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Spotlight on Retinol

Retinol is often hailed as a star of the skincare world. And rightly so; it has stood the test of time, lives up to its hype and has benefits for skin of all types and ages. We enlisted Aesthetic Nurse Specialist Julie Brackenbury to answer your questions on the multi-tasking skin hero.


Q: I’ve heard a lot about retinol but how does it work?

A: Retinol works to improve skin on several levels by causing skin cells to turn over and replenish, creating a more youthful appearance. When skin cells build up on the epidermis (the top layer of the skin), things can start to get clogged up, which in turn, causes skin problems such as dryness, roughness and pigmentation.


Q: I’ve just started using retinol, where can I expect to see improvements and how long will it take?

A: Retinol can help improve the appearance of skin in many areas including the face, neck and décolletage. Within around three months you will start to see a marked difference in your skin’s texture.


Q: I have sensitive skin, can I still use retinol?

A: Yes! However, I’d advise those with sensitive skin to use topical retinoids less frequently and at a lower dose, increasing frequency of application gradually to once nightly. Try starting off using a retinol product once a week, then every 4th day, 3rd day and then alternative days. Everyone is different so it’s important to listen to your skin and how if feels.


Q: I want to try retinol but there seems to be so many different types out there, help!

A: Retinoids (such as Tretinoin and Retin-A) are the strongest form but due to their potency, they’re only available via prescription. They often cause irritation, dryness and sensitivity, in part because they’re absorbed so quickly by the skin.

Retinol products contain a form of retinol in ester forms, like retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate. These then need to be converted into retinoid acid by the skin at the cellular level to enable the skin to use it effectively. Pure retinol works the same way but is more effective in skincare because the conversion process into retinoic acid is faster than with the other forms, so it gets to work quickly. It’s also safe to use long-term, making it a great option for problematic or ageing skin. It will work to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, as well as brighten dull skin by exfoliating at a cellular level. In short, pure retinol is a gentler yet still effective alternative to retinoids.


Q: I don’t want to overload my skin so, can I use other products and ingredients at the same time as retinol?

A: Retinol is a strong ingredient so it’s a good idea to avoid other powerful ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and alpha hydroxy acids. If your skin is sensitive, it may also be a good idea to reduce your use of exfoliators or toners. Other important considerations are to hydrate the skin and wear SPF on a daily basis.


Q: What concentration of retinol would you recommend?

A: It is best to start at a low concentration to see how skin reacts. The good news is, you don’t need a lot of retinol to see results. Research has shown that concentrations as low as 0.01% retinol are effective for improving signs of ageing and minimizing pore size, along with giving that ‘glow’ we all desire. These low percentages of retinol, when used with other antioxidants, can help defend the skin against free radicals.

Healthspan’s range of retinol products range from 0.15% to 0.18% and use a unique delivery system which provides a sustained release of retinol. This system enhances stability and reduces side effects.

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