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Ingredient Spotlight: Retinol (Vitamin A)
You've seen retinol in skincare serums, lotions and creams in the pharmacy and in high-end stores. Let's go into this superstar ingredient and find out why Vitamin A is the darling of the anti-ageing skincare world.
Vitamin A is a serious multi-tasking star. From acne to wrinkles, Vitamin A manages to smooth away blemishes and fine lines, while boosting collagen production and elastin in the skin. Vitamin A, often in the form of retinol in skincare products, remains the most studied and most proven skincare ingredient for anti-ageing. It works by promoting cell turnover, which decreases collagen breakdown and encourages skin regeneration. Not all Vitamin A products are the same. Vitamin A in skincare products comes in three particular forms: retinoids, retinol and retinal.
Retinoids, Retinol... Retin-A? What's the difference?
Here's where it gets a bit tricky. Retinoids are a class of synthetic and naturally-occurring Vitamin A compounds and derivatives, including retinol, retinal and Retin-A (the brand name for tretinoin). Retin-A (tretinoin or retinolic acid) is a prescription-only topical cream or gel in Australia. It was first used in the 1960s by dermatologists to treat acne, and can be obtained from your GP or dermatologist for anti-ageing purposes. Tretinoin is a strong topical active, causing excessive dryness and peeling within the first month of use. Tretinoin is only available in strengths up t0 0.1%. Retinol is a much more gentle form of Vitamin A. Retinol converts to tretinoin in the skin, but this conversion process takes time, which means that it is ultimately less irritating in skincare products than tretinoin. Users of retinol skincare products may experience mild peeling, but this can easily be addressed by lowering the amount and frequency of retinol application. Look for encapsulated retinol in skincare ingredients lists, as the encapsulation increases freshness and potency, giving you better results.
How to introduce retinol in skincare routines
The very first rule of using Vitamin A products for the first time is to start very slowly. Mild irritation is not unusual when starting Vitamin A skincare. If your skin feels too uncomfortable, however, it is worth tapering down the frequency and amount of product you're applying. Start with a low percentage to get your skin used to the stimulation provided by retinol. Use an encapsulated retinol product like Think A twice a week for 2 weeks, and then build up to every second night for 2 weeks, and then every night. Keep an eye on your skin reactions and slow down if necessary. In this case, less certainly is more! Once your skin has become accustomed to a low percentage of retinol every day, you can increase the percentage for better results. Keep in mind that low percentages applied daily is much better than applying a high-strength retinol once in a while. Effective anti-ageing is the result of cumulative applications of antioxidants like Vitamin C and Vitamin A, as a steady diet of nutrients helps skin rebuild itself consistently. Make sure that you use a sunscreen when you use a Vitamin A product. Vitamin A increases skin sensitivity to the sun, which makes you more prone to developing wrinkles, fine lines and hyperpigmentation from sun exposure.