Vitamin A and/or retinol ranks up there in our Holy Trinity of Glowtocol routine must-haves. That's because these products can do so much for so many skin concerns and conditions. Vitamin A or retinol (which is derived from vitamin A) works to rejuvenate the skin by increasing cellular turnover. This helps keep the skin youthful as our natural turnover slows with age. It also helps with issues such as acne or discoloration by encouraging the skin to shed unhealthy cells and generate new healthy ones.
Despite all the benefits, retinol products can be intimidating for some and have a reputation for being aggressive products. However, that doesn't have to be the case. These days, there are many options on the market which vary in strength and formulation. It's more a matter of finding the right product for your skin and knowing how to use it properly. Here are a few things you should know, to help you do just that.
P.S. Also be sure to check out this Skincare 101 page for even more Vitamin A and Retinol recap.
TIPS FOR CHOOSING & USING RETINOL PRODUCTS
The first important thing to know, is whether or not you want a retinol or a retinol alternative like Vitamin A. As a general rule, if you are pregnant, nursing, have sensitive skin, are in your early 20s or are just starting to use these products, you want a Vitamin A or retinol alternative. These products are typically naturally-derived and much gentler for the skin. I recommend starting with one of these first and then moving on to a retinol once you feel your skin can tolerate it.
Additionally, Not all retinols are created equal. The percentage of active ingredient in a product will determine how strong it is. Around .05 to 1% is a good percentage to look for, for skin health, maintenance and preventing signs of aging.
Ease your way In & adjust as needed
As we've already discussed, the strength of Vitamin A and Retinol products determines what kind of experience your skin will have. At one time, retinols were known to aggressively exfoliate and necessitate a "break in" period. Signs of over-exfoliation include flaking, peeling, thin skin and redness. However, this can easily be avoided by choosing a low percentage and starting slow.
When you first start to use your vitamin A or retinol, you can start with as little as once per week and then work up. As long as you see no signs of irritation, you can continue to increase usage and apply nightly. We are also big proponents of skipping your serum for a day or two, in the event that you start to notice any signs of irritation.
Be Mindful with Exfoliation
Although vitamin A and its derivatives are considered exfoliating, they are technically doing more to encourage cell turnover and the shedding of dead cells. Coupled with other gentle exfoliation once or twice per week, retinol products can really help keep the skin on track as we age.
That said, there is also such thing as too much of a good thing with vitamin A and retinol. Overuse can thin the skin, making it more sensitive to exfoliation. Be careful not to combine your retinol with too many other treatments that are exfoliating such as scrubs or alpha-hydroxy acid peels. If you receive professional treatments like dermaplaning, chemical peels or even facial waxing, you will want to skip your retinol product for about a week prior and wait to resume until a few days after.
Protect your skin from the sun
In addition to being mindful of exfoliation, you should know that using a vitamin A or retinol product increases the skin's sun sensitivity. Therefore, we always want to apply these products only at night, and protect our skin during the day with proper sun protection.
UV protection is important to skin care always, but especially when using products that increase sun sensitivity. Look for an SPF of 30 or higher and always reapply every two hours if you are out in the sun.
GLOWTOCOL VITAMIN A & RETINOL FAVES
Vitamin A and Retinol Alternatives
Image by @karihenrichsenmedia courtesy of Sorella Apothecary