Retinol & How to Unlock Its Anti Aging Magic

By Rose Griesgraber

You may believe that you’re too young to start thinking about anti aging, but the work starts now. The rate at which your skin cells turn over begins to decrease at age 25 - which means it’s never too early to start preventing wrinkles! If you’re under 25: get a head start. If you’re over 25: get crackin.


For many, including dermatologists, the secret to anti aging is retinol. ‘Retinol’ is the name commonly tossed around, but it belongs to a larger class of ‘retinoids;’ these are any products that contain Vitamin A in its pure form. Retinoids are over the counter skin care products as opposed to prescription products like Retin-A. Retin-A is more potent because its active ingredient is retinoic acid, not pure Vitamin A, which must first be converted by the body into retinoic acid to trigger its anti aging effects. Retinoic acid actually causes the skin cycle to proceed and produce new cells, as well as boosts collagen production and improve hyperpigmentation.


Retinol is not only the key to preventing wrinkles and keeping the skin cycle moving, it can actually reverse them. According to this Harvard Medical School article, wrinkle reduction can be seen after three to six months of retinol usage, with the benefits increasing the longer you use it. 


Besides anti aging, retinoids have also been shown to help reduce acne. Retinoids unclog pores and stop further blockage by preventing dead skin cells from building up. Kickstarting the turnover of skin cells can also help to fade acne scars and reduce redness. 


I would also recommend staying away from other overly exfoliating products while using retinol. When starting it, your skin can be irritated and dry as it adjusts to the new product, so adding other potentially irritating products into the mix is a big no no. Beginning with a lower concentration of retinol and working your way up may be the way to go in order to avoid sudden irritation if your skin is not used to the degree of stress that the cell production may incur. When starting retinol, I found that my salicylic acid treatment, which had never irritated my skin before, was too harsh. In combination with retinol the chemical exfoliator made my skin red and irritated, and I had to replace it with a gentler cleanser. 


As with any agitating product, it is extremely important to protect your skin from the sun while using retinol. Retinoids make your skin soft, but they also make it sensitive. So wearing sunblock and avoiding unnecessary sun exposure is key.


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