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It’s safe to say that anti-ageing and anti-acne are two of the most popular skincare categories at most stores. Now that micro-ageing is a real thing and fine lines start to crop up as soon as you hit 30 along with adult acne, it’s even more important to introduce the right kind of skincare to your routine. Enter magic ingredient retinol. This potent skincare ingredient is used for a number of issues such as fine lines, wrinkles, acne, and pigmentation. While the benefits are many, it’s important that you introduce retinol to your routine under dermatologist supervision. Dr Gauri Desai, dermatologist and co-founder of Skinsense Mumbai gave us insights on everything you need to know about retinol.

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What is retinol and what are its uses in skincare?

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A, which is used for skin rejuvenation and reducing signs of aging. Retinoids is a term used to refer to a group of Vitamin A derivatives that are used orally or topically (local application) for a number of skin conditions. Of these, Retinol and Retinaldehyde are available over-the-counter (OTC) as they are milder and have slower action. When applied to the skin, Retinol is converted to Retinoic Acid by skin enzymes, which helps in reducing many signs of ageing like fine lines, wrinkles, patchy discolouration, and roughness. However, this conversion can take very long, sometimes as long as 3 – 6 months. So, the results are seen after a long time. Although the side effects like redness, irritation and peeling are much less. Other Retinoids available are Tretinoin (Retinoic acid), Adapalene and Tazarotene. These are prescription drugs as they are stronger and should be prescribed by doctors. The results of these are faster and more dramatic than Retinols or Retinaldehydes.

Which skin types and age groups does retinol suit? Which skin concerns is it ideal for?

Retinoids can be used by all skin types. However, oily and combination skins tolerate them better; dry and sensitive skins require more caution. Retinoids reduce the oiliness in skin and can be used in a gel-based formulation for oily skin types. Dry skin will require cream-based formulations of lower concentration. They are used to treat acne and reduce oiliness. They act by increasing the rate of cell renewal, promoting collagen formation, and reducing pigmented cells. These result in an improvement in the quality of the skin making it plumper, smoother, and even-toned.

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What is the best way to incorporate it in your routine? What precautions should be taken?

All skin types have to take proper precautions against sun-exposure while using retinoids. The action of retinoids on skin results in redness, peeling, and irritable skin. To reduce these, you should start slowly and use small amounts for a short period of application at night rather than leaving the creams for overnight application. One can begin with application twice a week, 3-4 days apart. After about 2-3 weeks, if this is tolerated well, the use can be increased to alternate nights. Thereafter it can be further increased to every night after another 2-4 weeks. Getting used to the creams may take a few weeks or a couple of months, but the process should not be hurried. These products need to be applied for a very long time. Dry and sensitive skin may need a biweekly or alternate day regime for many months.

How does one use retinol, how does it really work?

All retinoid products are not created equal and some supervision may be required. Every person may react differently, so it is better to start conservatively and seek professional advice. Using retinol products religiously and in the right manner can show great results.

Here are our classic, all-time favourite retinol products:

Where to Buy

Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil, Rs 7,200 approx 

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane, Rs 1,100 approx 

Roc Pro-Correct Anti-Wrinkle Rejuvenating Concentrate, Rs 2,800 approx

Curatio Ega Cream, Rs 1,200 approx

Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream, Rs 5,400

Avene Eluage Cream, Rs 1200 approx

Clinique Fresh Pressed Clinical™ Daily + Overnight Boosters with Pure Vitamins C 10% + A (Retinol), Rs 3,200

Sun Pharma Yugard Anti-Ageing Cream, Rs 975

Dr Reddy’s Revibra A15 Pure Retinol Cream, Rs 1,145

Makeup Revolution Skincare Fine Line Correcting Serum – 0.2% Retinol, Rs 1,500 

Anjan Sachar

While Anjan’s week is made up of writing and talking about everything from glycolic acid to the best new red lipstick, the weekends are spent testing them all, with Gossip Girl reruns on the side. When she isn’t reviewing a new face mask, you’ll find her sipping on mimosas with a side of truffle fries. Her daily essentials: Iced latte with a side of J Balvin and Prateek Kuhad.