My Retinol Journey

My Retinol Journey

The jury’s out as to whether it’s making a difference to my skin, but I’ve fallen for the hype and am using retinol nightly.. Well, that’s not strictly true – I am actually using retinal, which is a form of retinol, and one which can cause less irritation and faster results. Confused? Then take my hand and let me lead you gently through the confusing world of so called anti-aging skincare with particular reference to retinol, retinal and tretinoin – or at least my experience of it, and where I go to find out reliable non-biased information.

I’ve always had reasonably olive-y skin, although it may have got a little redder over the years, so the sun has never been a problem for me. I used to spend every holiday in the South of France with my grandmother, and back in the day, sunscreen wasn’t a thing – you just slathered on some Ambre Solaire oil and you were good to go. But as the years have gone by we’ve learned that sun damage can kill you, as well as age your skin irreparably, so using sunscreen has now become a thing, and a good thing too.

Anyway, as a teenager I had horrendous spots or pimples, really humungous red things that were impossible to disguise with makeup, despite my best efforts, but they weren’t what we might have called acne, back in the day. But I was given a horrible cream called Quinoderm which was supposed to dry them – and of course it made my skin flaky and deeply unattractive. Added to that, I had horrendous dandruff – oh what an attractive child I was – which used to delightfully settle in my eyebrows and eyelashes, and create a snowstorm wherever I went. And then there were/are the moles…

Fast forward to my 40s and I finally came into my own. My skin wasn’t wrinkled, the spots had stopped, and I’d more or less seen off the dandruff. So in those days, my regime consisted of makeup removal (in the evening), maybe a toner, followed by a moisturiser – if I could be bothered to take my makeup off, which I have to admit I didn’t always do. My mother was my role model in this – she was an actress and used to drive me to school with last night’s theatrical makeup around her eyes, wearing nothing but a nightie under her mink coat. But that’s another story!
So back to the regime – such as it was. Now there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned and that’s skin allergies. I’d always been allergic – to cats and house mites – and had tried to stick to what used to be called hypoallergenic skincare, like Almay. But about five years ago I started to get really dry patches around my eyes, and long story short, I found out I was allergic to citral, found in most perfumes. So now I have to check every skincare product I use for scent – parfum as it’s often called on the ingredients’ list. The derm I sought advice from also told me I would be allergic to Retinol – Vitamin A – the best anti-ageing ingredient currently on the market, which was a bit of a blow, as it seemed like the gold standard for keeping skin supple and youthful. So I carried on layering, using hyaluronic acid day and night, followed by a moisturiser, and in the daytime, with a foundation that contained SPF.

After a while I started to wonder whether my derm had been correct – he had been rather dismissive when I asked the question, it hadn’t been a thoughtful remark, so I thought I’d give retinol a go, and I tried a monthly subscription service called Dermatica. After a thorough examination of your skin via a written consultation and the uploading of images of your skin, the company prescribes a combination of ingredients which arrives in a little bottle meant to last a month, with instructions on how to use it. From memory mine contained Niacinamide and something else which I’m afraid I’ve now forgotten. They recommend starting slowly at first, so say twice a week, so I did, and happily my dry skin patches didn’t return. So far so good. But after three months, there didn’t appear to be any difference in my skin, and I also found that I still had some product left in the dispenser when the next one arrived. [insert cost]. Also there’s something about a monthly subscription service for a beauty product which kind of takes the fun out of choosing and buying – silly perhaps, but that’s how I felt. So I stopped the prescription and went back to a simpler regime. However, I then got hooked into trying another subscription service, Skin and Me, after listening to a podcast with the founders. The sign-up procedure was almost identical to Dermatica, but I immediately got a reaction from the product, so had to stop. Now I think these companies do a fantastic job, are very thorough and responsive, but they were just not for me. So after a few months of googling and asking questions on forums, I decided to try Medik8, and their lowest strength Retinol, Crystal Retinal™ × 1. It was £35, and I started using it with some trepidation and only twice a week for two weeks, but then went full on, and happily had no reaction. The tube lasted me a couple of months, so I moved on to a slightly higher Retinol content product, Crystal Retinal 3™, again happily with no side effects. This product is £45, btw, so a bit more expensive, although Medik8 does often have special offers, so if you are interested, it might be worth signing up to their newsletter, although Cult Beauty also sells them on their site.

So is it making a difference to my skin? Well, the jury’s out, and to be honest, I’m not expecting miracles. I don’t have any skin concerns per se. My skin is wrinkled, as it would be for my age, 66, but I don’t have age spots or hyper-pigmentation. I have some red veins, but nothing to write home about, and my skin is slack and puckered in places, but that is I assume due to bone loss – I have osteoporosis – and gravity. My aim in using Retinol is to slow down the ageing process, the rate at which my skin develops further fine lines and wrinkles. So I’ll continue to use it, upping the dosage as I finish a tube, and see whether my skin continues to tolerate it. If so, happy days!

PS Three sites I found really useful in understanding what retinol in its various forms can do for the skin – caveating that the first two are run by cosmetic companies with something to sell. But they do break down how retinol/retinal/tretinoin works in easy to understand chunks, so if you want to delve deeper into the subject, take a peek!



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