11 Myths About Retinol Products
by Blake Cooley on Oct 06, 2020
In the last few years, there’s been a craze in the skincare industry. Retinols are all the rage and have found to be effective in improving the texture of skin, along with pigmentation and tone. Although retinols are being used voraciously by the skincare community, there still exist a number of questions and false information about their use and efficacy. Here are eleven myths about retinol and the correct answers.
All Retinol Products Are the Same
While this is half true, this view discards the nuance and complexity of retinols. There are two categories of retinol products – prescription and non-prescription. Prescription retinol products use retinoic acid, an ingredient which fights visible aging and keeps skin young and smooth. Those which don’t require a prescription will instead use a derivative of vitamin A, which is gentler on the skin but does perform the same function from a chemical perspective. Prescription retinols are stronger but non-prescription products will get the job done just fine.
Retinoids Exfoliate the Skin
This can be an easy mistake to make, as many people who use retinoids experience redness and peeling of the skin. However, these symptoms are merely side effects of irritation and don’t act like a true exfoliation, which comes from glycolic acid. Instead, retinoids function by changing gene expression, adding collagen production, and smoothing skin at the microscopic level, including the evening of pigmentation.
Don’t Wear Retinoids During the Day
Many believe that retinoids will break down during the day, causing sunburn and increased skin irritation. This is mostly untrue, however. While retinoids do in fact “break down” during the day and become less active and effective, they will not make your skin more prone to sunburn or other such irritations. It’s still best to wear retinoids at night to maximize their efficacy, but you don’t have to worry about skin damage if you use them during the day.
Retinoids Should Always Be Applied to Dry Skin
Although most packaging comes with instruction to apply retinoids to dry skin only, there’s actually no scientific evidence that applying retinoids to moist skin will irritate that skin or reduce effectiveness. It’s perfectly fine to apply retinoids to moist skin, as absorption rates aren’t impacted by skin conditions of any type, at least according to the current literature. The absorption rate is solely dependent on skin chemistry and retinoid receptors.
You’ll Need to Wait Five Weeks to See Results
This myth is actually false in a negative direction. Most retinoids work only after about ten to twelve weeks of use. The formulas these products use is powerful, but it takes time for the proper chemical reactions to take place. Whether you’re buying your retinoids through a prescription or not, the average time you’ll need to wait is about twelve weeks before you see results.
Gentle Retinoids Are Equally Effective as Strong Ones
If the product for your skin is labeled for “sensitive skin” that means there’s most likely a lower dosage of active ingredients within the product. Any product with a lower concentration of active ingredients will generally be less effective than those with higher amounts. However, “sensitive skin” products are great for letting your skin tolerate treatments before moving on to products with a higher dosage of active ingredients. Once your skin adjusts to the weaker stuff, you can move onto the products designed for the average customer.
Stop Applying to Irritated Skin
This can be counterintuitive, but it’s actually fine and necessary to push through with a retinol product which irritates your skin. The irritation is a natural and non-harmful part of the process related to smoothing the skin and heightening pigmentation. After a few weeks, your skin cells will adapt to the process and be just fine. However, if the irritation you feel is prolonged or far more uncomfortable than usual, it’s probably a good idea to switch to a weaker product.
Don’t Take Retinoids on Vacation
It’s perfectly fine if you experience a change in climate while taking retinol products. Once the skin adapts to the product you’re using, the irritation will generally stop for any reason. The irritation is likely to subdue and not flare up again until you switch to a stronger product, but climate and other external conditions have nothing to do with this process. With this being said, it’s still a good idea to apply a layer of moisturizer to keep the skin from drying, which generally leads to irritation no matter what the conditions.
Don’t Take Your Retinoids to the Beach
Yes, it’s difficult to wrap your head around the sunburn point from earlier, but it’s absolutely true. Retinoids do not make your skin more susceptible to burning damage or other types of skin damage. You can absolutely wear and take your retinol products with you to the beach and on beach centered vacations. There’s even emerging evidence that wearing retinoids while relaxing on an island may be positive. Retinoids both boost collagen production and stop photoaging before it starts.
Don’t Put Retinoids Around Your Eyes
Another myth which exaggerates the “danger” of retinoids, many believe that the product is too strong to put around the eyes. But, not only can you apply retinol around your eyes, you probably should. Multiple studies have shown that those who apply retinol right up to the eyes get the best results from the product. You may accidently get some retinol in your eye during the process, but this is perfectly fine. The product may sting some but it’s not harmful. There’s no danger in getting retinoids of any sort in your eye.
Benefits Stop Increasing After Six Months
Scientists have been testing retinoid products for a few years now, and their results have been positive and far reaching. They’ve found that the benefits of retinoids will significantly improve for a full year, not just six months. Your skin will improve in a variety of ways for a full year, including wrinkle smoothing and the fading of skin blotches. After a full year of using a consistent retinoid product, you can switch over to a higher dosage to maintain and even improve upon the existing effects. Don’t be quick to switch ingredients, simply up the dosage of the current product you’re using for best results.