Is Retinol Worth the Hype?



Almost every beauty expert will tell you how good retinol is for the skin. There have been innumerable studies where it has proved to be the only substance that stimulates collagen when applied topically. More collagen means more elasticity, firmness and youthfulness in general. I have been on the retinol wagon for a year in the past. My skin did look nice, but not especially better than it did before. I know that it is used as a preventive measure and also helps reduce acne and pigmentation. But I just found it underwhelming.

First of all it made my skin sensitive. And by sensitive I just don't mean raw and red - when I would perspire during yoga my skin would burn. During winter it make my skin become dry and flaky to the extent that powder would settle into the smallish cracks. I know that I’m a small percentage that is actually oversensitive to retinol, but having had adverse reactions, I find that there are many other ingredients that can make your skin look amazing. And that too without having to build tolerance for them. 

For instance vitamin C for the radiance it provides. When you use a vitamin C serum with over 20% strength like Obagi Professional C 20% the radiance is apparent in just a few days. I also love AHAs such as glycolic acid and BHAs like salicylic acid. They immediately make your skin smoother, dry breakouts and reduce wrinkles. I like to use vitamin C in the day and these acids at night. I also love emollient ingredients that increase the barrier of the skin, making it thicker and more resilient. This would include stuff like ceramides and vitamin D. But retinol? The most dissatisfying out of the bunch for me. 

Its also important to know that retinol is restricted in Canada. In fact tretinoin, the substance that retinol metabolises into is banned in all Europe. And it’s not safe to use when pregnant. I can tell when someone has been using this ingredient for years because their skin looks a bit pink, thin and unusually shiny. I know everyone says that it doesn’t thin the skin but that is what I see. Perhaps my frustration with this ‘wonder’ ingredient stems from the fact that it hasn’t worked wonders for me. If it worked for you then great, but I just feel that it isn’t necessary for beautiful skin.

If a smooth, radiant complexion is your goal then you can do a lot of other things. You can eat vitamin C rich foods or pop a vitamin C supplement. You can consume antioxidant-rich foods like avocados, berries, dark leafy greens and garlic. You can regularly practice inversions such as the headstand and shoulder stand in yoga. You can drink three to four litres of water in a day. You can get a good night’s sleep. And you can avoid sugar, alcohol and cigarettes. Taking these steps will help a lot more than a retinol cream.

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