Mythbusters: Truths and Lies About Retinol

Retinol, a form of vitamin A that helps increase cell growth, was initially used as a treatment for acne. However, dermatologists and patients soon noticed the other effects of retinol, like reduced wrinkles and smoother, firmer skin. Today, anti-aging products like Yeouth use retinol, among other ingredients, to promote not just younger-looking but also healthier skin.

But just like many products and substances related to health and wellness, retinol is surrounded by a lot of beliefs, both true and false. Here we shed light on some of the more famous myths about this anti-aging wonder.

True: Retinol Doesn’t Require Prescriptions

Retinol sounds like a medication of some sort, which is why some might think that one needs a dermatologist’s prescription to get one. While stronger retinoids like tretinoin and retinoic acid do require prescriptions, retinol does not. Retinol is, however, the strongest over-the-counter retinoid you can get.

It may take you longer to see the anti-aging effects when you use retinol, since it has to be converted to retinoic acid first for it to work its magic. However, retinol is more gentle on the skin compared to retinoic acid and other prescription-grade retinoids.

False: Retinol (and Other Retinoids) Exfoliate Your Skin

Retinoids make you look younger by enhancing collagen production and smoothening the skin by affecting gene expression. Gene expression is the process by which “instructions” from our DNA is used by the body to synthesize functional products; in the case of retinol and other retinoids, the functional products are the new, younger skin cells.

The redness and peeling that some people may experience after using prescription-grade retinoids isn’t exfoliation. Rather, these are merely unwanted side effects that is sometimes caused by irritation to stronger ingredients or “shock” from the sudden increase in vitamin A in your skin.

False: Retinol Makes Your Skin More Prone to Sunburns

It’s true that retinol and other retinoids break down in sunlight. That’s why these products are often packaged in opaque bottles and are best used during the night to ensure maximum potency. However, retinol does NOT make the skin more prone to sunburns. Again, the redness is caused by something else, not the retinol. In this case, it’s the heat and sun exposure. Studies have definitively shown that all retinoids, including retinol, do not lower the MED or the minimal erythemal dose of human skin. MED is the amount of UV light that the skin can be exposed to before it suffers from burns.

True: You Can Apply Retinol on Dry OR Wet Skin

Applying retinol on dry or wet skin doesn’t diminish or enhance its potency. What’s more, there is no scientific evidence that suggests that applying retinol on damp or wet skin can cause damage or aggravate sensitivity. The belief that putting on retinol products on damp or wet skin may have stemmed from usage instructions on most products: to wait until the face is completely dry before applying.

The conversion of retinol into retinoic acid, the form of vitamin A that helps repair damaged skin cells, is dependent on your body chemistry and the number of retinoid receptors you have, and not on the way you apply retinol. But if you want to be a stickler for rules, then by all means pat your face dry before putting on your favorite anti-aging products.

True: You Can Upgrade from Retinol to a Stronger Retinoid

Anti-aging products that contain retinol are much more gentle and are therefore the perfect “entry level” retinoids. They are also the best choice for people with sensitive skin. Once your body adapts and begins to tolerate the increased levels of vitamin A to your skin care regimen, which can take up to 12 weeks, you can ask your dermatologist if you can try stronger retinoids.

Remember that the redness and peeling are discomforts that you have to deal with as part of the process of renewing your skin. However, if you experience prolonged discomfort or severe redness and peeling, you may want to scale back your usage to once or twice a week. In some cases, you may have to switch back to retinol or a weaker formula.

False: You Shouldn’t Put Retinol Around Your Eyes

It’s true that the skin around the eyes are more sensitive compared to the rest of your face. It’s also true that the skin around the eyes is where most of the signs of aging show up. Putting retinol around your eyes will help refresh the skin in that area and achieve a more even effect all over your face. It might sting a little if you get it in your eye, but it won’t do any lasting harm.

Several anti-aging solutions have come and gone over the years, but retinol and other retinoids have stayed on top. Why? Because they’re scientifically proven to be effective! Know the facts so you won’t be led astray. And when in doubt, ask your dermatologist.