Some would praise Retinol as the be all, end all, magic potion for your skin. I've seen dramatic visible improvements using Retinol products on myself and when recommending them to my clients who are dealing with acne or aging skin. However, Retinol is one of those ingredients that I feel you must educate yourself on before you start using. There is a right and wrong way to use Retinol and certainly not all products with Retinol are created equal.
What is Retinol? Simply put Retinol is derivative of the vitamin A.
How does Retinol work? Retinol amps up the cellular turnover in the skin. Retinol is often mistaken for an exfoliant. (Exfoliants remove skin cells from the surface of the skin) Vitamin A is actually an anti-oxidant and it is a cell-communicating ingredient. It "talks" to skin cells and encourages healthier, younger cells to make their way to the surface.
Why do I need it? Retinol can be an excellent ingredient to utilize for clearing acne, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and even improving acne scars. Unlike exfoliating acids, Vitamin A products don't thin the skin because of that collagen stimulating effect so it can actually help thicken the skin. Is a retinol prescription from a physician better than an over-the-counter (OTC) product from the drugstore or a professional product I can get from a spa or esthetician? Over-the-counter retinol is a Retinoid "ester" which means it converts on the cellular level of skin and can take up to several months to show results, with minimal side effects. Prescription retinol products are retinoid acid which have no conversion process so it's much faster acting but the flip side of that is there are more possible side effects. (dryness, irritation, etc) Is one better than the other? It depends. Like most things in skin care and in life, one size does not fit all. I'm a big fan of retinoid esters, obviously because they are gentler on the skin but also because they are more accessible. OTC retinoids have improved in recent years, there are much higher quality ones available to us.
Are Vitamin A products safe? Vitamin A and Retinol in skincare is everywhere these days. Properly used it will build up the skin's architecture, get rid of undesirable cells and debris and repair sun damage. When improperly used it will collapse and thin the skin, cause an addictive response that leaves the skin weak and vulnerable and in the presence of sunlight it can increase the chances of skin damage and even skin cancer.1 Excessive amounts of vitamin A can interfere with fetal development and lead to birth defects2 so it's best to just avoid topical vitamin A and retinol products while pregnant or breast feeding.
When do I need to start using retinol? In my professional opinion retinol use can begin as early as your late 20's. It really just depends on the person and on the product. Some retinol products have natural vitamin A in them and aren't synthesized in a lab and those types of vitamin A products are good for almost anyone. Always consult your esthetician before using new skincare products.
Since Retinol is a form of Vitamin A, can eating foods containing Vitamin A help my skin? Foods rich in vitamin A reduce inflammation so yes, they can be great for those with acne or those showing signs of sun damage and aging. Food sources of vitamin A include: yellow and orange fruits such as carrots, apricots and sweet potatoes, spinach and other dark green leafy veggies, tomatoes, blueberries, quinoa, turkey, pumpkin seeds, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, salmon and other fatty fish. It's good to know that some foods can worsen acne or eczema due to food sensitivities so keep the that in mind when trying new foods or increasing any food in your diet. Also, never take a vitamin A supplement without strict guidance from your physician or naturopathic doctor, as supplementing vitamin A can lead to toxicity and cause irreparable damage3.
Well, I hope this answered some of your questions about Retinol and vitamin A. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to me. If I don't know the answer I can certainly guide you in the right direction to find it! Also let me know your experience with using Retinol or vitamin A products on your skin. I'd love to hear from you!
Just a few current examples of Retinol items in our boutique:
302 Clarity-Uses Retinol Acetate as an active ingredient and is a much stronger formula than A Drops or A Mist. It's excellent for clearing and rebuilding skin that suffers from acne, scarring or wrinkles. However, I recommend a custom protocol from me if you are going to use this product. It's awesome, but it is not for everyone and overusing it can lead to serious problems.
302 Ceramide Serum- In this formula Vitamin A teams up with Vitamin C, ceramides and peptides for increased cell signaling and improved barrier function.
Blissoma Smooth A+ Correcting Serum- Contains organic carrot and Helio Carrot CO2 which are natural sources of Beta Carotene, the botanical version of Vitamin A.
Blissoma Restore Omega Facial Oil -Organic Reship oil and Seabuckthorn Berry offer Vitamin A to help you fight the appearance of fine lines.
Blissoma Bright Eye Vitalizing Nutrient Serum - Contains Rosehip which is a well known source of natural, safe, non-irritating trans-retinoid acid. Deep orange Sea Buckthorn CO2 extract again provides vitamin A carotenoids.