Everything you need to know about retinol and all the brilliant things it does to your skin
Updated: Nov 20, 2019
If you're constantly on the hunt for great skin (erm, who isn't?), and have tried every lotion and potion under the sun to no avail, you might - nay, need - to keep reading...
As the craze for actives and breakthrough skincare ingredients shows no sign of slowing, there is one ingredient that has been proven to actually work. Enter retinol, the exfoliating, anti-aging, anti-breakout ingredient that brands are going crazy for. In fact, you can even get a good dose of retinol in your eye cream now. More recently, supermarkets are catching onto the trend, with Asda's in-house beauty brand, Nspa, launching the £10 Expert Nightly Revitalising Retinol Capsules, making it the first supermarket to develop and sell these in the market. And they're so confident about the product that they're offering money back if you don't see results in four weeks.
How do you pick a retinol product?
For starters, in the case of retinol, you kind of do want to judge a book by its cover - or, rather, consider the packaging as integral to the product. Dr. Maryam Zamani explains: "Packaging and formulation is key in determining which form to use. Retinol generally can be sensitive to air and light; however, if encapsulated, retinol is less affected by these factors…"
And that’s where things get even more confusing - all retinols aren’t equal, with brands relying far too heavily on the fact that it is included rather than on the form in which it comes and how effective it’ll be when using. Consider that cosmeceutical retinols (which need to be converted into retinoic acid before the skin can use it and which generally come in concentrations of between 0.1 and 0.5%) use around ten times more retinol content than prescription retinol and you get some idea of how key formulation is.
This lends some credence to naysayers who question the importance of percentages but rather insist on choosing a retinol from a brand who formulates well. "There’s a big focus on how much retinol is in the product you end up buying - but that’s really not the full story," explains Pam Marshall, Clinical Aesthetician at Mortar & Milk, "there’s way more to consider than just the percentage of retinol: molecular weight (which brands don’t have to disclose on packaging) is a massive factor, as is how often you use your chosen retinol."
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