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Exclusive: 5 retinol myths busted by skincare expert and author Paula Begoun

The rules for retinol for Indian skin according to skincare expert, founder of Paula’s Choice and author, Paula Begoun whose advice is golden when it comes to actives.

When it comes to retinol, we are all stumped at the logistics involved in using this miracle ingredient and maintaining the pace. While the benefits are many, it pays to be cautious and mindful when using retinol. And with it’s popularity comes big misconceptions and trials – no one really knows how to navigate the myths around it. So we asked the expert, Paula Begoun of Paula’s Choice and Beautypedia whose advice when it comes to actives and beauty to-dos, is gold. She has been reviewing products for years and is called the ‘Cosmetics Cop’ of the beauty industry. This week, Paula takes us through the myths that need to be busted when it comes to retinol exclusively for LSA. Read, follow and be mindful.

Indian retinols

Myth: Retinol works best for “mature” skin.

Truth: Retinol works for almost all skin types and ages. Retinol is one of the most studied and proven ingredients for a range of concerns and needs from anti-aging to acne. It is a powerful antioxidant and skin-restoring ingredient that research has shown can visibly minimize the signs of aging by actually helping skin make younger skin cells! But it can also improve many other health needs of skin, including refining skin texture and improving uneven tone. Research also shows it can help reduce acne breakouts. Overall, retinol is an excellent ingredient to consider for skin maintenance and/or repair, no matter what your age.

How to simplify your skincare routine

Myth: Retinol works by exfoliating skin.

Truth: Many people get confused thinking that retinol functions as an exfoliant but that’s not how it works. Retinol’s major amazing benefit is how it works as a cell communicating ingredient. There are receptor sites on skin cells for retinol, so when retinol absorbs into skin it literally tells skin cells to make younger functioning cells! The confusion about retinol being an exfoliant is because a small percentage of people experience flaking when they start using a retinol product but flaking skin is not the same thing as exfoliation. Flaking can happen when a retinol product is too potent for your skin or you’re applying it too frequently for your skin’s tolerance level. Switching to a lower strength and/or letting your skin acclimate by applying the retinol product less often (2-3 times a week instead of daily) could solve the problem. 

Indian retinols

Myth: Retinol should only be used at night.

Truth: This is one of those pervasive myths that is completely false. The truth is it’s perfectly fine to use retinol during the day. When skin is healthy, retinol is naturally present in skin but because of sun damage, pollution, and age, skin can’t get as much as it needs from the body. It is very important to remember that all natural ingredients are sensitive daylight so to be sure the important bio-active ingredient skin needs all day (and all night) are stable you must apply a sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater as the last step in your skin care routine. Research has clearly proven that retinol and other ingredients remain stable under SPF products. In short, it doesn’t matter whether you apply retinol during the day or night or twice, it works equally as well, it only depends on your personal preference when you choose to apply it. 

Indian retinols
Via Getty Images

Myth:  I can’t use retinol because my skin is sensitive.     

Truth:  People with sensitive skin tend to avoid retinol because they worry about it being too strong for their skin type. While retinol is indeed a potent bio-active ingredient, whether it causes a reaction for someone with sensitive skin depends about how much retinol the product contains. Higher concentrations of retinol can potentially be sensitizing for those with reactive skin but lower strengths can be used with no problems. Retinol in concentrations as low as 0.01% have been shown to provide significant results when used consistently over time. If you have sensitive skin you might want to consider starting with my Paula’s Choice RESIST Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum that has a 0.1% concentration of retinol. 

retinol india

Myth: You shouldn’t combine retinol with vitamin C.

Truth: This is another one of those myths that you read about all the time, but current scientific research proves this is complete nonsense. Studies show combining retinol and vitamin C together actually creates a better environment for retinol by stabilizing it and improving efficacy over a longer period of time. Not only that, these two ingredients complement one another to provide a stronger defense for skin against environmental stressors. Keep in mind when skin is healthy and young, vitamin C is found naturally in skin. The vitamin C found in skin is its major source of antioxidant protection. If this myth about vitamin C and retinol were true, you could never use retinol because the vitamin C found naturally in skin would be a problem, but of course it isn’t, as 50 years of research has absolutely established. 

Latha Sunadh
Deputy Editor
When she's not trying on a new serum, researching on yet another classic fragrance and sharing lip balms with her 5-year old daughter, Latha Sunadh keeps it reined in with a nice song and a good book. Special skills include obsessing over handmade, home-made and handcrafted luxuries.