Retinol today is a far cry from the wrinkle-busting ingredient’s formative years, when retinoid — a derivative of vitamin A — was a hush-hush product. During the ’30s and ’40s, scientists discovered retinoid could heal and prevent acne, and they created a cream-based version to rub into skin. In the ’80s the topical remedy became synonymous with anti-aging products and a fixture in dermatologists’ offices. “But there was a stigma attached to using retinol,” explains George. “It meant you had problematic skin: acne, wrinkles or otherwise.” People were shy about using the then prescription-only treatment.
Convenient and a fraction of the original cost, today’s non-invasive serums, treatments and creams are predicted to bump aside cosmeceutical services like Botox, Fraxel and injectables.
Mixmastered into gentler liquid formulations, retinol is now being infused into facial creams and gels faster than you can say crow’s feet. Over-the-counter heavyweight brands are upping the ante too, bonding it to molecules like niacin, a B vitamin found in red meat, and vitamin-complex B3 to create powerful anti-aging skincare. And we can’t seem to get enough (although we caution you that overuse can lead to blotchiness and peeling!).
Retinol’s not just about eliminating blemishes or smoothing out wrinkles: a twice-daily application of the new milder formulations makes skin look bright and luminous with a fresh youthful glow.
Containing a maximum of 1 percent retinol, the new blends are Health Canada–approved. Each formulation acts like an exfoliant, removing layers of dead skin cells on your face, increasing cellular rejuvenation and stimulating collagen production — all of which help soften fine lines and wrinkles and reduce the size of your pores. “Most skincare products can only claim to decrease the appearance of wrinkles, rather than actually decreasing wrinkles, which is a very significant difference,” explains dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett, owner of Toronto’s cosmetic dermatology clinic DLK on Avenue. “There is also solid evidence and research that supports retinol’s use.”
And, believe it or not, all skin types can use the new retinol-based treatments: Eye creams, serums and day, night and CC creams are safe to use, apply easily and do not cause harsh reactions, even on sensitive skin. “Now that retinol has been formulated as a liquid, it’s less irritating yet still very effective,” says Kellett. “The older cream and gel formulations were irritating, and often patients stopped using them because of this. In addition, some of the formulations actually caused breakouts. Now one can easily up the dose and frequency without irritating the skin.”
Bottom line: Retinol can make your skin more susceptible to the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays, which not only burn skin but are also largely responsible for wrinkles, so be sure to apply sunscreen overtop! For best results, be consistent with your regime and patient with the outcome — it typically takes six to eight weeks to see results.
Three of the best retinol potions:
Everyday serum: ROC Retin-Ox Correxion Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Serum, $54.
Super star concentrate: Vichy Liftactiv Advanced Concentrate, $50.
Treat while you sleep: Philosophy Help Me Retinol Night Treatment, $59.
For more of the best anti-aging products of the year click here.