As a Beauty Editor, I recall the first time I tried products that contained the ingredient retinol. After returning from a press conference in which a dermatologist talked about the exfoliating properties of a new moisturizer with retinol, my roommate, with sensitive skin, Amy, and I went into the slather of the product I was gifted. Both of us experienced a little discomfort after applying the product (“It’s doing what it says!” we convinced each that it was working!) and went to bed, excited to see the next day’s results.
In the morning, I saw many white specks of white on my cheeks as well as around my nose when I was about for a quick shave and put on my makeup. I thought that it would be dead skin shed. However, it was my roommate’s skin reaction which was skin that was red, inflamed, and peeling for days on my face, that brought an end to my brief retinol-based use.
Now as I’m 40 years old -having skin that isn’t glowing as it did in the past, I decided it was time to look into retinol. I decided to give a shot of affordable generic retinol at CeraVe, but only after asking dermatologists for advice.
What exactly is retinol, and why do you need it?
Retinol is one of the forms of vitamin A which occurs naturally in the skin. When absorbed topically by the skin, enzymes within our skin turn retinol into retinoic acids, which trigger the creation of healthy, new skin cells. The ingredient was made sought-after as an anti-aging agent when those using it to treat acne discovered that it did not just get rid of their pimples but also aided in reducing wrinkles and lessening pigmentation. It’s also believed to smooth the skin’s texture and give a radiant appearance.
“The use of retinol is core to any anti-aging regime, especially if you’re over 30,” claims dermatologist board-certified Alexis Young. “Retinol breaks up the top dead layer of the skin and increases cell turnover, allowing smoother skin to shine through.”
New York dermatologist Joshua Zeichner suggests applying retinol at least twice a week, beginning with the lowest concentration and then adjusting as needed.
“The body will develop a tolerance to retinol over one to two months — known as the retinization period — so any irritation experienced at the beginning of therapy should improve over time as your skin adjusts to the product,” He said to Shop TODAY.
Young believes it’s best to begin with less retinol and gradually increase it based on the skin’s sensitivities.
“If your skin tends to be sensitive and dry, then start with a lower strength like 0.3%, increase to 0.5% and then ultimately 1%, if you can tolerate it, over weeks to months,” Young says. Young.
Are you unable to decide between a serum, cream gel, or lotion-based retinol? Most formulas are equally effective; therefore, it’s only a matter of individual preference.
Do retinol and its derivatives have any adverse negative effects?
In light of my roommate’s reaction to the skin, I was curious to learn more about retinol’s possible adverse effects. These include increased sun sensitivity and a burning sensation after application, peeling, redness, and dryness.
For a long time, dermatologists advised users to put on retinol late at night since older formulations were more sensitive to sunlight. But, the latest retinol formulations tend to be gentler in their formulations.
“The new generation of products release retinol slowly into the skin to minimize irritating effects, giving flexibility whenever it fits into your daily routine,” Zeichner states. “Just be sure to apply it after cleansing and before moisturizing, distributing a pea-sized amount on your forehead, nose, cheeks and chin before rubbing it in.” He recommends a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF is required and should be sprayed on top of the retinol. Likewise, makeup can be applied on top of the SPF.
To reduce the chance of experiencing adverse effects, Young recommends looking for moisturizers containing powerful hydrating ingredients or a separate moisturizer from Retinol. In contrast, prescription-only products with the precise concentration of retinol can be determined. Still, information regarding the percentage of retinol in generic products is not always available on the label.
“Companies don’t want to say their product is biologically changing the skin because then they’d have to be FDA regulated,” Young says. Young. “So you’ll have to look for ingredients such as hyaluronic acids and ceramides. They are highly effective at bringing and securing moisture to the skin, and also preventing sensitivity. If a particular product is sensitive, try an alternative brand or apply less frequently.”
Numerous scientific studies over the years have proven the benefits of retinol for the skin. However, some are unsure if the retinol ingredient thins the skin and triggers chronic inflammation that leads to premature aging.
“The truth is retinol actually thickens the skin’s top layer, the epidermis, by stimulating collagen and elastin, but it can also thin the stratum corneum, the very top layer of the epidermis, which explains the retinol ‘glow’ that some patients experience,” claims Zeichner. “The glow is caused by retinol because it enhances light reflection off the surface of your skin. The thinned stratum corneum doesn’t weaken the skin, however it could make it more susceptible to physical and sunburn. This means you must be cautious with exposure to sun, hair removal or facial scrubs, or any other activity that exposes your skin to irritation or trauma.”
“If you’re undergoing a chemical peel, facial waxing, or if you’re pregnant, hit pause on your retinol. But you should try to restart usage as soon as possible since tolerance to retinol could be lost,” Young adds. Young.
Is CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum Suitable?
I’m mad at myself for not incorporating the retinol sooner. The serum can cause a sting approximately 10 seconds following application. I did notice some white flakes at first but nothing else. The best part is that a dermatologist approves this CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum.
“I like that it contains niacinamide and licorice root, effective anti-inflammatory agents that help improve the tolerability of a retinol, along with ceramides, which are critical to maintaining the skin barrier and preventing water loss,” Young claims. “Plus, it doesn’t feel gritty or pasty like other retinol products, and one pump is the perfect dosage for the entire face.”
The serum was also voted the most affordable anti-aging product during the Shop Today 2023 Beauty Awards.
“I was nervous it would make me break out and purge, but that didn’t happen,” says the editor of commerce photos, Vivian Le, who tried the product. “I did feel like my dryness around my nose went away and my skin looks a little glowier.”