Retinol benefits and how to use it
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Vitamin A for Skin: Retinol Benefits and How to Use It

Thanks to the solid research behind this ingredient, it is safe to say that using vitamin A is extremely beneficial for skin.

One reason why Retinol, a Vitamin A derivative has become so successful in skincare is because the claims made in beauty products are actually backed by science—a very rare scenario in the skincare industry.

An example of early studies is a 1986 research study by Kligman, AM, Grove GL, Hirose R and Leyden JJ published in an Academic Dermatology journal whose findings indicate that tropical application of retinol cream helps repair photoaged skin, increases dermal clarity, reverses sun damage and slows down the aging process.

 Benefits of retinol in skincare:

  • Retinol can penetrate deeply into skin where it helps boost collagen production and enhances cell turnover leading to reduced appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
  • Vitamin A treats acne by unclogging pores, minimizes pore size, reduces inflammation and increases skin cell exfoliation
  • Retinol helps even out skin tone, repairs sun damage and fades pigmentation and spots caused by sun exposure
  • Retinol helps refine skin texture and give skin a smooth feel with improved tone and clarity

Forms of Vitamin A in Skincare and why it matters:

In skincare, only three forms of Retinoic Acid matter: Retinoids, Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate.

  1. Retinoic acid (Retinoids) is the active form of Vitamin A that has direct biological effect on skin and is very effective for acne treatment and smoothing out wrinkles. However, given its strength and direct action, it can cause extreme irritation, redness and dryness, and can only be obtained with a prescription from a dermatologist.
  2. Retinol is one step below Retinoids and offers the same benefits with fewer side effects, and requires no prescription. When retinol is applied on skin, it transforms into retinoic acid on cellular level and your skin only converts what it needs. Retinol is the best form of Vitamin A for skin in cosmetics and beauty products because it is the strongest. However, is should be protected from oxidation to retain its stability by packaging it properly in opaque and/or airless containers. The trick is to make sure it’s delivered to your skin cells without breaking down first.
  3. Retinyl Palmitate is one step below retinol which makes it less irritating and more stable. Users who get irritation from retinol can use this form of the ingredient because it’s milder.  When applied on skin it is first converted to retinol then to retinoic acid.

Take Away 1: It is important to note that Retinol or retinoids do not deliver visible results quickly, so you must be patient, stick with it, and not give up. Unlike AHAs like glycolic acid, exfoliating peels or BHAs that deliver immediate results, vitamin A works incredibly slowly to create change in the skin. Generally, you will not start seeing improved changes in skin texture and wrinkles until 8-15 weeks (2-4 months) of use. With continued use, you’ll see more and more positive changes.

Take Away 2: At what age should someone start using retinol to prevent the appearance of lines and wrinkles? The recommended age to start using retinol for anti-wrinkle is between 26-30 years. Several factors like skin type might affect your decision to use retinol, but anywhere below 26 might be too young for retinol. Most people under the age of 26 still struggle with breakouts, and although prescription retinoids can help with acne, there are better or more targeted acne treatments. Vitamin A works by increasing cell renewal and turnover which essentially begins to slow down in your early 30s. At the age of 26 and below, your skin metabolism is still active, and using retinol might be too much for your skin and might cause irritation, skin rash, breakouts or disrupt your natural balance. In other words, you’re feeding your skin what it doesn’t need.

Take Away 3: Why you should NOT be using Retinol when pregnant. Pregnancy is a special moment and you really want to take all the precautions when preparing for it and when in it. There are definitely many changes you should make and you’ll have to make compromises—your skincare routine is one area that has to change. You’ll want to talk to your doctor, but most doctors generally advice staying away from vitamin A until after birth because there are potential risks. Although there is no clinical evidence that topical application of retinol or retinoids cause any harm or birth defects, doctors must be extra cautious with expectant mothers and recommend that you avoid retinol.

Don’t panic if you have been using a cream or serum with retinol and are currently pregnant, just take the advice and stop use as a precautionary measure and consult with your doctor. You don’t want to take that risk of using retinol during pregnancy—better safe than sorry.  For acne, use glycolic acid or oleic acid and for anti-aging benefits, even simple sunscreen can really help, and a good anti-aging facial oil to keep your skin hydrated.

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