It’s not just on the catwalks that the ‘90s are having a revival, the anti-ageing hero retinol is back in a big way. Now formulated in beauty products that are as effective as they are gentle, and ditching its reputation as an irritant, even those with sensitive skin can enjoy its anti-ageing benefits.
A brief history
To explain what retinol is and why it should be a part of your skincare routine, it’s worth understanding where it came from. The chemical name for vitamin A, scientists first discovered its skin-friendly benefits back in the ‘70s. Linking dry, irritated skin to a lack of vitamin A, vitamin A-derived molecules (AKA retinol) were used to deal with various skin problems, including acne and improving the skin's appearance and elasticity. Coupled with this and its ability to minimise the appearance of wrinkles and thinning skin, it soon became an anti-ageing hero in the ‘90s, too. It wasn’t suitable for everyone however, and caused flare-ups including rashes and inflammation for those with sensitive skin. As a result, it took a back seat to hyaluronic acid, antioxidants and peptides.
So, why the comeback?
Any skincare specialist will tell you that retinol plays an essential role in preventing cracks (AKA wrinkles) in the dermis, as well as combating signs of ageing and the harmful effects of UV rays. Simultaneously exfoliating the epidermis to brighten and balance melatonin production to even out your skin tone, as well as boosting collagen production to prevent wrinkles, it’s a skin-loving all-rounder. Until now though, it wasn’t suited to everyone.
Once shunned for its irritating properties (partly due to concentration levels that reached 0.3%), this molecule is now presented in lower doses that are gentle and easily tolerated by those with sensitive skin. The addition of other active ingredients and new slow-release treatments also allow your skin time to adjust and those that couldn't handle previous versions to enjoy its anti-ageing benefits.
Retinol: The anti-ageing powerhouse
If you want to slow down the clock (and let’s face, who doesn’t?), this is a sure-fire, wrinkle-targeting ingredient to get to know.
So, what's the big deal?
Vitamin A is a well-known anti-wrinkle active ingredient. It isn't ideally suited to skin though and can cause irritations. Fortunately for us, researchers set about to find a skin-friendly derivative of this powerful vitamin and came up with their most gentle solution yet, pro-retinols. L'Oreal’s slow-release Paris Revitalift Pro Retinol Day Cream is in fact gentle enough to use every morning.
Packed with anti-ageing properties and kinder to your skin, it thickens the epidermis, helps cell differentiation, regulates keratinisation, prevents the breakdown of collagen and elastin and increases cutaneous vitamin A levels. In simpler terms, it evens out your skin tone and leaves your skin looking smoother, softer and more radiant.
When is it most effective?
The best beauty treatments are those that require the least amount of effort. As the nightingale of the anti-ageing world, L'Oreal Paris’ Revitalift Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream and its pro-retinol formula get to work while you sleep. Its complementary L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Pro Retinol Day Cream SPF 30 is just as effective during the day though and gentle enough for daily use that you don’t have to expect the usual redness and irritation previously caused by retinol-based products.
By boosting cell renewal, retinol does leave your skin susceptible to UV damage though, so make sure you follow any treatment featuring it with a cream that has SPF 30.
Is it suitable for all skin types?
Back in the day, retinol was known to irritate skin. Advances in the skincare world have allowed researchers to come up with new slow-release formulas likeL'Oreal Paris’ Pro Retinol range that don't saturate and irritate even those with ultra-sensitive skin.
Debunking the myths around retinol
As THE ingredient of the moment, lauded for its anti-ageing properties, beauty editors and experts have devoted many column inches to retinol – otherwise known as vitamin A.
Here, we sort out the fan fiction from the fact regarding this wonder ingredient.
Retinol is used by dermatologists
True: After first using the acid version of vitamin A (retinoic acid) to treat acne, dermatologists noticed that treated skin appeared smoother and younger, and the rest is beauty history. The subject of numerous scientific studies, retinol is now prescribed to combat signs of ageing.
It’s a vitamin
True: Retinol, or vitamin A, is found in liver, tuna, butter, eggs and dairy products. Its precursor molecule, pro-vitamin A, is found in vegetables such as carrots, apricots, persimmons and spinach. This vitamin plays a key role in keeping our bones, eyes and skin healthy. Pro-vitamin A also helps to give the skin a slightly tanned hue, as well as boosting hydration.
Retinol is stable
False: Retinol is a highly unstable molecule, which can be affected by oxygen, light and heat. Retinol-containing creams therefore have to be carefully formulated and their packaging is adapted to protect it from exposure to light. Previously, only aluminium tubes were used and it was recommended for overnight use only.
It only works on the skin’s surface
False: Retinol gets to work beneath the surface, not only improving cell renewal in the epidermis, but also boosting the production of collagen fibres and glycosaminoglycans, including hyaluronic acid. It also has a positive impact on cutaneous immune cells and melanocytes, the cells that cause pigmentation. Plus, it protects the skin from enzymes that gnaw away at its fibres.
Those with sensitive skin can’t use itFalse: Thanks to researchers discovering which soothing ingredients work best with retinol, refining its form (pro-retinol being one) and finely tuned dosages, all skin types can benefit from its powerful rejuvenating properties.