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    Retinol!

Elixir of Youth or just another hyped molecule?

Vitamin-aIf you have ever looked upon the internet for anti-aging serums and creams or read a dermatologist’s interview, chances are high of you being familiar with the word “retinol”. I am yet to meet a dermatologist who wouldn’t swear by the anti-aging benefits of retinoid, (i.e. a common term for all Vitamin A derivatives including Retinol).

That’s true, we are all aging

Before we embark on a journey of decoding retinol, let’s just get our facts right - What exactly is skin aging? Skin aging is a multi-factorial process that is governed by intrinsic as well as extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic factors are our chronological age, hereditary traits and hormonal influences, basically things we can’t do much about, while extrinsic factors include the sun exposure (photo aging), pollution, diet, lifestyle, stress, blue light from our gadget screens, poor air quality, oxidative stress from free radicals and almost everything in our ambient atmosphere.

The early aged skin shows fine wrinkles, lackluster and dry skin, decreased elasticity and plumpness, pigmentation & open pores, later progressing to deep wrinkles/furrows, sagging skin and stubborn pigmentation. This happens because both the epidermis and dermis thin out with age and lose the dermal collagen and elastin fibers as well as glycosaminoaminoglycans (pronounced as glyc-osa-mino-glyc-ans or GAGs for short), which maintain the volume and plumpness of skin.

Benefits of Retinol

Popularly and rightly known as the “king of anti aging brigade”, Retinol works better than all other skincare ingredients in diminishing fine facial lines and open pores associated with aging skin.

Retinoids range from Retinyl Palmitate, Retinol, Retinaldehyde, Retinoic Acid (Tretinoin), in order of increasing strength, anti-aging potency and incidence of side effects.

How it works?

Retinoids or retinol work on epidermal level by increasing the cell turnover. By exfoliating the surface layer of the skin it ends up smoothening the texture and decreasing pigmentation. The main action is however on the dermal level where it amplifies the collagen production (increasing the thickness of dermis) and induces the hyaluronic acid & glycosaminoglycan (moisture holding molecules) synthesis, hence leading to effacement of existing fine wrinkles and preventing formation of deep wrinkles. The diagram below entails the structure of the skin after and before usage of Retinol.

before-afterThe drugstore or cosmoceutical creams contain retinyl palmitate (weakest & most tolerable), retinol (most common one) or retinaldehyde, while the retinoic acid (tretinoin) is available on dermatologist’s prescription only.

Which one is the best, you would ask now?

Well the one that you are able to tolerate.

using-retinolIts best to start with weaker formulations i.e. retinyl palmitate (dry, sensitive skin) or retinol (normal skin) and gradually build up the skin’s tolerance to stronger formulas over next 6-9 months or may be a year for sensitive skins.

Some degree of redness, irritation and peeling is inevitable with retinoids but there are tricks to help you with that too. Start with twice weekly application and gradually amplify frequency to thrice weekly & then daily. Moisturizing beforehand or using a retinol product with hyaluronic acid is a good strategy as well. You might need a richer moisturizer than your regular one to deal with dry spots that might appear especially in more sensitive areas of face (corners of nose & mouth, around eyes & chin). Also make it a point not to skip the sunscreen when using retinol.

Which is the best age to start using retinol?

young-woman-applying-retinolThough aging is thought to set in late 20's or early 30's, its never too early to start retinol, given today’s hectic lifestyles and over-polluted atmosphere. Probably, bringing in your preventive aging regime in your mid 20's is a good thought. Start experimenting with retinol and find the ones that your skin loves.

My skin may not tolerate retinol, are there any alternatives?

Yes, some natural formulations with rose hip oil, sea fennel, lycopene, liquorice extract and bakuchiol (pronounced as buh-koo-chee-all) are claimed to have retinol like action which are gentler but as per studies none is as effective as retinol which is the best bet to boost collagen, fade dark spots, minimize large pores and smoother younger looking skin.

 

 

Be your own beautiful!

 

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