Girlfriends’ Guide to Retinol

For new skincare enthusiasts, retinol may seem intimidating, however, it’s anything but! When using retinol, you just need to know the steps to properly introduce retinol into your skincare routine. If you already have a skincare routine, this is just adding one or two extra measures.

What can retinol do for you? If you’re unsure of the skincare star that’s taking over social media, this is the guide for you. Before getting into the science behind retinol, a quick summary of the benefits includes smoothing of wrinkles and fine lines, brightens dull skin, helps treat acne, and evens skin pigmentation.

The biggest benefit of retinol is that it slows down the aging process, simple as that. Retinol exfoliates on a cellular level, so it speeds up cell turnover. Until your early 30s, cells turnover every 28 days, creating a fresh layer of untouched skin. However, after the mid-30s, cell regeneration slows down to an average of every 70 days. With slower cell turnover, the skin will tend to look duller, dry, and wrinkles more visible. If retinol is incorporated into your skincare routine before that stage, it can prevent all that from happening and speed up regeneration to the previous 28.day cycle. With this, it reduces wrinkles that were previously visible but also minimizes new wrinkles that may appear. In summary, retinol seeps deep into the skin, speeds up cell turnover, causing the body to produce fresher, smoother and brighter skin. 

In regards to acne, retinol can help with that too! It helps regulate oily skin and keeps pores from clogging, resulting in fewer blackheads, cysts, and pimples. With retinol, you can quickly say goodbye to mask acne. 

After adding retinol to your routine, your skin will become more sensitive to the sun and UV rays. As retinol should only be used at night with a gentle cleanser and night cream, the morning after using it a sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF is a must.

When using retinol, it’s crucial to be cautious when combining it with other serums and acids. For instance, if retinol is used with HA, peels, or harsh acne products, it leads to a higher risk of skin irritation or burning; those products have to be used on alternating days. Sometimes, I ask myself, “Will tonight be a hyaluronic acid night or a retinol night?”

Much like hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C serums also have to be layered with retinol; it’s best to use Vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night with these two products. There may be some dryness on your skin when introducing retinol to your routine, so don’t shy away from moisturizer or even double moisturizing in the morning (and then sunscreen, of course). If you have sensitive skin or are prone to eczema and rosacea, retinol may not be for you or only in the smallest dose.

If you’re just starting out with retinol, start with gentler retinol serum, such as First Aid Beauty’s 0.25% Retinol Serum, or The Ordinary’s 0.2% Retinol. For stronger retinoids — mostly for those familiar with it — The Ordinary has concentrates that range from 0.5%, 1%, 2%, and 5%. 

Remember the following: retinol must be refrigerated, must be used at night, and sunscreen will quickly become your best friend. Although it takes approximately six months to see the best results in regards to fine lines and hyperpigmentation, retinol is a super affordable and highly beneficial skincare addition.

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