Retinol is one of the most popular skincare ingredients and its benefits are many. Dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss tells Harper's Bazaar that retinol aids cell turnover and boosts the production of collagen. The result is smoother and more even-looking skin and less wrinkles and fine lines. It's also a major help to those who struggle with acne. However, there's still an ongoing debate about its supposed side effects, especially on sensitive skin. Dermatologists offer some clarity about retinol and finally debunk retinol myths for everyone concerned.
Unlike alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid, retinol does not offer exfoliation benefits. Dermatologist Dr. Dana Sachs tells Allure that retinoids work at a deeper level that affects gene expression and enhances collagen production. The peeling and the redness associated with retinol are signs of irritation and the reason why most people give it up.
This is a popular myth that is not true. Dermatologist Dr. Adam Friedman tells Byrdie this is more of a precaution for those with sensitive skin. Skin is more penetrative when damp and will be more sensitive. Applying it on dry skin will limit penetration and will lessen the possibility of irritation. If you don't have sensitive skin, you can go ahead with your skincare routine as soon as you step out of the shower.
Dr. Jonathan Weiss points out to Allure that since the eye area is where lines and wrinkles are usually most visible, you actually should use retinol on that part of the face. However, since the skin here is thinner, Dr. Friedman does suggests applying it over moisturizer to decrease sensitivity and to always use sun protection.
One of the most persistent retinol myths is you cannot wear retinol products during daytime as it can make you more prone to sunburns. Dr. Sachs says that this is not true. What is true is that retinoids break down when exposed to sunlight and that's why they usually come in dark bottles. Still, they are best worn at night so the ingredient will not be rendered inactive.
While many over-the-counter retinol products guarantee results within a month, professor of Molecular Dermatology Dr. Gary Fisher debunks this myth and adds that in his experience, it takes an average of 12 weeks for results to be truly visible. For you to enjoy the benefits of retinol, he suggests sticking with it for at least that long.
Most people discontinue using retinol when they notice redness and peeling, but dermatologists advise pushing through it as that is part of the process. Based on their patients, Dr. Weiss and Dr. Sachs tell Allure that after two to three weeks, the skin begins to tolerate retinol, and they can always advise switching to a gentler formula if it causes prolonged discomfort. If you decide that you'd rather switch to something else entirely, try retinol alternative bakuchiol.
Related Article: Bakuchiol: The Gentler Alternative to Retinol
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