Retinol has become the “It girl” of the skincare world and she’s more than just a buzzy trend. Thanks to its regenerative properties, this notable ingredient is commonly labelled as the gold standard for anti-aging. What’s its superpower? Retinol speeds up your skin’s cell turnover rate which reduces wrinkles, fades pigmentation, boosts elasticity and improves texture—sounds downright heroic to us.
With the overwhelming number of retinol products and information available at our fingertips, it’s important to seek out guidance from medical professionals and brands you trust. With that in mind, we spoke with Dr. Steve Mathieu, a Canadian dermatologist, to help us debunk six popular retinol myths and shed more light on this trendy ingredient.
Myth #1: All retinoids are the same
Retinol is a form of Vitamin A and a part of the larger “retinoid” family which consists of many active compounds that vary in potency and formulation. “There are very harsh retinoids that we use medically through prescriptions, along with less potent compounds that are sold over the counter. They’re quite similar, but differ in strength,” says Mathieu, adding that if it’s sold in a drugstore, it’s usually retinol.
Pro-retinol, however, differs from its Vitamin A siblings because it’s milder end of the retinoid spectrum and doesn’t degrade in the sunlight, making it both safe and effective to wear during the day.
Myth #2: You can never apply retinol during the day
Most retinoid-based formulas become destabilised in sunlight and can cause sun sensitivity, which is why it’s more commonly recommended to use it at night—but that’s not a black and white rule. Products that feature pro-retinol as a key ingredient are formulated to be applied in the morning, like Biotherm’s new Blue Pro-Retinol Multi-Correct Cream, which is formulated for all skin types and is adapted to sensitive skins for daily resurfacing which makes it ideal for retinol beginners.
“There’s nothing wrong with applying a pro-retinol based product during the day, especially if you’re wearing sunscreen,” says Mathieu.
Myth #3: The higher the dosage, the better the results
It may be tempting to opt for a stronger retinol formula thinking it will help you achieve your skincare goals quicker, but it could just lead to a painful reaction. Mathieu’s advice? Keep it low and slow.
“It helps to start slowly so your skin can get used to the product,” he says. Try applying it twice a week to begin with, then build up your tolerance by slowly increasing the frequency of use to every other night, depending on how it’s feeling. This is especially imperative for those with sensitive skin or with any skin conditions such as eczema or rosacea.
A product like Biotherm’s Blue Retinol Resurfacing Night Serum contains 0.25% retinol which is a moderate level of potency and recommended for those with normal to oily skin. Even at a moderate level, the serum is still powerful enough to produce results with 100% of women in a Biotherm clinical study seeing reduced wrinkles after use.
“Take your time and avoid any harsh side effects,” says Mathieu, “There really isn’t a rush.”
Myth #4: It’s going to look worse before it gets better
While slight side effects such as red or tender skin are expected from retinol use and can be indicators that your quickened cell turnover-rate is kicking in, there’s a limit to everything. “Your acne or skin in general may get slightly worse in the beginning because it’s responding to the treatment. Mild irritation is good,” says Mathieu.
As you increase your use frequency, if you experience tingling, dryness or heat sensation try reducing your usage until the feeling disappears. Then begin increasing the frequency again more slowly. “But if your face is bright red and you’re experiencing a lot of pain or peeling,” says Mathieu, “that’s not normal and you should consult your doctor.”
Myth #5: Retinol can cause long-term skin damage or thinning
According to Mathieu, retinol will thin the top layer of your skin—which is composed of a buildup of dead skin cells—temporarily in order to rejuvenate it, but it simultaneously boosts your collagen production to produce thicker and more durable skin over time.
“As long as you’re using it correctly and in moderation, retinol will not damage your skin,” he adds. “You’re getting fresher and newer skin cells.”
Myth #6: You’re too young to start using retinol
Retinol works hard to smooth fine lines, and the more you age, the deeper those lines go, making them more difficult to treat. With that in mind, Mathieu recommends to his patients to think proactively and take care of their skin as early as possible.
“I don’t think it’s ever too early to start preventing skin aging,” he says. “If you’re in your 20s and 30s and can start treating your fine lines before they turn into deeper wrinkles, why wouldn’t you want to?”
Where to begin your retinol journey
With the demand for retinol-based products continuously rising, Biotherm, a bioscience-based and purpose-driven global skincare brand is addressing this need with two new products: Blue Retinol Resurfacing Night Serum and Blue Pro-Retinol Multi-Correct Cream.
The Blue Retinol Night Serum is formulated with retinol (0.25%), plumping hyaluronic acid, brightening niacinamide and Life Plankton, which is the backbone of Biotherm’s skincare solutions and is known for its regenerative qualities. All together, this night-time formula has been proven to reduce wrinkles including crow’s feet, lines around the eyes, frown lines, forehead lines, upper lip wrinkles and smile lines. The Blue Pro-Retinol Multi-Correct Cream also features Life Plankton, niacinamide and Pro-Retinol, which can safely be used during the daytime. This formula similarly targets wrinkles and revives dull skin while also being daytime-friendly and adapted to sensitive skin types, making it a suitable companion for the night serum.
Click here to learn more about Biotherm and to purchase their new Blue Retinol Night Serum and Blue Pro-Retinol Multi-Correct Cream.