Everything you need to know about retinol


When it comes to retinol in skin care, there seems to be some confusion and misconceptions about what it actually is, how it benefits the skin, and the best way to use it to see results. So, to help set the facts straight, we spoke to Emma Hobson, education manager at Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute, about the dos and don’ts of using retinol, and why you should add it to your skin care routine!

But first, what is retinol?

Retinol is a pure form of vitamin A that can help repair photo-aged skin. It helps to accelerate cell renewal and turnover, stimulate collagen, and inhibit MMPs (one of the biochemical reactions within the skin that leads to skin ageing). As a result, retinol can help improve the appearance of the signs of ageing.

Try: Dermalogica Age Smart Overnight Retinol Repair. We love this powerful age management product as it helps to accelerate skin renewal and repair, diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin tone, and improve skin firmness – all while you sleep.

Emma’s top 4 retinol dos and don’ts

DO…be mindful of the retinol lingo

“Be wary of words like retinol ‘blends’ or ‘complexes’; this does not mean the formula has a pure concentration of retinol, but rather it’s comprised of a mixture of other ingredients that make up the total percentage,” explains Emma. “A product that boasts a 1.0 per cent retinol complex may only include 0.25 per cent actual retinol.”

Dermalogica Age Smart Overnight Retinol Repair contains 0.5 per cent pure retinol to help accelerate the results. However it is actually a customizable form of retinol as it comes with a moisturising Buffer Cream, which can be mixed with the retinol to help your skin gradually adjust to the active ingredient. Aside from retinol, this product also contains powerful peptides and vitamin C to help fight uneven skin tone and discoloration, as well as a clinically proven bioenergized copper amino acid complex, which helps to visibly reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve skin firmness.

DON’T…think using retinol will result in sunburn

“Retinol doesn’t equal automatic sunburn,” says Emma. “While retinol turns over the skin quickly – and thins the stratum corneum – the retinol molecule itself is not a photosensitizer. Retinol shouldn’t make skin any more vulnerable to UV rays than it would be after exfoliation.”

Having said this, Emma still recommends applying a sunscreen during the day to help protect your skin from the sun’s rays. “Regardless, use a physical sunscreen during the day, such as Dermalogica Super Sensitive Shield SPF 30 to protect against photodamage.”

DO…apply in the evening

Using retinol overnight is the most effective time for use as it gives the retinol the opportunity to penetrate the skin without being affected by other products or the elements. “Nighttime usage helps ensure retinol’s stability, keeping it from competing with environmental factors (sunlight and air) or interacting with cosmetics on the skin. Additionally, retinol aids in cellular regeneration, the rate of which nearly doubles at nighttime!”

For the best results, mix one part of Dermalogica Age Smart Overnight Retinol Repair with up to three parts Buffer Cream (which is included when you purchase the Retinol Repair) and smooth it over cleansed skin at night, when cell renewal is at its prime. Over time, you can begin using Dermalogica Age Smart Overnight Retinol Repair on it’s own or mixed with your prescribed Dermalogica moisturiser*.

DON’T…be afraid to use it all year round – even in summer

“Summer can be a great time to start a retinol regimen. In fact, the moisture and humidity in summer air can help keep skin more comfortably hydrated as it adjusts to the ingredient. But, once again, always remember to use your Dermalogica sunscreen!”

*Dermalogica recommends that this product be only used at night and that you should consult your Dermalogica skin care professional before using it in conjunction with any other products.

Are you noticing the signs of ageing on your skin? Would you ever try a product with retinol?

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