Here are the four things to look out for when choosing a retinol product that you can be confident it works:
- It is a stable form of retinol—retinol is a challenging ingredient to work with when formulating skincare products due its instability. Yes, we like handmade, but a retinol product made in the kitchen by a beauty enthusiast will not cut it. An experienced formulator and cosmetic scientist who knows what they’re doing will create an effective retinol product that works. Pick a brand that you trust.
- It is packaged in an opaque container—retinol should not be exposed to light because is it so delicate and deactivates quickly. For instance, a retinol serum packaged in a clear bottle without a box is likely to be less effective, and serums sold from a shelf with heat exposure for weeks or months might also have degraded. Look for serums in frosted, amber or dark glass bottles.
- Airless container—air, along with heat and light is also a big enemy for a sensitive product like retinol. A retinol cream in an airless container would be more effective than one in an open jar that you use your finger to scoop. Airless jars keep the product potent all through and the formula will not lose its effectiveness until the very last blob.
How can I tell if the retinol formula that am using actually works on my skin?
The truth is that it is hard to really know if retinol works because the results may not become visible until at least 2months of consistent use. With prescription retinoids, highly concentrated cosmetic grade retinol, or if your skin starts to convert retinol at a faster rate, there might be visible dryness and irritation just 2-3 days after initial use. This is one away to know that it’s working, but it might not happen to most retinol users. When you fail to see any changes, and no negative reaction occurs, some people might give up. But you have to understand how retinol works and stick with it because results are not immediate and you’ll have to deal with deferred gratification.
What’s the color of retinol cream?
Generally, unless the formulator uses color altering ingredients e.g. titanium dioxide to turn the product pure white, or if the delivery system used by the manufacturer gives the product a different color shade, retinol cream appears close to a light shade of yellow. Some retinol formulations may not have this natural yellow tone, but it does not mean they should be ruled out as ineffective or unstable, just test to see if the product works for you.
Why do some people say they can ‘see’ or ‘feel’ their retinol products work while I don’t experience any of that?
Your skin type and how is responds to retinoic acid, along with how you pair your products, are some factors that can affect how soon you see results or if at all you’ll get to ‘feel’ the product working. Even if you do not see any dramatic reaction or action, so long as you’re using a high quality retinol product, you’ll see results if you’re patient enough.
People who get regular chemical peels, micro-needling or lasers will feel the effect of retinol more. Users of facial scrubs (physical exfoliant) or AHAs (chemical exfoliant) might experience more dryness and irritation. Having genetically ‘thin’ skin, dry climates with low humidity, dry skin types prone to rosacea, high nerve sensitivity, or simply washing your skin with a sulfate-based cleanser or a high pH soap, or applying an alcohol-based overly drying toner are some factors that will increase skin sensitivity and make skin more irritated when using retinol. So you’ll ‘feel’ the retinol more.
What other Products can I Pair with my Retinol Products
Retinol products are used at night to repair skin, enhance cell renewal and prevent premature wrinkles and lines. It is important to get a high quality antioxidant serum and cream, along with sunscreen that you can use during the day to protect skin from damage that you’ve worked so hard to repair.
Products with Vitamin C and other antioxidants like Rosehip, Green Tea, Vitamin E, etc are ideal for protecting skin from collagen breakdown which is caused by external stressors like the sun. Vitamin C also helps fade discoloration, dullness and spots.
Chemical exfoliators like glycolic acid are also very beneficial when paired with retinol. Technically, retinol helps exfoliate skin but not on the surface—the work is done behind the scenes to repair cells from the inside out. An AHA acid serum enhances retinol products by exfoliating dead skin on the surface. Just make sure you do not use Retinol and AHAs on the same night if your skin is not used to any of the two or a combination of both.
When used correctly, a good retinol product can change your skin as desired. With continued use of a high quality formula, retinol will:
- Improve the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and soften creases
- Even skin tone and lessen brown spots
- Refine skin texture and make skin smoother
- Make large pores appear smaller
- Make the skin appear younger by revealing new healthier cells
The aging clock of your skin is ticking and you need to take charge before it’s too late. Do your research and choose an ideal retinol product that you believe in and commit to using it consistently.