I can’t imagine I will ever run a marathon (heck, just the thought is enough to give me nightmares), but if I did, I’d start small. Like, really small.
I’d go for ever longer walks for a month before I even attempted a little run. And then, I’d increase the miles slowly, one by one. That way I can get fit without dying in the process.
Using retinol is a lot like that. It’s a long marathon.
I know, it’s frustrating. You want to start big so that you can say goodbye to those wrinkles asap, but that’ll just get your skin an irritation. Retinol does wonders, but requires a lot of patience.
You need to take this budding love relationship very slowly and give your skin time to get to know retinol before fireworks can happen. The good news is that even a little retinol can do a lot of good to your skin.
So, what strength do you need and when you can upgrade to the next level?
Why Should You Use Retinol?
I could rave about the awesomeness of retinol all day, but I’ll keep it short (and try not to bore you – you’re welcome).
This form of vitamin A can:
- Boost collagen production, keeping skin firm and elastic
- Speed up cellular turnover, helping skin renew itself faster
- Get (slowly) rid of wrinkles
- Make dark spots disappear (slowly, too)
- Brighten your complexion
- Bust acne
Retinol ain’t optional, ladies. But you have to be very careful with it. Powerful weapons like this can backfire and irritate your skin if used too much too soon.
Ok, so how much do you need?
I know, why bother putting in so little retinol, you’ve probably wondering? Well, because even that little bit works.
Such low concentrations are great for beginners who have just decided to introduce retinol into their lives. Or for anyone with sensitive skin.
Frankly, if you have sensitive skin, I’d stay at the beginner’s level forever. There’s a small chance your skin won’t be able to tolerate even that little so let’s not make it even madder by going any higher (yes, sensitive skin is a pain).
Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol ($34.00)
FYI, I’m gonna recommend a lot of Paula’s Choice products in this post because they come loaded with antioxidants that boost the power of retinol even more. This one has vitamins C and E, green tea, grape seed and more. Retinol is at 0.03%. And its texture is so lightweight, those with oily skin will love it. Available at Paula’s Choice.
Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum with Retinol ($34.00)
This one has 0.01% retinol coupled with antioxidants, moisturizing plant oils and soothing anti-irritants. It’s more suitable for dry skin that needs some extra moisture in its fight against wrinkles. Available at Paula’s Choice.Using retinol is like training for a marathon. Start small and work your way up slowly. Click To Tweet
If you’re stuck with deep wrinkles or dark spots, you need to take your retinol game to the next level after a few weeks.
How many weeks? That depends. If you can’t see any redness, peeling, or any other sign of irritation, it means your skin is now ready to upgrade.
A higher dose brings faster benefits. Prepare to look at the mirror in awe.
Paula’s Choice Resist Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum ($42.00)
I lost count of how many tubes of this serum I’ve used. It has everything. 0.1% retinol. Vitamin C, green tea, ferulic acid and plenty of their other antioxidant friends. And it works for all skin types. Available at Paula’s Choice.
La Roche Posay Redermic Anti-Aging Dermatological Treatment ($56.99)
I was a bit hesitant to include this one because the formula is very basic. I feel like, at this price point, it should have more antioxidants too. But if you’re looking for a simple moisturizer with 0.1% retinol for dry skin, this fits the bill nicely. Available at Ulta.
Advanced: 0.5% to 2%
At some point, you’ll probably want to go as far as you can with retinol. You know, use the highest possible dose. That’s 2%. But go there only if you absolutely must.
Remember, the higher the dose, the higher the benefits, but also higher the risk of irritations. Even if your skin can tolerate retinol well by now, there’s always the chance that pushing things too far will cause more problems than it’s worth.
As a rule, up your retinol game when the concentration you’re using isn’t working that well. If a smaller one is doing wonders for you, don’t let greed mess things up.
Ready to go higher? Check these products out then:
The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2% (£8.00)
Ok, I’m cheating a bit here because this one doesn’t exactly contain 2% retinol. It has both retinol and hydroxypinacolone retinoate, another form of vitamin A that does pretty much the same thing. I’m using it now and am totally in love with it so I just had to include it. It’s also surprisingly gentle for containing so much vitamin A. The full review is coming soon. If you can’t wait, grab a bottle at Ordinaries.com.
Paula’s Choice Resist 1% Retinol Booster ($52.00)
I love boosters cos they make customizing your skincare routine so easy. You can use them on their own or mix them with your fave lotions or moisturizers to give them a boost (FIY, that’ll dilute the retinol so you won’t get the full 1% when you apply it). This one, in typical Paula’s fashion, comes loaded with antioxidants and anti-irritants to boot. Available at Paula’s Choice.
Whatever retinol product you opt for, make sure it doesn’t come in a jar. Retinol is a diva that loses some of its effectiveness every time it’s exposed to light and air. That’s every time you open the jar basically. Only airtight and opaque tubes and bottles will make it happy and keep it working as it should.
The Bottom Line
If you’re serious about anti-aging, sooner or later you’ll have to incorporate retinol into your skincare routine. Do it like if you were training for a marathon. Start small and work you way up slowly. That way, you’ll get all its awesome benefits without the annoying side effects.
What concentration of retinol are you using atm? Will you go higher any time soon?