Retinol, or Vitamin A, is a skincare ingredient that dermatologists and skincare specialists have touted as a best-in-class anti-ageing ingredient. But for new users, it can be confusing.
In this guide, we break it down so you know what it does, how to start using it, and what type of retinol is best for beginners.
It’s a derivative of Vitamin A that has enormous benefits for skin including boosting cell turnover which is the magic key to the anti-ageing lock. When shopping for retinol products, you’ll find that the terms retinol and retinoid are often used interchangeably. Retinoid is a general term for the entire family of Vitamin A derivatives that includes both prescription and over-the-counter products.
Vitamin A is naturally produced in the body, but levels deplete as we age, leading to issues like reduced skin elasticity, and increased fine lines and wrinkles.
When you apply over-the-counter retinol products to your skin, it is converted by the skin to retinoic acid. Retinoic acid is the active form that the skin can use. The more steps it takes to get the retinoid converted to retinoic acid, the weaker the result. On the other hand, pure retinoic acid (found in prescription retinol products), will start working straight away, but with the risk of side effects like irritation and sensitisation.
So you can see the conundrum:
We want high-strength retinol benefits but without the risk of irritation.
Which leads us to the best type of OTC retinol for beginners.
Different types of retinoids include retinol, retinoldehyde, retinol esters, adapalene, and hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR), to name a few.
What you want from your product is all the amazing anti-ageing and anti-acne benefits of retinol, without the risk of skin sensitisation and irritation.
Enter HPR (hydroxypinacolone retinoate).
This compound is a game changer for OTC retinol products. It is a cosmetic grade ester of all-trans-retinoic-acid and is completely unique in that it binds directly to retinoid receptors in the skin without needing to be broken down to a more biologically active form. HPR has been demonstrated to be more stable and cause less skin irritation than retinol. It is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and break-out prone skin.
As a beginner, you want a retinol product that is strong to work, mild enough so that it doesn’t cause irritation, and stable enough to retain it’s active properties. HPR is your answer.
Most dermatologists agree that retinol should be introduced into your skincare regimen around the age of 25 or so. Basically, this is when skin starts to lose vital compounds that help it to remain structurally supple.
When introducing a retinol product into your routine for the first time, choose a formulation that is suitable for all skin types. Start by using your product 2-3 times per week and gradually build up to daily use. You will see exceptional results.
Before you start using a retinol-based oil or cream, it’s important to know the following:
Choose the right strength and type. Retinyl palmitate and HPR are fast-acting retinol derivatives that will not cause skin sensitisation.
Overdo it. A pea-size amount of product 2 times per week is enough to get started. Gradually build up to every other night or every night as your skin gets used to the new ingredient.
Wear sunscreen. Retinoids increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight so make sure you wear sunscreen each morning.
Retinoids don’t just help with wrinkles and lines, even though they are the gold-standard for treating these skin concerns.
They also increase collagen production by stimulating your cells to turnover faster. What this means for skin is that it will become plumper, with refined pores and less hyperpigmentation. Which leads to a bright, rejuvenated, youthful complexion.