Skin Nerd: Five things to consider before you add retinol to your skincare routine

Jennifer Rock tells us about the hero ingredient can have a huge impact on your skin.
Skin Nerd: Five things to consider before you add retinol to your skincare routine

Skin Nerd: I’m not alone in my adoration for this skin-booster, with retinol being one of the most searched for skincare ingredients in 2021 according to a recent poll.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is ‘what is my holy grail skincare ingredient?’ 

Time and time again the answer is the same and, I rarely miss a beat before answering - vitamin A. And I’m not alone in my adoration for this skin-booster, with retinol being one of the most searched for skincare ingredients in 2021 according to a recent poll.* Joint second (along with vitamin C and behind aloe vera, FYI), this skin-transforming ingredient topped the list in 12 countries worldwide. 

One of the reasons behind this mammoth surge in interest is because the skin benefits of vitamin A can be extensive and super-visible. It’s a great pro-ageing and clinically-proven active ingredient that works at a cellular level to improve skin health. Vitamin A is best known for its ability to speed up cell renewal, by increasing skin cell turnover to promote the sloughing of dead skin cells for a brighter complexion. What's more, vitamin A works to boost collagen synthesis, helping to address visible signs of ageing and reveal plumper, revitalised skin.

It is however important not to rush into retinol, which can have several not-so-positive side effects. Incorporating vitamin A into your regime requires a process of acclimatisation which many are not aware of. Data also reveals that the most common retinol related query that is searched for on Google was: At what age should you start using retinol?** Knowing when your skin is ready and how to start using this ingredient is important. Always consult with your skin expert to see what is best for your individual skin, but in the meantime, here are some pointers everyone should consider before starting their vitamin A journey.

Consider your age

Although age isn’t always a clear indicator of the condition of your skin, retinol is known for its many benefits with regards to ageing. Every day that we are exposed to light our stores of retinyl palmitate deplete from our cells - so unless we live in a cave, our skin is likely to benefit from a top-up. 

Firstly, we should feed our skin from within through our diet and supplementation, and then we can look to take care of our skin on the outside by replenishing it with active skincare. As collagen and elastin start to breakdown more rapidly between the age of 25-30, this is a great time to be thinking about bringing in retinol as it helps to boost collagen and elastin production in the skin and improve fine lines and wrinkles.

Retinol is also known for its benefits in helping to both regulate sebum within the skin and improve the appearance of acne scarring. Therefore, anyone with oily, congested or breakout-prone skin may opt to bring in a retinol-based product sooner, under the guidance of their skin expert of course.

Do your research

There is more than one form of vitamin A to consider including in your skin regime. Retinol is the alcohol form and the most ‘hyped’ type of vitamin A, whereas retinyl palmitate is the fat form of the ingredient. In its fat form, and with our skin having a lipid barrier, retinyl palmitate is a gentler, and more easily absorbed by the skin, causing less irritation. It is the form of vitamin A which is stored in our cells before converting eventually to retinoic acid. This means our cells are more accepting of it, making it more easily absorbed and less likely to cause the unwanted side effects of flaking or dryness.

Start slowly

Serums containing retinyl palmitate can be used in the morning and evening, twice a day for best results. This form of vitamin A doesn’t make the skin sun sensitive and is therefore suitable for use during the day. I tend to advise hoomans using serums containing retinol to bring them into their routine once or twice per week for the first two weeks, and then add in an extra night week by week to slowly build up tolerance if their skin will allow it. Eventually, the goal would be to use it every evening, with the evening preferred over daytime as this alcohol form of vitamin A can make the skin more sun sensitive.

Only move on when ready

You should only move on to a retinol product when you are completely ready to. I would recommend that after 3-6 months of using retinyl palmitate on a daily basis you can consider moving on to retinol. Then, depending on your skin goal, you may be able to bring in retinol as a booster in your regime a couple of times per week. For acne-prone skin, you may be able to move to retinol sooner, possibly after 6-8 weeks of using retinyl palmitate daily, as it will help to regulate oil within the skin. If you are unsure, speak to your skin expert for guidance.

A word of additional caution

Extremely sensitive skin may not be a candidate for retinol at all and mamas-to-be should avoid the use of vitamin A. Whilst a breakout or two is common as the skin adjusts, this should subside as the skin gets used to it. A retinoid response, which presents on the skin as heat, flaking, itching or redness would indicate that your skin is not ready and that you may need to stop using the product. The daily use of an SPF is also vital as the skin will become more sensitive to sun damage following the use of retinol.



The Nerdie Pick

Add some colour to winter skin with the mineral infused PurePressed Blush from Jane Iredale. Enriched with antioxidants, the non-comedogenic formula brightens the complexion with a gentle wash of colour, whilst defining and highlighting the cheekbones. Swirl on Mystique, which is a deep rosy brown shade for a warm, winter glow.

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