Retinol – What is it & Why Should You Be Using it?

If there’s one ingredient that can pimp up your skincare routine and tackle all those niggling little issues you have, it’s retinol.  Praised for it’s ability to combat the signs of ageing and stimulate cell turnover, retinol is one of those ingredients that people either rave about, or are terrified of.  Well I’m here to tell you that retinol is nothing to be scared of, in fact quite the contrary, embrace it, use it, love it and reap the benefits!  Sure, there are some guidelines to follow, but as long as you’re using it correctly there’s no reason why retinol can’t be incorporated into your routine effectively.  I LOVE retinol, like most Dermatologists I’m of the opinion that retinol should be a regular part of our regime and after having tried a gazillion retinol products from ‘budget’ to ‘blow the budget’, I’m going to share my favourites with you, and a little more on how and why you should be using them.

Firstly, what is retinol?

Basically, it’s Vitamin A and it’s super effective and scientifically proven to improve the appearance of your skin.  Retinol is a weaker and more readily available version of a prescription only product called Tretinoin.  Tretinoin is strong, hence only being available via prescription.  It can’t be tolerated by everyone because it can be drying and can cause irritation.  Retinol is much weaker, it works in a similar way to Tretinoin but it’s more tolerable.

From dullness to firmness and everything in between, this super ingredient really packs a punch; but it’s best known as an anti-ageing product.  Walk into any branch of Boots and you’ll find the shelves brimming with anti-ageing products, in an off the shelf product, retinol is the only ingredient worth looking for when it comes to turning back the clock. There’s no magic wand, we’re not talking ‘Death Becomes Her’ here but Retinol stimulates cell turnover and collagen production and results can be seen in as little as 4 weeks with the right product.

Who can use retinol?

It’s not suitable for everyone and it won’t agree with everyone’s skin.  The difficult thing with retinol is finding a product with the exact measure that your skin can tolerate and with so many products available, there will be one out there for you.  Advice from the US states that whilst there is no evidence to suggest that retinol is harmful, products containing retinol and retinoids should not be used when pregnant or breastfeeding and this relates to the amount of vitamin A in your system at any one time.  Also, if you’re going on vacation to somewhere sunny, I’d recommend you stop using any retinol product 7 days before you leave to ensure you’re not more susceptible to sunburn.

What are the benefits to using retinol?

Where do I start?  Retinol boosts skin’s natural collagen production, it stimulates cell turnover which evens out discolouration and it works a treat on blocked pores and acne or breakout prone skin.  It’s hailed by many Dermatologists as a wonder ingredient in skincare and more and more retinol products are hitting the shelves every month; it’s a super effective and scientifically proven skincare ingredient – when used correctly.

When should I use retinol?

Retinol is perfect for a night time skincare routine.  If you already use a specific night cream before bed, then consider replacing this with a retinol based cream or serum 2 – 3 times per week or as a sleeping masque once a week.  There are some products that state that they can be used during the day but you need to check the dose, retinol encourages cell turnover and this delicate new skin needs to be protected when exposed to sunlight.  Most retinol products are intended for night time use however there are a few creeping through for day time use too, personally, I only use it at night.

How do I use retinol?

There are LOADS of retinol products readily available.  You can pick up a retinol product on the high street from as little as £10 and prices can go right up to £250 for something from an aesthetic specific company.  It’s a very personal choice, one not so much determined by your budget and more what your skin can tolerate.  I’ve tried lots and lots of different retinol products and narrowed it down to my favourites, the ones I use over and over and can see visible results with, without irritation.

Once you’ve selected your product, start using it once a week on a night on clean skin.  I wash my face with a simple Clinique soap, tone with Murad‘s spray bottle toner, I use Peachy Fox Marine Collagen Eye Gel (literally the best eye gel ever, read my review here) and then use my retinol product right before I go to bed.  Once you’ve gotten used to your product you can think about increasing the frequency to maybe 2-3 times per week, depending on its potency.  contrary to what you might think, retinol is particularly effective around the eyes.

One thing to remember when using any retinol based product is to wear sunscreen during the day.  I use a specific facial SPF40 product from Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour Cream range but any city block with SPF 30+ will do the job.  You’ve spent time and money investing in your skin, now look after it!

How do I select a retinol product?

Again, it’s a choice you’ll make based very much on your particular skin needs and it may take a few tries to find your personal blend but there are a few things you should be looking for when you’re scanning the shelves.  Retinol and other vitamin A derivatives break down rapidly when exposed to the elements.  Skincare products containing retinol should be in an opaque or completely covered tube or tub and should always come with a pump dispenser, they typically have a shelf life of 6 months or less before they lose their efficacy.

Ready to give it a try?  Here are a few of my favourite retinol products, some of them I’ve only just discovered and some of them I’ve been using for a long time.  None of these are top budget products although I have used more expensive retinol products from Exuviance and Skinceuticals which really didn’t work for my skin, they left it feeling irritated and red despite the £200+ price tag.  Most importantly though, nobody has paid me for this review or to choose their product over another, this is an unbiased and personal review based on my own skin, some of the products in there were gifted to me in the first instance and some were purchased.

1. Peachy Fox Aloe Retinol Serum £12.97 Amazon

This is a lovely product to use, it has a lovely fresh and natural ginger scent and you only need one pump for your face.  I concentrate on using it around my eyes and then distribute what’s left around my face.  As with any retinol product, it can break up if you rub it too harshly so pat it gently until it’s soaked in.  In Spring and Summer I use this three times per week although the directions state that it’s suitable for daily use given it’s concentration.  This organic skincare brand is becoming a firm favourite amongst Bloggers and Influencers.

2. Retinol Youth Renewal Serum £65 Murad UK

This serum packs a punch and it comes in two different sizes so this one is great for travelling.  Use it once a week and use it sparingly as a little goes a long way (overloading on  retinol products can cause redness), this has a lovely smoothing consistency and skin looks fresher and visibly renewed the next morning.  It’s light enough that you can use your usual night cream on top once it’s soaked in.

3. The Ordinary Retinol Emulsion £6 Beauty Bay

I’d finished and thrown away the tube by the time I came to writing this post so don’t have a picture but the packaging is clean and simple and so is the product.  At 1% it’s a decent amount of retinol and the tube lasts for ages, this is a great budget buy that packs the same punch as some of its more expensive rivals.  It’s a lovely smooth product and you can see a visible difference after around 8 weeks of use.

4. Image Skincare Ageless Total Overnight Retinol Masque £80

This is a must have when it comes to retinol – it’s one of my favourites for a reason!  It comes with a “press & pump” dispenser so there’s no mess and no fuss, one pump does your whole face and it’s thicker in consistency than the other products as it’s intended as a moisturising masque.  Skin feels more plump and renewed and you can feel the difference when you wash your face the next morning.  This one is safe to use three nights per week but I’d recommend you start with one night per week if you’ve never used retinol before.  You don’t need a night cream on top of this one, you get the anti-ageing properties and a hit of hydration in one awesome product. (read about the Image Skincare O2 Lift Facial here).

5. Peachy Fox Collagen Retinol Moisturiser £12.98 Amazon

Another one from all natural and organic, cult skincare brand Peachy Fox, this moisturiser is deemed suitable for daily use and also for use morning and night due to the more tolerable retinol strength, however my personal preference is to stick to night time use (I know other Influencers who use this product during the day and have never had any irritation or issue).  This one is tricky to get to grips with when you first use it but persevere.  It has a different consistency than most skincare products but once you figure it out it really is a lovely product.  You tap this one all over your face and then very lightly pat it into skin, it needs to be fully dry and absorbed before you put anything else on your face otherwise it can pill and ball, if it does – you haven’t used it properly.  This one delivers an immediate glow after use, you’ll notice a difference in your skin from the first time you use it.

So now you know all about this must have skincare ingredient, go, armed with this knowledge and treat yourself to something that will compliment your existing skin regime and when the compliments start rolling in, pass it on and share the joy!

Pixie xo

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