Ingredient Spotlight on Retinol

Retinol has been considered one of the gold standards in anti-aging skin care for years. This is because it works in a number of ways to fight signs of aging. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant, which means it counteracts the damage done by the oxidative effects of free radicals. It works at the cellular level to change the appearance of damaged and aging skin.

This powerhouse antioxidant became well known as an effective treatment for acne, but scientists soon discovered it has potent anti-aging properties as well. Products such as Retin-A and Accutane were clearly effective on treating severe cases of acne, but scientists also noticed that patients using these products had significant reduction in age spots, dry, rough skin and fine lines and wrinkles.

Scientists then studied vitamin A even further and discovered that it is the only chemical that has been proven to reprogram a dying or damaged skin cell. This means that retinol can not only protect against future damage due to its antioxidant properties, it can also normalize the skin's function and correct existing damage that has already been done!

The way retinol works is that is stimulates the dermis, which is where collagen and elastin are stored. Collagen and elastin work together to create the support structure for the skin and help skin retain its elasticity and a plump, healthy appearance.  Retinol increases the blood flow to the skin, which not only slows down the natural aging process and normal breakdown of collagen and elastin as we age, but it also stimulates the production of new collagen. This leads to smoother, firmer skin.

Retinol also helps to improve the hydration of skin cells while repairing any damage that's occurred to the cell structure.  It also dramatically reduces dark spots or hyperpigmentation, also known as age spots. This evens out skin tone, providing a healthier, more youthful appearance.

Though retinol is an excellent age fighter, it also has some drawbacks. Using retinol or other vitamin A derivatives can cause skin sensitivity and dryness. Therefore, it is recommended to start out using a small amount of the retinol product and use it every other day until your skin has acclimated. If there is no dryness or peeling, the product can be used on a daily basis. If however, there is still skin sensitivity, redness, itching or dryness, it's best to extend out the use of the product until your skin can adjust Ð try using it every third day or so for a while and see if that helps.

If you use retinol-based products, it is strongly suggested that you notify your esthetician prior to scheduling any microdermabrasion treatment, facial waxing or chemical peels. You may need to stop using the retinol product for a while before receiving these types of peeling treatments. If you do not, very serious side effects can occur.  Finally, the last drawback to retinol is that it can be rendered inactive with sunlight; so one should use products that include this ingredient at nighttime.

Though the drawbacks may sound intimidating, studies have shown retinol to be an effective anti-aging ingredient so many companies include moisturizing ingredients in their formulas to counteract any drying effects of retinol. So don't be scared away from trying a product with retinol. Instead, give your skin some time to acclimate and you might be surprised at the results this antioxidant may have on your skin looking fresher and younger!