In the past few years I’ve seen everyone go absolutely crazy over BHA and AHA toners. They seem to work wonders for a lot of people, but no matter how much I tried, they weren’t cutting it for my acne prone skin. That’s where retinol, or retinoids, came in. They added that extra boost that helped to drop kick my skin problems in the pantaloons. They’re kind of a wonder product that does it all, which is why I wanted to run you guys through the basics of what they can be used for, how they work and how they should be used. Come along with me!

What can retinol be used for?
Pore Size
Uneven Skin Texture
Sun Spots
The list goes on…

How does it work?
Retinol is unlike any BHA, AHA or benzoyl peroxide in that it doesn’t kill bacteria or exfoliate the skin. Rather, it functions as a cell communicating ingredient. By attaching itself to a cell’s receptor site, it’s able to alter the way that cell functions, telling it to perform in a healthier manor. Retinol also helps to stimulate collagen production and decrease the amount of collagen breakdown.

Additionally, it can work as a sort of exfoliant. While that sounds like a positive, that’s not necessarily the case. The exfoliation tends to happen in the form of peeling and flakiness and might be an indicator that it’s causing irritation.

How to use it?
Your skin takes time to adapt to Retinol, which means you need to integrate it into your routine slowly to avoid flakiness. As my skin is so sensitive, I mix mine with moistruizer to mitigate the effects. Also, when I first starting using it I could only manage once or twice a week, whereas now I can do about every other night.

It’s important to be extra careful with the rest of your skincare when using retinol. Make sure your cleanser and moisturiser are gentle on your skin. Use of sunscreen becomes even more important, as your skin sensitivity can increase.

Finally, retinol can be paired with other products to get the best results. For example if you have sun damage, it’s a good idea to use AHA’s in combination. Also if you have acne prone skin, you might find that incorporating benzoyl peroxide into your routine works best. It’s a matter of trail and error.

What products to use?
Retinol and retinoids are actually two different things. Retinol tends to be milder and can be used in non-prescription products, whereas retinoids are more powerful and are used in prescription products. I’ve used both Retin-A Micro (a retinoid) and A313 (a retinol). I certainly saw more of an effect with Retin-A, but it was so strong for my skin that it still caused peeling after continued use if I wasn’t careful. A313, on the other hand, I can use regularly and it doesn’t cause any peeling.

If you’re looking to start out with something gentle I would go for a retinol product (A313, Paula’s Choice Retinol Treatment), but if you want dramatic results you might want to head straight to your doctor for a prescription (Retin-A, Tretinoin, Differin [which is supposed to be the best for sensitive skin], Etc.)

Overall Thoughts
I can’t recommend trying retinol enough. It’s made the biggest difference for my skin texture, acne and scaring out of anything I’ve tried. I still have to use it in combination with other products, but I can’t imagine going without it now.