Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Gopika Suresh (Journalist)  on 22nd Sep 2020

7 Retinol Myths Busted

7 Retinol Myths Busted

The Queen of the skincare industry needs no introduction. Research has proven time and again that retinol is excellent for the skin. From helping with collagen stimulation to treating acne and pigmentation and softening wrinkles, retinol is your skin's favorite food.

However, with every golden product comes a lot of misinformation. So, we're here to bring the best out of your skin and eliminate unwanted confusion. Keep reading to know of seven retinol myths busted by science and skin experts.  

Retinol

MYTH #1: LOOK FOR THE HIGHEST CONCENTRATION OF RETINOL TO START WITH

Retinol is quick to get into work; do not underestimate its power. Less is more in this case, and begin by building a tolerance to the product first. Since retinol is so potent, it could sometimes cause adverse reactions. So, start with a lower concentration twice a week and slowly increase its frequency.

Retinol comes in multiple concentrations like 1%, 0.5%, 0.3% and 0.25%. If your bottle doesn't specify its concentration, it is probably below 0.25%, which isn't very effective. Some Studies suggest at least 0.25% retinol or 0.025% tretinoin is needed, so any product that uses this specific percentage is recommended. You could try minimalist's Retinol 2%, which uses an optimum concentration to brighten skin and reduce wrinkles and fine lines.

To choose the right concentration, it is essential to assess your skin type as well. For thick or oily skin, a higher-strength product might do the trick. For thin or dry skin, a lower-strength option would be ideal."

Moreover, skin type is an essential factor in analyzing while making a pick between cream or retinol serum. Serums are lighter and easier to absorb, so they are typically best for those with oily or acne-prone skin. If your skin is dry, you may use retinol creams for extra hydration

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MYTH #2: NEVER COMBINE RETINOL AND VITAMIN C 

Often, people fear from using vitamin C and retinol together due to their contrasting pH levels. Ascorbic acid and its derivatives that make vitamin C require skin of a lower pH for absorption (0 to about 3.5). While retinol requires a higher pH level (around 5.5 to 6). When used together, the pH of retinol decreases and that of vitamin C increases. This is said to cancel out their working, making them ineffective.

However, unlike popular belief, the two work great together. Studies have shown that the duo is excellent for reversing natural aging and photoaging. Vitamin C stabilizes retinol, thus creating a protective barrier against harmful environmental factors that cause aging.

So, when used correctly together, retinol and vitamin C can do wonders for your skin!

MYTH #3: THE pH OF AHA AND BHA EXFOLIANTS REDUCE RETINOL'S EFFICIENCY

You may find several claims on the internet stating that making use of AHA or BHA exfoliants will cancel out the effectiveness of retinol. However, this is false! Most people believe this myth due to insufficient knowledge of how skincare ingredients work and affect the skin's structure.

This concern is mainly due to the exfoliant's reduction of the skin's pH. Thus, disrupting the working of the retinol. If your skin's pH is below 5.5 to 6, an enzyme will not convert the retinol into retinoic acid, an active form of the retinol. However, the assumption that acid exfoliants pull down the skin's pH is a misunderstanding.

You should know that several research pieces proved that when retinol, combined with AHA, could treat sun damage. Another study tested Retinoic Acid and Glycolic Acid when used together. Results stated that it could treat acne scars and claimed it is an effective alternative against invasive procedures that several people undergo. 

MYTH #4: YOU WILL SEE RESULTS INSTANTLY 

As much as we hate to disappoint you, we don't want to sugar coat things either. So, the truth is, like any other product, retinol, too, does not work overnight. It could take up to six months for one to see results after using over the counter retinol. On the other hand, tretinoin may show results within three months. However, this could vary from skin to skin. So, even though it might take weeks or months, we recommend you not to give up! All good things take time, and studies have suggested how 12-week usage of retinol drastically improved wrinkles.  

Tips on how you can incorporate retinol in your skincare routine for best and fast results-

Step 1: Wash your face with a face wash or cleanser of your choice.

Step 2: Apply an eye cream of your choice with your ring finger. Since the area around the eye is too delicate, you must protect it.

Step 3: Wait for a few minutes until your skin is completely dry. This step is crucial as applying retinol on damp skin will make it get deeply absorbed. Thus, giving rise to irritation sometimes. You could apply moisturizers and serums to damp skin but never use retinol on it.

Step 4: Next, take a pea-sized amount of retinol and starting from the chin, apply it on your skin in downward and upward motions.

Step 5: Now, you can hydrate your skin with a moisturizer of your choice.

Step 6: Lastly, but not the least, remember to apply sunscreen if you are doing this routine in the morning.

With this routine, you should achieve the best results from retinol in the shortest amount of time.  

MYTH #5: NEVER APPLY RETINOL AROUND THE EYE 

The skin under one's eye is the thinnest and the most delicate on the face. Due to this, the first signs of aging arise around the eye, such as wrinkles and dark circles. Long back, experts disapproved of using retinol under the eye as it was too strong for it. However, now that isn't the case. Thanks to various formulations such as encapsulated and buffer retinol, one can use this golden product's benefits under the eye. These new-age formulations possess hydrating properties that are perfect for the delicate eye area.

Formulations that contain lower concentrations and are more hydrating than what you use on your face. A pea-sized amount of the product can be used for the entire eye area and that should be enough. However, before using an intense product like retinol, make sure to do a small patch test on the skin.

Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist, says that you could use retinol containing eye cream as well. However, you prep your skin with moisturizer first and then use the cream or mix them. This will help shield your skin for the intensity of the retinol. 

MYTH #6: RETINOLS EXFOLIATE YOUR SKIN

Most people confuse the terms retinol and exfoliants, when they, in fact, work very differently on the skin. What is certain is that they can complement one another. It is a misconception that retinol helps with exfoliating the skin.

Retinol helps with cell communication and it is an antioxidant ingredient. What happens when you apply retinol to your skin is, it gets absorbed and "communicates" with your live skin cells. This, in turn, makes them healthier and younger. When you have such cells underneath your skin, there is an increased production of new skin cells.

How an exfoliant differs from retinol is in terms of what skin layers are worked upon. According to research, cell turnover increases from the stimulation of the deeper layers of one's skin in the latter case. Whereas, in the case of exfoliants like BHA or AHA, the uppermost layers are targeted. This helps you get rid of dead, unhealthy cells that get built up.

Some may experience peeling or exfoliation with the usage of both over the counter and prescription retinol. However, understand this as a sign of exfoliation. Whether it is from retinol, BHA, or AHA, flaking, and peeling equals irritation and not exfoliation. If it persists from using any of the three, you must reduce the usage frequency. If it does not go away even after that, consider stopping the product.   

MYTH #7: NEVER APPLY RETINOL DURING THE DAYTIME

Several studies state that vitamin C and retinol work very well. When applied under SPF products, these ingredients protect one's skin for the harmful UV rays that can cause aging. Vitamin A, a derivative of retinol and vitamin C and E, produced excellent results as well when applied together. The trio remains effective and stable under the application of an SPF rated product.

Research also suggested that the combination of vitamin A and E remained stable when exposed to harsh UV rays and sunscreen. Similar results were obtained when pure vitamin A was used as well. So you can be assured that retinol is stable and efficient when used with sunscreen. Antioxidants like retinol and your sunscreen will form a protective layer against the UV rays that emitted outdoors. This layer provides you defense against uneven skin tone, wrinkles, loose skins, and dark brown spots.

There is no doubt that retinol can be used during day time. In fact, it does a pretty good job when used!

So, as you've seen above, we have busted some misconceptions concerning retinol with science. Ultimately, you should choose whatever works best for your skin. However, remember to stay away from these myths; you must know that no research supports these misguided assumptions.