Retinol is one of the most well-known ingredients in anti-ageing skincare, and for good reason.
This ingredient really can work wonders. Its efficacy is backed up by numerous studies and independent clinical trials.
However, if you’re considering investing in a Retinol serum, we recommend taking some time to get to know this ingredient first.
Achieving a great result depends on more than just picking the right ingredient. It also depends on whether that ingredient is stabilised and packaged correctly, what it’s used in conjunction with, and how it’s incorporated into a daily regimen.
To take away the guesswork, we’ve put together the following guide on Retinol so you can use this amazing hero ingredient with confidence.
What is Retinol?
Retinol is a form of Vitamin A used in skincare for its amazing ability to improve red, dry, and ageing skin by stimulating skin cell turnover and providing mild exfoliation. It is one of a broad group of Vitamin A compounds known as Retinoids.
Retinoids as a group are the most proven and effective topical products for the prevention and treatment of the signs of ageing, with modern Retinol delivery systems being the most well-tolerated options that don’t require a prescription.
Why is topical Retinol considered 'anti-ageing'?
The outer layer of the skin, called the epidermis, undergoes a cycle of renewal and turns over every 28 days on average. In children and teens, the rate of renewal is much faster, around 14-21 days.
Conversely, older people have slower skin cycles, with those aged in their forties and fifties seeing rates of around 45-60 days. Beyond this point, the cycle slows even further.
Vitamin A increases the rate of mitosis (cell regeneration), hence the epidermis layer turns over and renews itself more quickly. Essentially, this means Retinol can make skin cells in dull or older skin mimic the behaviour of younger, healthier cells to help refresh the complexion and fight the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
What does Retinol do?
Retinol promotes collagen by stimulating its production. As an antioxidant, it also helps reduce levels of collagen destruction from UV exposure.
Maintaining collagen levels is important because the skin loses about 1% of its collagen reserves every year as a natural part of the ageing process.
Even better, Retinol helps produce new collagen in a smoother, more organised fashion to reduce lines.
Retinol also promotes improvement in elastin fibres. Elastin gives youthful skin its elasticity and firmness, and helps combat loose skin, wrinkling, and sagging. Improved skin smoothness and wrinkle reduction are further assisted by the smoothing and thickening of the epidermis, and improved skin barrier function.
Retinol can also help brighten pigmentation and even up skin tone by encouraging the shedding of dead skin cells and by reducing the production of excess pigmentation by the enzyme tyrosinase.
It is important to remember that Retinol increases the skin’s sensitivity to light, so it is best to wear it at night and use sunscreen during the day.
What does ‘Encapsulated Retinol’ mean?
With so many benefits to skin health and appearance, it is no wonder that Retinol is such a coveted ingredient in skincare.
However, Retinol is only as good as its delivery system.
Retinol is an unstable ingredient. When exposed to light and air, it quickly degrades to biologically inactive forms.
The efficacy of Retinol depends on how the active is delivered to the skin, and whether it is optimally protected from light and air.
In addition, Retinol, like all Retinoids, can cause skin irritation when used topically. The best formulations are designed to minimise or avoid this side effect while maintaining the benefits.
Encapsulated Retinol is considered a 'gold standard' in anti-ageing skincare. It refers to Retinol that is contained within patented liposomes (a lipid bilayer capsule). When applied to the skin, this slow-release mechanism delivers Retinol in a way that is far gentler and easier to tolerate than traditional Retinol products.
Put simply, the Encapsulated Retinol complex we use in Eye Dream and our Dream Teams is optimal for the delivery of Retinol, the effectiveness of Retinol, and the stability of the active during storage.
How to use Retinol
The encapsulated Retinol used in Dream Team and Eye Dream is gentle compared to other Retinols and therefore is extremely well tolerated. It is a rarity for an in-clinic patient or online customer to report irritation to us.
Start by applying the product every third night, then every second night, building tolerance until you can use it every evening.
When starting out with a Retinol, keep your skin hydrated. Try combining Retinols with a suitable hydrating (humectant) product like our Glam Squad serum, then seal with a moisturiser that locks in hydration like our Power Broker, Superhero or Star Quality.
As with any form of active skincare, you should always use sun protection and an appropriate SPF (such as Superstar SPF 50+). While any Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight (just as stronger forms of Vitamin A can), with adequate sun protection and sunscreen, this has not been a problem with our formulations. UV exposure can cause degradation of the Retinol itself, which is why we recommend applying it PM only.
Some common myths about Retinol include that it is a bad idea to use Retinol with Vitamin C and acids like AHAs and BHAs. On the contrary, Retinol can be used with these ingredients – it all depends on the formulations and how they are used.
A combination of Vitamin C and Retinol can be highly beneficial for ageing skin. Use Next Level in the AM and your Retinol products in the evening for a potent dose of antioxidant protection and a pro-collagen boost.
While some skincare products do not recommend using their AHAs or BHAs together with their Retinol, thanks to the formulation of our products, ours can be used together. Remember, Retinol works on the deeper layers of the skin, while your AHAs and BHAs work on the very top layer of the skin, providing exfoliation and sloughing off dead skin cells. Our experience is that our leave-on AHA exfoliant Quiet Achiever actually increases the effectiveness of our Retinol serums!
When combining our Retinol with AHA formulations, it is important to commence gradually and use as directed. Start by using your AHA exfoliant in the morning and your Retinol in the evening. This exfoliation will prime your skin to absorb Retinol more effectively. Many of our in-clinic patients who have advanced anti-ageing goals even layer Quiet Achiever over the top of Dream Team at night.
How to choose the right Retinol serum
Choosing the right Retinol concentration from our range depends on the area of application, your skincare aims, and whether you are new to this ingredient or an experienced user.
Both Dream Team 0.625 and Dream Team Advanced 1.25 contain Encapsulated Retinol as their primary active ingredient, with Dream Team Advanced 1.25 being double the concentration of Dream Team 0.625. Because our Retinol is encapsulated and delivered to the skin progressively over a period of hours, our formulations are effective at lower concentrations than traditional Retinol products. This is beneficial as it avoids the traditional side effects and irritation seen with many other Retinol products.
Either can be used on the face in conjunction with Eye Dream for the eye area. Apply Eye Dream first for targeted improvement to the eye area and crow’s feet, followed by Dream Team for general facial rejuvenation and refinement.
We recommend Dream Team Advanced 1.25 for those with advanced anti-ageing goals and those wishing to help reduce pore size, skin congestion or breakouts.
If you have any questions call us on (03) 9826 9988 or book in for a Virtual Consult with one of our trained Dermal Clinicians.
*PLEASE NOTE: Retinol should not be used by those who are pregnant, lactating, or planning pregnancy.