Comprehensive Retinol Skin Care: All You Need to Know
Everyone wants to look younger or age gracefully, and who can blame them, it’s natural to desire that youthful glow, tight luscious skin and plump cheeks that we got used to seeing when we looked in the mirror for the last 30-40 years. But those days seem to be fading further and further away and now when you’re looking in the mirror your wondering ‘when is the next wrinkle coming’…
Retinol. This secret ingredient that’s been circling the market and that everyone swears by but takes months to really start seeing the results you crave. In this reveal all post, we’re doing a deep dive into what Retinol is, how it works with your skin and why you want to carve out a place for it in your skincare regime if you’re anywhere over 30.
What is Retinol?
Retinol, also called Vitamin A is actually only one of the forms of the group of molecules that are naturally found as Vitamin A (a group of nutritional compounds classed as ‘retinoids’) and is necessary for a healthy, youthful life. One way to think of retinol is as the transport truck form of Vitamin A used when it’s moving around the body. Retinol is slowly converted or metabolized by the body into other forms such as retinal and retinoic acid, which are important for growth and development, eyesight, and skin maintenance to name a few. We will be focusing on how retinol turns into the retinoid, retinoic acid, and its relationship to skincare in this post.
According to a 2019 article in the Journal of Advances in Dermatology and Allergology, “Vitamin A and its derivatives, particularly retinol, are among the most effective substances delaying the process of aging.” Retinol is so effective against skin aging because it has the ability to penetrate the layers of the skin and stimulate activity in all four types of skin cells, one of which is keratinocytes. Retinol does this by increasing something in the skin called Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), which causes keratinocytes to rapidly multiply. This is so AMAZING because of all the benefits we get from this, such as:
- Strengthening the epidermis/top layer of the skin
- Reducing moisture loss = more hydrated skin
- Protecting collagen from being destroyed by enzymes in the skin called metalloproteinases (collagen is a protein in the skin keeping it strong and firm, it’s what helps keep your skin tight = bye-bye wrinkles)
- Strengthens the dermis/middle layer of the skin
Retinol or retinoids, “biologically active anti-aging molecules,” also affect the skin in other ways such as:
- Anti-acne effects by causing sebaceous (oil) glands to shed and by blocking their growth = less oily skin and fewer blackheads
- Reducing skin discoloration and pigmentation “by about 60%” when topically applied by helping melanocytes (the cells in the skin responsible for your skin color) to spread themselves more evenly within the skin, reduce the activity of over-stimulated melanocyte cells and decrease the growth and development of new melanocytes
- Stimulates circulation and blood flow development in the dermis/middle layer making it easier for nutrients in the body to reach and nourish the skin
- Improved skin elasticity by getting rid of old elastin fibers (these are what are responsible for your skin’s elasticity) and enhancing the production of new ones
- Counteracting the development of precancerous conditions by inhibiting the activity of improperly functioning cells and affecting gene expression
So when you’re looking for skincare products to help fight the signs of aging or perhaps to improve acne-prone skin, retinol and retinoids are definitely tools you want to include in your skincare toolbox.
Here are some of the results retinol and retinoids can have when included in your skin care regime and these are the ingredients you want to look for on the label, keeping in mind that retinol turns into retinoic acid so if retinol is in the ingredient list then you will get the benefits of both retinol and retinoic acid.
Anti-wrinkles, improvement of skin texture, reduce pore size, restores normal pigmentation (skin color), restores skin moisture, reduces or eliminates fine lines
Treats acne, psoriasis, chronic inflammation of hair follicles and sebaceous (oil) glands
Retinal (as Retinaldehyde) and Retinyl Esters (retinyl acetate and palmitate) – these are milder forms of retinol as these two ingredients have to first metabolize into retinol and then metabolize into retinoic acid to have an effect
Less irritating to the skin and well-tolerated (good for sensitive skin) but also less effective, anti-oxidant, anti-wrinkle, skin stabilizing properties
Retinol is reported to “provide better effects then retinoic acid” even though “retinoic acid is…20 times more powerful than retinol”, this is because retinoic acid does not have all the benefits to the skin that retinol has. So best results would likely be achieved with a product that contains retinol or a product that contains both retinol and already metabolized retinoic acid. It would be worth comparing results if you decide to use a product that only has retinoic acid. For individuals just starting with retinol, concentrations between 0.05-0.3% are a good place to start. Formulations up to 1% are available in many countries over-the-counter but stronger concentrations have to be prescribed by a physician.
When purchasing any products with retinol or retinoids, there are several things you want to pay close attention to. Quality is a really important detail as the quality of the product you are buying can make a whole world of difference not only in your results but also in the health of your skin. Retinol is a tricky ingredient to work with that requires advanced knowledge and expertise because of its molecular instability. It takes a skilled and licensed chemist working with quality lab equipment to formulate this beautiful molecule into a blend that will remain stable from the time its packaged until the time you finish it.
Many companies today add retinol, retinoic acid and other retinoids like retinyl acetate and palmitate to their ingredients list just so that they can market their product as anti-aging but that doesn’t mean that the retinol in their product is actually working. This is something to be aware of if the price of a product seems too good to be true, then it likely is, as high-quality retinol formulas are difficult and costly to manufacture, which is why effective ones can seem expensive.
So how do I choose a quality Retinol Product?
First things first, look at the packaging. Retinol breaks down under direct light even when encapsulated so it’s important that what your buying is in a container or packaging that blocks light, otherwise your retinol will be inactive before it even makes it into your home. Next, how stable is the retinol in its formula? High-quality formulas will have a special delivery system (such as microencapsulation) that prevents oxidation. Some retinol may still be effective if mixed with oils or silicones but the best quality ones will be stabilized in a membrane or capsule that delivers the most product the most effectively. As we mentioned oxidation, we can’t forget about the type of container the product comes in, retinol is oxidized easily so you want a container that is airtight. Products that come in dip tube pump bottles or in dropper bottles run a higher risk becoming ineffective quickly and before you’ve even finished the bottle you’re throwing your money away. Lastly, buy from a brand you trust and read the reviews as you won’t know for weeks or months whether the product is working as that is how long retinol can take to produce effects depending on how well your skin's metabolism is working.
We offer a variety of pharmaceutical-grade retinol products formulated by licensed and experienced chemists in a U.S., FDA certified lab. Check out MUAC’S 0.3% Retinol formula, our 0.5% retinol lotion, or for youthful rejuvenation on full power…our Anti-Aging Power Pack! For those with sensitive skin, our Retinol Night Mask is an ideal “first retinol product!”
Not sure what products are right for you? Check out MUAC’s Free Personalized Skin Assessment to receive your custom recommendations!