The year 2019 was major for retinoids and, based on ever-improving product formulations and a slew of brands debuting their own versions, we predict that 2020 will be even bigger. Today we’re giving you a brief overview of what retinoids are, how they work, and what to look for to make sure your money is well spent. We’re also showcasing some newer retinol launches because if you haven’t yet incorporated this product into your regimen, the time is now.
What Retinoids Do For Your Skin
It’s worth noting that retinoids are one of the most recommended ingredients by dermatologists because of all the scientific proof backing up claims.
“Retinoids are helpful with the treatment of acne and anti-aging. They work to benefit the skin by increasing cellular turnover, reducing and controlling oil production, and renewing the skin. This makes the ingredient the all-in-one for anyone seeking to better their skin and stall signs of aging or even help to reverse signs of aging,” says Iliana Raum, esthetician, makeup artist, and founder of La Dama Skincare.
The Different Categories of Retinoids
There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to retinoids. All you really need to know is that the word “retinoids” is a blanket term for a family of products derived from vitamin A, and that both retinol and retinoic acid fall under the umbrella of retinoids. Retinol is what you see at Sephora, Ulta and wherever else you shop for skincare goodies. Retinoic acid is obtained via a prescription from the dermatologist. Both work very similarly, but retinol is technically less aggressive.
Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist, says, “Because over the counter retinols are less potent compared to [prescription options], it will take longer to see results. However, the potential for irritation is also lower.”
Considering all the above, over the counter retinols are ideal for those who are new to retinoids or prefer mild formulations. Prescription retinoids are suitable for those with severe acne, and those who are in their 30s and older who are ready to level-up on potency.
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How to Make Sure You’re Buying a High-Quality Retinoid
As is the case with any sort of skincare or cosmetic product, not all are created equally. Formulation matters if you want to reap the retinol rewards, so follow this pro advice.
Note Whether It’s True Retinol: “If you are looking for a retinol, make sure that the active ingredient is retinol and not a similar-sounding derivative,” says Dr. King. Retinol derivatives and esters are totally fine – and even ideal if you’re first dabbling into retinoids – but they’re technically not the same thing as an actual retinol and are much milder. Common derivatives include retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, retinyl palmitate, and retinyl proprionate.
Check Where it Falls in the Ingredient Lineup: “You also want to make sure that retinol is listed high in the list of ingredients, but keep in mind that retinol content of 0.1% or less is fairly standard,” says Dr. King.
Formulation Matters: For example, Raum says “If you have dry sensitive skin, a cream version is recommended since the creamy feel will help prevent the skin from losing moisture. On the contrary, for oiler skin types and acneic skin types, a gel version is recommended since gels penetrate the skin faster,” plus, gels tend to be non-comedogenic.
Read the Reviews: This might be a no-brainer, but when it comes to a potent ingredient like retinol it’s particularly important to read others’ experiences. You want to seek a product that’s gentle but effective.
When in Doubt, Consult a Pro: If you’re feeling confused, hit up your dermatologist or an esthetician for some advice and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Quick Pro Tips for Your New Retinol Journey
If you’re new to retinol, the key is to start small and to be consistent in your application. It’s not uncommon to experience some light peeling or acne purging, but this will subside after about 30 to 60 days and it’ll all be worth it. Don’t shy away from the product if you notice these side effects because it means the product is working.
Begin with a low percentage and then work your way up in strength. At first, apply a pea-sized amount every three days, then slowly work up to every other day, then once per day. Retinoids should be applied in the evenings immediately after your toner and followed by your preferred moisturizing product. They shouldn’t be combined with other active ingredients, including vitamin C, enzymes, physical exfoliants, AHAs, and BHAs (unless the product itself has been carefully formulated to include both). Per usual, don’t forget to wear your SPF in the morning.
It takes roughly three months to start noticing results in your skin, so stick to your routine!
New & Noteworthy Retinols to Try
As you embark on your retinol journey, we recommend starting with one of the following options.
New to the market as of December 2019, Murad’s Retinol Youth Renewal Cream has quickly developed an avid following. It utilizes three different retinol delivery technologies that allow the product to be super potent without increasing some of the undesirable side effects (like redness, sensitivity, and peeling). It’s so gentle that you can even use it on your eyelids!
Obagi Clinical was introduced to Sephora shelves last year and their Retinol .5 Retexturing Cream rose to the top as a star in the lineup. The formula boasts an entrapped retinol that gradually releases over time to prevent irritation. It also contains chamomile and green tea, which work double time to keep skin calm.
Conveniently available at Target – and at a price point that won’t make you spit out your latte – Versed’s brand new Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum is the skincare hero we all deserve. The ingredient list not only features retinol, but also bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative that’s been scientifically proven to work.
If you’re seeking a treatment that targets specific wrinkles, this product is bomb. Each patch features very tiny microneedles that allow your skin to more efficiently soak up the ingredients, including retinol. It also contains brightening vitamin C and skin bolstering peptides.
Want to know more about retinol? Find out even more about retinol here and check out some more retinol product recommendations. If you have any questions about retinoids, hit us up in the comment section. We’d also love to hear about any of the hits or misses you’ve tried!