Retinol is the ultimate skincare powerhouse. A derivative of vitamin A, it promotes cell turnover to refine pores, reduce dark spots, smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture in one. However, some people are unwilling to try retinol because of their perceived side effects, such as flaking and redness. We are here to debunk some retinol myths based on latest scientific evidence.
Myth #1: All these ingredients starting with ‘R’ (Retinol, Retinoic Acid, Etc.) basically do the same thing.
Yes and no. Prescription formulas contain retinoic acid, the magic ingredient that fights visible aging; nonprescription alternatives need to be converted into retinoic acid by the skin at the cellular level. “In off-the-shelf formulas, the ingredient called retinol is the only derivative of vitamin A worth using,” according to Dr Low Chai Ling. “There’s a lot of literature showing that while retinol is more gentle than retinoic acid, biochemically it does exactly the same thing — it may just take longer to see results.” The same can’t be said for the derivatives called pro-retinols (aka, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate), which are the most gentle — but weaker, too.
This is a common misconception regarding retinoids. According to Dr Chua Han Boon, aesthetic consultant at SW1 Clinic, “While there’s often peeling and redness, that’s actually a side effect of the irritation, rather than a not a true exfoliation like the one you get from an ingredient like glycolic acid. In fact, Dr Chua says that the peeling is not the reason people start looking better. “Some of my patients think that for retinoids to work, their skin must peel, that’s absolutely not true.”
Retinoids work at a much more profound level by affecting gene expression and causing enhanced collagen production, skin smoothing, and an evening of pigmentation. A vitamin A cream such as Age Defy keeps skin young and supple by reversing skin ageing.
Myth #3: You should only wear retinoids at night because they increase your risk of sunburn during the day
“This is one of the biggest myths out there,” says Dr Low who has two cosmeceutical lines (Chai and SW1) under her belt. “It’s true that retinoids break down in sunlight, which is why they are bottled in opaque packaging and are still best worn at night to make sure they aren’t rendered inactive” says Dr Low. However, she says they do not make the skin more prone to sunburn. “This misconception came about because in some early studies, people described putting on a retinoid, walking into the sun, and immediately burning. But that redness is likely related to heat exposure,” she says. Clinical studies have shown pretty definitively that retinoids do not lower the MED — or minimal erythemal dos — of human skin, which is the amount of UV light you can take before the skin burns.”
Myth #4: You should stop applying retinoid if your skin gets irritated.
Dr Chua is a firm believer of “pushing through it”. “Irritation that flares up after adding vitamin A to your regimen is all part of the process,” says Dr Chua. “We’ve seen clinically that after two or three weeks the skin cells adapt to the retinoic acid and begin to tolerate the ingredient.”
It is important for the patient to be constant communication with his or doctor to make some adjustments to the dose of retinoids on the skin This way, they can continue on their retinoid regime with the least amount of side effects while reaping huge benefits. “If my patient is reasonably flushed, drier-than-usual, lightly peeling skin, then I do tell them to continue. If the discomfort is prolonged or very uncomfortable, I will tell them to use it once a week or switch to a weaker formula,” says Dr Chua.
Myth #5: You shouldn’t use retinoids on your beach vacation.
We’re still processing the fact that retinoids don’t increase your risk of sunburn, too. But get this: Combining retinoids with island hopping may even be a good thing. They not only boost collagen production, but may also have the potential to stop photoaging before it starts. “They’ve been shown to prevent the rise of collagenase — the enzyme that breaks down collagen — after UV exposure,” says Dr Low.
Myth #6: Don’t put retinoids around your eyes or neck. The skin there is too sensitive.
Not only can you, you really should — that’s where most of the damage shows up, says Weiss. “Studies have shown that people who apply retinoids right up to the eyes get the best results” says Dr Low. There are also many different formulations of retinols and retinoids. Choosing the correct formulation designed for the targeted area is key to achieving phenomenal results, she says. Case in point: Gold retinol neck oil is a vitamin A enriched rosehip oil formulation that hydrates and replenishes the dry neck skin while rejuvenating it deeply with the benefits of retinol.