It may be the gold standard of skin care, but this is one ingredient that’s not always 100-percent understood—specifically when it comes to the way it’s formulated.
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Myth 1: All These Ingredients Starting With R (Retinol, Retinoic Acid, Etc.) Basically Do the Same Thing
Myth 2: It’s going to make you red
The risk of irritated, red skin is probably the number-one reason why people skip retinol, but Dr Kenneth Lee, of SW1 Clinic, a leading clinic in aesthetics and cosmeceutical skincare says it doesn’t have to be so. “Dry, red, flaky and irritated skin can be avoided if you only apply a pea-size amount as a thin film over your entire face, then use another pea for your neck and chest. You can start two or three nights per week and build up to nightly use as your skin becomes more tolerant.” Plus, it’s that “not-all-retinols-are-the-same” factor that greatly affects the irritation level. According to chemists, the retinol derivatives—ones to note are retinaldhyde, retinyl palmitate and hydroxypinacolone retinoate—have functionality while providing sensitive skin types the ability to reap the benefits of retinol. In short, these ‘other forms’ must go through an extended sequence of bioconversion prior to providing the benefits of retinol. This delay of activity allows sensitive skin to become acclimated to the retinoid while minimizing the side effects.”
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Myth 3: The ingredient hasn’t changed all that much.
Dr Low pegs “vehicle innovations”—the substances used to carry an ingredient—as having improvement in recent years, which also helps limit redness. “The newer products are better at getting the retinol where we want it to be.” As Dr Low stresses, “The formulas have absolutely gotten better! The new retinol delivery systems enhance stability, improve penetration and bioavailability. The key is improved efficacy, which means we can use less active and minimize the irritation potential.”
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Myth 4: You shouldn’t wear retinol during the day.
Classically, retinoids are not photostable, meaning they break down and lose their efficacy in the sunlight, but Dr. Lee says that more recent introductions, like Flawless’s Adapalene [a topical retinoid that had previously only been available through a prescription], can be worn during the day—although she does stress that, when in doubt, it is best to apply it at night. “All products in the retinoid family are to varying degrees sensitive to oxidation, which means sunlight can oxidize or break down the molecule, rendering it inactive,” Dr. Lee explains. “For the best effect of the molecule, I still think it should only be used at night.”
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