What is retinol and what are its benefits in skincare?
Retinol is found listed as an ingredient in quite a lot of skin care products. But what is it and is it safe to use? Retinol is just another name for fat soluble Vitamin A and it can be obtained naturally from animals or it can be synthesised. It was first used in treatments for acne, but when scientists were testing the effects of retinol, they found that it also improved the general appearance of the skin of test subjects as well, so that it became more widely used in anti-aging treatments and other skin products. Retinol creams do have to be used with care, as some people can have an adverse reaction to them. Here are some of the skincare benefits of retinol and some guidance for its use.
1. Reduces lines and wrinkles
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant and it can fight the signs of ageing, like lines and wrinkles in the skin. Also, as well as providing protection against the development of fine lines and wrinkles, retinol is used in over the counter anti-ageing creams that are said to smooth out existing ones by increasing the production of collagen.
2. Clear up acne
The very first use of retinol in skin care products was in acne treatments. When you use retinol to treat acne, it works by gently exfoliating the skin and unplugging blocked pores. It also works as an antibacterial agent to kill off the bacteria that cause acne. As it also helps skin to rejuvenate, it will help to fade acne scars, so it is a very effective treatment for very severe cases of acne and is often prescribed by doctors for this use.
3. Shrinks pores
The size of your pores is something that is defined by your genes, but people’s pores often look larger than they would do normally, because the pores are partially blocked by dead skin cells and other debris. Retinol can improve the size and shape of the pores by removing that debris from within the pores and by plumping and firming up the skin.
4. Fade blemishes
Retinol is very good for fading blemishes, like age spots, and for smoothing out the tone of skin. This is due partly to its ability to promote the growth of new skin cells and collagen and partly due to its exfoliating properties, which remove the upper layers of skin cells to reveal the lighter coloured ones underneath.
5. It is absorbed rapidly
Due to its molecular structure, retinol is absorbed very quickly into the skin, where it is broken down into the various compounds that help to promote the growth of collagen and new skin cells. It is also very fast working, so you can usually see the effects of retinol working in just a few weeks.
6. Revives dry and cracked hands
You can also buy hand creams that contain retinol and they are very effective for treating dry, cracked hands. Retinol is found in quite a lot of top-end moisturisers, because of its ability to smooth and soften skin. When used on the hands, retinol also helps to strengthen nails.
7. Reduces crow’s feet around the eyes
The skin around the eyes is very thin and that’s why it is there that you often see the first signs of ageing in the form of the lines that we call crow’s feet. Eye rejuvenation creams that contain retinol are formulated especially to smooth out lines and wrinkles in that sensitive area by replacing some of the lost elasticity in the skin.
8. Treats dry lips
You can also get lip balms that are very effective when used on very dry lips. Over time, the lips can not only get dry, but they can also become thinner, and retinol lip balms and creams can be used to restore lips back to health and plump them up. Moisturising retinol lip treatments will make lips look a lot smoother too.
9. You need to ease into using retinol
If all that seems too good to be true, there are a few cautionary notes to temper all that good news. Firstly, retinol creams and lotions come with different strengths. Only use over the counter strength retinol treatments from reputable brands and only use them as instructed. Retinols can cause irritation to the skin, especially at first, so only use retinol creams very sparingly, to begin with, until your skin gets used to it.
10. Always use retinol as a night treatment
Dermatologists recommend that retinol only be used as a night treatment because it breaks down on sunlight anyways, but more importantly, it also makes your skin more susceptible to damage from the sun. It is also advisable not to use it when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.