-ageing product on the market, I couldn’t help but harbour slight concerns about the long term effects of using it on my ~precious~ face. Both ladies assuaged these fears. According to Jocelyn, “Vitamin A thins the superficial layers of the skin, however it thickens the deeper skin layers, which is the source of wrinkles — the benefits far outweigh any minor side effects.” V true. Melanie assured me there weren’t any adverse long-term complications, but said that it’s “important to remember that using too many active skincare products in the wrong combination can cause inflammation and sensitivity, so seek professional advice when devising a new skincare regimen.”
It’s safe to say that at this point in my research, I was all but cured of my retinol-associated incredulity. And, after such glowing reviews, I’d have been a fool not to introduce my skin to this life-changing wonder product. The File HQ does not suffer fools, and so I put all the most in-demand over-the-counter retinol products out there to the test over the course of 12 weeks, so as to give my (oft-sensitive) skin a chance to adjust. These were were my findings…