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Everyone and their mother has heard of retinol. We all know that it is said to be a miracle worker for acne, discoloration, and wrinkles. But with all the choices and conflicting information, purchasing a retinol product can be overwhelming. To help you, we put together this guide so you can know how to use retinol and which specific products are the best for your skin.
Why You Should Use Retinol
As you age, skin renewal begins to slow. Retinol gives this renewal process a boost by increasing cellular turnover. With regular use over time, retinol diminishes the look of fine lines and wrinkles, reduces dark spots and discoloration, and leaves skin visibly more radiant.
The Difference Between Retinols and Retinoids
There’s a huge variety of different vitamin A derivatives out there which can make things credibly confusing. Here’s a breakdown of the most common types.
Retinoids: The name given to the whole family of vitamin A derivatives.
Retinoic acid: A prescription-only retinoid (more commonly known as Retin-A). It’s the most effective anti-aging ingredient available. Bonus: It is great for preventing and treating acne too.
Retinol: An over-the-counter retinoid that’s less potent than retinoic acid.
What About Bakuchiol?
Bakuchiol is found in the seeds and leaves of the Babchi plant, also known as Psoralea Corylifolia, so basically a plant extract.
Bakuchiol has no structural resemblance to retinol, but there was a study showing that it has similar effects on the skin.
Like retinol, bakuchiol works to turn over skin cells, making room for newer, fresher, better-appearing cells to come to the top. It also pushes collagen to the surface for more elastic, youthful-looking skin.
Before you get excited, keep the following in mind:
- That was one study compared to hundreds of studies on the efficacy of retinoids.
- Bakuchiol was not found superior in terms of effects, it was found equal.
- There was less irritation in the Bakuchiol group, but not no irritation.
- The study compared bakuchiol to retinol, which is less effective than retinoic acid.
Which One Should You Use?
If your skin is highly sensitive your best bet is bakuchiol. Plus bakuchiol is always vegan and cruelty-free, which can’t be said of all retinoids.
For skin that isn’t sensitive, you can use bakuchiol, retinol, or retinoic acid.
If you have severe scarring and discoloration or want to aggressively address aging, prescription-strength retinoic acid is going to give you the best results.
Which skin types can use retinoids?
Most people will be able to use a retinoid. Those that are pregnant or nursing should not use retinoids.
For skin that is more sensitive, look for products with smaller concentrations of retinoids.
How should you use them?
Start slow. Apply a pea-sized amount every third night and build up to using it nightly over the course of 6 weeks.
It is also important to use SPF every day but it is especially important when using SPF. That’s because retinoic acid and retinol, cause skin cell turnover, which leaves skin more open to potential sun damage.
What active ingredients should you avoid?
Retinoids are strong so it is best to stick to a simple routine when you use them. Mixing too many powerful ingredients at the same time may lead to irritation.
Avoid using retinol with AHAs, BHAs, benzoyl peroxide, and other drying ingredients.
Don’t worry, you can still use these products, just stagger your application. If your skin can handle it, use AHAs or BHAs during the day and retinoids at night. For skin that is less hardy, you can rotate between retinoids and other ingredients, using retinol one night and then skipping it the next.
What are the side effects?
Typical side effects include dryness, tightness, peeling, and redness. These side effects usually subside after two to four weeks until the skin acclimates.
Best Bakuchiol of the Bunch
For a budget-friendly option, we suggest this bakuchiol moisturizer that also contains squalane.
Along with bakuchiol, this serum contains tremella mushroom and skin-resurfacing PHAs.
This gentle serum plumps up skin with a blend of bakuchiol, squalane, and hyaluronic acid.
If you suffer from acne, this is the retinoid for you. Pick it up at your local drugstore.
If you want a retinol product, but don’t want to break the bank, this night cream from Olay is one of our top picks.
At 4.5% retinol, this stuff means business. Those with sensitive skin will need to skip this one.
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