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Retinol: My Skin Savior

18 Dec 2017
by S. Safa

Today I’m going to discuss the one miracle product that has recovered my problematic skin. I’ve mentioned it a couple times in other blogposts, but I have extremely oily skin. Anyone blessed with oily skin knows what kind of torture it is being soaked in oil before 12 pm, the constant breakouts, huge pores, and blackheads. Above that, I also have an olive skin tone, which means that my skin scars very very easily. Every time I used to get a pimple, it would leave a brown spot (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) for up to a year! The pimples would disappear, but the brown spots and textured skin would just stay forever and ruin the way my skin looked. That’s when I started using retinol. Today, after about a year of using retinol, my skin has no issues (other than still producing mass amounts of oil -.-), I have no spots, no blemishes, and my skin feels smooth and has no rough texture anymore. I am so so so happy about the results and wanted to write a post telling you all about retinol. I certainly would have appreciated it if someone had told me about retinol before, so I hope that this post will be of help to at least some of you dealing with the same issues.

What is Retinol?

retinol is a group of vitamin A derivatives that unclog pores, boost collagen to reduce fine lines, and accelerate cell turnover to even out discoloration and smooth skin. retinol have been used to treat acne and reduce wrinkles for over 40 years. For now, there are 3 retinol available on prescription, including Tretinoin, Tazarotene, and Adapalene. All three show amazing results, but Tazarotene seems to be the strongest (and most irritating), and Adapalene is the gentlest (but may be less effective). I personally used Tretinoin, but more about that later.
There is one over-the-counter available retinoid known as Retinol. Retinol is commonly used in high quality skin care products in concentrations typically ranging between 0.05-1%. Unlike prescription retinol, Retinol itself is inactive. When applied on the skin, Retinol first needs to be converted by skin enzymes to its active form retinoic acid. The conversion of Retinol into retinoic acid can take several weeks, which is why Retinol is about a 100x less effective than prescription retinol. It can take up to 3-6 months of daily use for Retinol based products to make a noticeable difference, while it takes retinol only several weeks.

How do retinol work?

  • So how exactly do retinol work against so many skin concerns? There are several ways in which retinol improve problematic skin:
  • retinol make the skin turn over cells more rapidly. Old cells are removed to boost new cell growth. This leads to smoother skin texture, it improves the appearance of discoloration by sloughing off brown spots, and it makes pores appear smaller.
  • retinol have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects and reduce acne by preventing dead skin cells to clog pores.

How to use retinol + precautions

A few notes to keep in mind if you’ve decided to incorporate retinol into your skincare routine:

  • retinol are light-sensitive. Sunlight can render retinol inactive, so preferably use retinol at night.
  • Your skin needs to adjust to retinol. If you start using retinol daily at once, undoubtedly you’re going to get a lot of irritation. Start using retinol in small concentrations 2-3 times a week and slowly work your way up to using it every day.
  • retinol make the skin more sensitive to sunlight because they remove the top layer of skin. Make sure you’re using SPF when you’re going out in the sun.
  • Be aware of the side effects. retinol can be very drying and irritating. retinol commonly cause moderate peeling, redness, itching, and irritation that may last up to several weeks before your skin becomes accustomed to the retinoid. 

I wanted to end this post by sharing my personal experience with retinol. I got prescribed Tretinoin (0.05%) for my acne and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. I have sensitive skin, so you can imagine what my skin looked like for the first few weeks of using Tretinoin. My skin got super red and irritated, which wasn’t that bad because it was coverable with a little concealer. The worst part was the flaking! My skin shed like crazy! If you’re going to start using prescription retinol, I recommend stocking up on (physical) exfoliants and rich, creamy moisturizers. After about a month the flaking stopped and I only suffered from dry and reddened skin where I applied the Tretinoin, nothing a moisturizer and a little concealer can’t fix. I stopped using the Tretinoin after about a year of using it because I felt like my skin didn’t need it anymore. I don’t have any textured skin, no pimples, and all of my brown spots have faded. I do still keep a tube of Tretinoin just in case I get a pimple and want to prevent it from turning into a scar.

I hope this post has been helpful and I’ll see you next week!

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