Why retinol is the most misunderstood anti-aging product

Why retinol is the most misunderstood anti-aging product

If you're diving into the world of skincare, you've probably heard of retinol. It might seem like an expert level tool in a skincare guru's beauty closet. Still, this hero ingredient is loved by many for its regenerative properties and its more profound anti-aging effects compared to acids. 

However, a lot of people are scared to use it in fear of waking up red and blotchy. From fighting acne and blurring wrinkles and fine lines, to minimizing hyperpigmentation and dullness; why do we have such a complicated relationship with such an incredible active? 

Many of us steer clear of retinol due to fears of irritation; some don't see results and get frustrated with poorly formulated products. Just like with most things, consistency is vital, nonetheless, the "retinol uglies," also known as the red, dry skin resulting from irritation, play a role in retinol's approachability. 

Taking this skincare love affair with retinol from complicated to committed comes down to the label, formulation and packaging. We often get fixated on the percentage listed on the bottle and marketers tend to use that to their advantage, proudly boasting their products' 2% retinol formula. It's important to know that different kinds of retinol products are made with different molecule sizes for this vitamin A; retinol with larger molecular sizes tends to be more stable. In these cases, you will have a higher percentage listed loud and proud. 

Instead of getting stuck on numbers, read what's on the ingredient list. Also, find out how the retinol is stored and absorbed for better chances at efficacy and safety. You want your retinol to absorb deep into the skin, and widely used retinol like "retinyl palmitate" is very stable. Still, its large molecules make it harder to absorb deep into the skin to achieve the anti-aging effects you'd expect. 

Another important tip is to look out for changes in color in your retinol cream. You often find prescription grade retinol in light-resistant tubes, so keep an eye on the color as you expose the product to air and light. 

Lastly are the dreaded reactions to retinol and that all vary from person to person, but understand that irritation is only a side effect, not a right of passage to clear skin. As someone who advocates for clean beauty and has sensitive skin, I cringe when someone mentions that you have to be uncomfortable before you start seeing results. My tip, if you're worried about getting red, ease into retinol by using it 2-3 times a week as part of your nighttime routine. 

Avoid using potent acids with your retinol (keep the vitamin C serum in the a.m.) and look for formulas that include hydrating and nourishing ingredients. The MARA Algae Retinol Oil, part of Sana's anti-aging routine, is an excellent example of phytonutrient, brown seaweed, and evening primrose, helping to plump up the skin's appearance and lock in moisture, juxtaposing the retinol's more drying effects.

What are your thoughts on retinol? Have you tried it?

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