While we’ve yet to find the fountain of youth, retinol certainly comes close. A derivative of vitamin A, it has proven itself to be a true power player in the anti-aging game. “Studies have shown conclusively that retinol helps repair photo-aging in skin,” says Annet King, senior director of global education for Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute. “It helps increase collagen production, slow its degradation, boost cell turnover, and improve skintone and discoloration. It also reduces visible wrinkles and improves skin firmness.” According to Candace Noonan, director of training for Environ Skincare, it’s essential to any skincare regimen. “Retinol accelerates cell renewal, increases enzyme activity, and normalizes the keratinization process,” says Caroline Rushworth, director of education for Sothys USA. “This promotes skin regeneration, resulting in more elastic skin and a more youthful complexion with a reduction in wrinkle length and depth.” Those are just a few of the reasons retinol can be found in so many skincare products and spa treatments today. While it is incredibly effective, it’s important to understand how it works, as it has the potential to irritate the skin. Here, we look at how retinol is evolving and why it just keeps getting better.
Vitamin A is a key component in the proper functioning of the skin. According to Charlene DeHaven, M.D., clinical director of Innovative Skincare, it is required for normal growth and development of the skin tissue. It is also necessary for the production of lipids that protect the stratum corneum, which is the outermost layer of the epidermis. “When we are young, our body is able to produce retinol, as it derives from nutrition,” says Andrea Weber, head of the Babor Research and Innovation Center. “As we age, this ability loses its strength. A topical product with retinol can activate the production of collagen fibers, thus enhancing the elasticity of the skin.” Although best known for its anti-aging effects, retinol has also long been used to treat clients suffering from acne and other recurring conditions, as it helps exfoliate and improve the look of skin.
Not all skin is created equally though, which is why it’s important to choose a retinoid each client can tolerate. Retinol, retinoic acid, and retinyl palmitate represent forms of vitamin A in varying strengths. “Retinol is one of the strongest forms of vitamin A without a prescription; it is about 20 percent weaker than retinoic acid and is converted into retinoic acid by skin enzymes,” says King. “Retinol’s derivative, retinyl palmitate, is used in many over-the-counter skincare products, and it, too, can be converted in the skin to retinoic acid. It is, however, much weaker than retinol.” While prescription-strength retinoids, such as tretinoin (Retin-A), are the most effective when it comes to delivering anti-aging results, they are also the most likely to irritate the skin. One of the challenges of working with retinoids is their tendency to cause adverse reactions in the skin, such as irritation, redness, and sensitivity. Fortunately, strides have been made to improve the way in which retinol is delivered to the skin.
Thanks to microencapsulation technology, today’s retinol is even more effective than ever before. Karen Asquith, lead esthetician and national director of education for G.M. Collin, points out that retinoids are now available in various forms, making them less stimulating on the skin. “Encapsulated retinols allow a slower release into the skin, minimizing the redness and sensitivity that some experience with a free form of vitamin A, thereby allowing a larger segment of the population to utilize them.” According to Ivana Veljkovic, Ph.D., and director of research and development for PCA Skin, these new delivery technologies also help stabilize the inherently unstable molecules, enabling time-released retinol into the deeper layers of the skin over longer periods of time, increasing the results that can be achieved with lower, less irritating percentages of retinol. “Another benefit of microencapsulation is due to the optimum particle size,” says King. “It is able to form an ultra-thin uniform film on the skin. This then traps water and reduces transepidermal water loss.” Indeed, improved delivery systems allow clients to reap the benefits of retinoids without the previously troubling side effects. “Retinol-based products nowadays are more effective and efficient as retinol has been combined with other anti-aging or nourishing active ingredients for intensified results and maximum tolerance for the skin,” says Rushworth.
Also helping to decrease side effects is the introduction of new products used to help the skin acclimate to retinoids. For instance, Dermalogica recently introduced Buffer Cream to be used with its Overnight Retinol Repair. According to King, such products are helpful when introducing ingredients into the skin that require a level of tolerance. You can also buffer retinoids by mixing them with a moisturizer or serum or applying them before or after a moisturizer. Just remember that doing so will reduce their efficacy and may interfere with the way time-release formulas work. Such products and methods, however, do help build up the skin’s tolerance.
Because retinoids may render the skin more vulnerable, it’s important to avoid certain services when treating clients who regularly use them. For instance, waxing, microdermabrasion, and peels should not be performed for several days after use. Also, make sure clients avoid sun exposure and always wear sunscreen. According to Rushworth, a thorough consultation and skin diagnosis are the keys to selecting the most suitable treatments and avoiding contraindications. She cautions that estheticians should be aware of overusing retinol products combined with vitamin C and acid-based products. “Clients may see immediate results, however, in the long term, the combination and overuse will create undesirable results,“ says Rushworth.
There is no question that retinol has stood the test of time in our ever-changing world of effective anti-aging and corrective skincare ingredients. It is imperative to healthy skin and an unsurpassed tool in reversing the signs of aging and more.
Annet King, senior director of global education for Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute, reveals what you need to know when introducing retinol to your clients.
When clients first begin using a retinoid product, they may develop irritation known as retinoid dermatitis. In the early phases of use, the skin often responds with the so-called retinoid reaction, which involves burning, itching, and peeling. This is believed to be caused by the lack of retinoid receptors in the skin. Over time, during the pre-conditioning phase, the skin produces additional receptors to bind to the applied retinoid molecule, which leads to reduced irritation. To control retinoid reactions:
1. Pre-condition the skin and build up a tolerance to retinol.
2. Reduce the frequency of application by recommending clients use a retinol product every other night until the receptors have built up.
3. Reduce the concentration of retinol until a tolerance has been established by incorporating a buffer cream.
Help clients fight the signs of aging with the latest retinol-based products that revive the complexion.—Darby Radcliff
1. Biopelle Retriderm Serum Plus: Decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with this protein-rich, oil-free serum that allows for maximum absorption with minimal irritation. www.biopelle.com
2. CelleClé MultiGlow A: This correcting night treatment infused with time-released retinol contains skin-friendly sugars that lock in moisture for sustained hydration. www.cellecleskincare.com
3. Dermatouch Retinol Day Cream: Made with certified organic extracts, essential oils, and retinol, this nutrient-rich antioxidant formula helps rejuvenate and moisturize the skin. www.spadesoleil.com
4. Environ Intensive Hydrating Oil Capsules: Moisturize the skin with these powerful capsules containing a combination of green tea extract, lipochromalin, retinol, and vitamins C and E. www.environskincare.com
5. Epicuren Discovery Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Complex: This resurfacing treatment contains a blend of glycolic acid and retinol to reduce clogged pores and pigmentation and minimize the appearance of fine lines. www.epicuren.com
6. G.M. Collin Retinol Advanced + Matrixyl + Q10: Featuring an innovative retinol formula, Matrixyl, and bi-coenzyme Q10 complex, this overnight cream hydrates and revitalizes the skin. www.gmcollin.com
7. Le Mieux Retinol Serum: Featuring 0.5 percent retinol and four potent peptides, this formula helps improve texture for a firm complexion while its proprietary ingredient, Teprenone, helps to facilitate cellular renewal. www.lemieuxcosmetics.com
8. Natura Bissé Essential Shock Intense Retinol Fluid: Hydrate the skin while fighting the signs of aging with this silky formula made with retinol, which evens tone and revitalizes skin. www.naturabisse.com
9. Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare Renew: Rejuvenate the skin with this powerful anti-aging serum featuring retinol that increases the skin’s immune support and restores the epidermal barrier. www.osmosisskincare.com
10. Pevonia Micro-Retinol Essential Serum: Reverse visible signs of aging and sun damage with this repairing treatment containing lemon oil, retinol, and vitamin E. www.pevoniapro.com
11. Sesha Skin Therapy Clinical Complex-A Renewal Emulsion: Highly concentrated with retinol, this light emulsion targets lines, uneven texture, and pigmentation. www.seshaskin.com
12. True Results PM Night Cream Retinol Active .5%: Reduce the signs of aging with this cream, which combines hydrating ingredients that increase collagen production, even skintone, diminish the look of pores, and decrease fine lines. www.trueresultsretinol.com