Derived from vitamin A, retinol is an eminently effective active ingredient in the fight against oxidative stress and accelerated aging of the skin. However, it can be irritating and drying, especially for sensitive and atopic skin. Find here its main dangers and undesirable effects, as well as effective ways to avoid them.
How Does Retinol Work in Cosmetic Applications?
Retinol belongs to the family of retinoids, derivatives of vitamin A, such as retinoic acid and retinal. The retinol molecule was isolated for the first time in 1931 by the Swiss chemist Paul KARRER. It was isolated from mackerel liver oil. Fifty years later, the effectiveness of retinoic acid on the signs of aging was demonstrated by the American dermatologist Albert KLIGMAN. Nevertheless, this acid form of retinol is among the substances prohibited in cosmetic products according to the European Regulation because of its irritant potential. Retinol is allowed up to 0.3% in a non-rinsed cosmetic product. Once applied to the skin, it is metabolized into retinal and then into retinoic acid, the active form.
In concrete terms, retinol exfoliates the surface of the epidermis and eliminates dead cells. It also stimulates cell renewal and regulates the activity of melanocytes responsible for hyperpigmentation. It also boosts the production of collagen and elastin.
No wonder it is recommended to even out skin texture and plump up wrinkles!
Dangers and Side Effects of Retinol.
The most common side effect of retinol-based skin care products is irritated skin characterized by the appearance of redness, itching and even slight burns. This is why this active ingredient is not recommended for sensitive and/or atopic skin.
Nevertheless, it is important to specify that retinol requires a time of adaptation. If light bearable redness appears, it does not necessarily require to stop its use but only to space out the applications to one evening in two, even one evening in three.
Some Precautions To Take With Retinol.
First of all, retinoids are photosensitizing molecules: they increase the skin's sensitivity tenfold when exposed to the sun's UV rays. Therefore, it is not recommended to apply a retinol-based skin care product in the morning or during the day. Instead, use it during your evening routine, before bedtime. The next morning, apply a suncream adapted to your phototype.
Then, before applying a retinol skin care product to your face, we recommend that you perform a skin tolerance test. In other words, apply a few drops of the product in question behind the ear, on the wrist or in the crook of the arm and observe what happens. If your skin reacts too much, don't apply the retinol treatment to your face.
Finally, when starting a retinol skin care routine, avoid exfoliating your skin with chemical exfoliants like glycolic or mandelic acid. While tolerated by thicker, more oily skin, the combination of retinol with these ingredients can cause severe irritation to sensitive skin.
Before applying a retinol product to your face, we advise a skin tolerance test. Apply a few drops of product behind your ear, on your wrist, or in the crook of your arm, and observe what happens. If you have a severe reaction, do not apply the retinol product to your face.
When starting a skincare routine with retinol, avoid exfoliating your skin with chemical exfoliants such as glycolic acid or mandelic acid. These are generally tolerated by normal and oilier skin types, but mixing retinol with these ingredients risks a strong reaction for those with sensitive skin.
Mitigate the Side Effects.
First of all, we advise you to give your skin time to adapt to retinol in order to prevent it from reacting too intensely. You can use a retinol treatment every two or three days to start with, then increase the frequency of application, but always in the evening.
It may also be appropriate to combine this active ingredient with a product containing a highly moisturizing ingredient, such as hyaluronic acid, to counteract the drying potential of retinol. For example, for a smoothed and moisturized skin in the morning, you can apply a few drops of our hyaluronic acid plumping serum, followed by a dab of retinol firming cream, during your evening beauty routine.
LIN C. B. & al. A novel anti-ageing mechanism for retinol: induction of dermal elastin synthesis and elastin fibre formation. International Journal of Cosmetic Science (2011).
QUAN T. & al. Molecular basis of retinol anti-ageing properties in naturally aged human skin in vivo. International Journal of Cosmetic Science (2017).
MONTE-ALTO-COSTA A. & al. Topical retinol attenuates stress-induced ageing signs in human skin ex vivo, throughEGFR activation viaEGF, but notERK andAP-1 activation. Experimental Dermatology (2019).