So You Want To Start Using Retinol?

So You Want To Start Using Retinol?
*This post contains gifted products

Welcome Skintellectuals!

I thought it would be a good time to put this post together as i tend to get asked a lot about retinol and how to use it. This is a guide for anyone that is curious about retinol and wants to take the first step into trying it out.
Retinol is the most effective and proven form of any of the so called “anti aging” ingredients, i dont really like that term but its well known and easy to use.

Retinol comes in many different forms and these different forms all do the same thing but to a differing extent while some cause a lot of irritation some cause little to no irritation at all.
Retinol known also known as vitamin A is an effective cell-communicating ingredient that basically tells your skin cells to work harder and faster as we get older our skin gets “lazy” and the Retinol gives it a good kick up the ass to work like it did when we were young.

Starting off from the least potent is Retinyl Palmitate, this is often included in products for its smoothing ability. Retinyl Palmitate isnt really the best to use because it has to go through catalytic conversion before it is created into retinoic acid (the form the body can use). Retinyl Palmitate has to undergo catalytic conversion a number of times before it becomes retinoic acid but is depleted every time it converts only allowing a small amount of the original to be used.

Next we have Retinaldehyde which is stronger than Retinyl Palmitate and Retinol and can be found in products like Avene Retinal. This boast all the effects of retinol without the irritating effects that are common with retinol..

So You Want To Start Using Retinol?

And finally for over the counter we have Retinol. You will find retinol in many different products because it is such a fantastic anti aging ingredient. Above is the Paula’s Choice 1% Clinical Retinol and this in my opinion is one of the strongest retinol products on the market while this is not a good starting point for newbies its a great goal to work up to.

Retinol can cause redness, peeling and irritation but this all calms down after you have used it for as while and your skin has acclimated to it. Retinol side effects dont happen to everyone they never happened to be me because i took it slow and started off at the lowest strength and worked my way up with absolutely no peeling.

There is an exception to the rule and that is Trans-retinoic esters like Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate which is a completely new form of retinol. Imagine Retinoic Acid as the Queen and HPR is the Princess of the family. HPR gives you all the benefits of retinol with none of the downsides, there is no irritation and no peeling! HPR is in my opinion the best place to start out with retinol because HPR is directly related to Retinoic Acid so there are absolutely not catalytic conversions so it can bind directly to the retinol receptors , this means that nothing is lost like during conversion with retinol, retinaldehyde and retinyl palmitate.

If you are just starting out and want your first retinol i would suggest either: Sunday Riley Luna, Pestle and Mortar Superstar, The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion.

If you are more experienced with Retinol we can move on to prescription strength. In the US Adapalene is available to buy over the counter under the name Differin but in UK its still a regulated medicine for the treatment of acne. You can only get Adapalene by prescription from your dermatologist but fortunately Dermatica exists! They are a dermatological service that can provide you with prescription strength retinoids. I did a full post on them click here to check it out

Adapalene is a 3rd generation retinoic acid and is known as the most gentle of the prescription strength retinoids dont get me wrong its still very strong and punchy but not as much as Isotretinoin or Tazarotene. I am using 0.1% Adapalene and it works wonders on my skin but its so strong that i cant use glycolic acid as it is just too much for me.

If you have any questions feel free to ask me anything below in the comments or send me a message on instagram: @theskincaresaviour

Have you used Retinol before?
What is your favourite?
Leave a Comment!

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Andrew James

Scottish science nerd obsessed with all things beauty! Creator of The Skincare Saviour, a skincare blog covering everything from reviews, tutorials to busting myths, finding dupes and breaking down trends.

11 Comments
  1. Great post! Excellent information. I’ve used the prescription grade .25% Trentinoin with an evening moisturizer a few days a week for some time. It’s still easy to get on line, and I’m delighted to hear you can get this strength now over the counter. Mostly, I’m frustrated that so many companies overcharge for lower potency Retinol products.

  2. I’m working my way up with the Paula’s Choice range. I had used the Intensive Repair Cream as a moisturiser for a whil and have now begun to use thier 1% Retinol Booster which seems to be working well. I like the idea of the PC Clinical Treatment as it has Vitamin C in it too. May try that next time!!

  3. The Ordinary I am sure was the first one I tried because I had a sampler before it went on sale, but I’ve now got my hands on Paula’s choice which I can’t wait to open!

  4. I’ve been wanting to start using retinol and have heard good things about all those you’ve recommended as ‘entry level’, I almost bought Luna but instead I’ve been using Oskia’s super 16 which contains a natural version (Bakuchiol).

    Lauren xx – bylaurenjane

    1. Yeha id suggest Luna its a great entry level i wouldnt use the Oskia one i dont think a natural retinol is worth it you might as well just use a proper retinol and get the proven results

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