Ahhh retinol. The stuff of dreams. The saviour of many. The wonder skincare ingredient that can give you a new lease of life. It’s true that this stuff can work and that dermatologists adore it, but are you aware of how it works? Or how you are supposed to use it for the best results? And what the difference is between retinol and retinoids?
If you’re unsure or you don’t know, that’s fine. You’re in good hands because we’re about to break down everything you need to know about retinol. So, next time you and your pals are getting deep about skincare, you can hit them with some knowledge bombs about retinol.
What is retinol?
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A which is actually two vitamins, not one (there’s your first knowledge bomb). The vitamin A family consists of two compounds, retinoids, and carotenoids. Retinol is part of the retinoid’s family.
Unlike most other vitamins that are water-soluble, which means they break down in water, retinol is fat-soluble and is therefore stored in the body’s fat cells. It plays a role in promoting good night vision and helps the body to grow and differentiate cells. Without it, we might end up as one homogenous blob of cells, but with it, our bodies know when to produce cells for a heart, a liver, a lung, or a fingernail.
And of course – it’s an anti-ageing skincare ingredient that also plays a role in treating various skin conditions when applied topically. But more on that soon!
What’s the difference between retinol and retinoids?
You might have noticed the terms retinol and retinoids being used interchangeably and there’s no doubt you will experience it again. It is a little bemusing but here’s how you can tell the difference.
Think of retinoids as a group of vitamin A compounds and retinol as part of that group. It’s made up of several other compounds that can be broken down into three categories.
1. Natural retinoids – Retinol, retinal, tretinoin and isotretinoin.
2. Synthetic retinoids (used as oral medications) – etretinate and acitretin.
3. Synthetic retinoids (used as topical treatments) – arotinoid, adapalene, and tazarotene.
So, retinol is a retinoid, but retinoids are not retinol, get it?
What does retinol do for your skin?
Vitamin A is vital for our body to function properly, and we even have special retinoid receptors in our skin which is part of the reason why retinoids can have such a profound impact. Dr Cynthia Bailey goes as far as to say that “Vitamin A and its derivatives are among the most effective substances at slowing the ageing process”.
But how does retinol have an anti-ageing effect on your skin? Well, it has a double-pronged influence on the collagen in your skin. Firstly, it is said to stop the breakdown of collagen that occurs after exposure to UV-A and UV-B rays. The second thing it does, is it encourages our skin cells to regenerate and to produce more collagen.
As we get older, skin cell regeneration and collagen production naturally decline. So, retinol has the power to slow down the ageing of our skin by boosting cell regeneration and collagen production.
Increased collagen and fresh skin cells have the following effects on your skin:
· It may reduce or possibly delay the onset of wrinkles by strengthening and hydrating the skin. This hydration improves the elasticity, keeping you wrinkle-free for longer.
· Think of cell regeneration as exfoliation on a cellular level which may brighten dull skin and create a smoother complexion.
· The influx of new cells over time is said to help fade hyperpigmentation, acne scars, and sunspots.
How to apply retinol
The trick with retinol products is to start slowly. If you’ve never used a retinol product before, it is advised to start with a low concentration retinol product and apply it twice a week. As each week goes by, add another day of retinol until you reach the point where you are applying it every day.
Finally, evenings are the best time to apply retinol because it can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. First, cleanse your face as you normally would and then apply a small pea-sized amount of retinol evenly across your face.
Final thoughts on retinol and retinoids
So, there you have it. Hopefully, now you know a lot more about what retinoids can do for your skin and how to safely add it into your skincare routine!