What is retinol?
Many skin care products contain retinol, but what is this magical anti-aging ingredient? Retinol is essentially Vitamin A. It's naturally found in dark leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale, and that's why some face masks contain these raw ingredients. While these vegetables are certainly good for your diet, you're not going to banish wrinkles from your face by smearing it with kale. That's where retinol creams come in.
What is retinol used for?
Technically, your face cream is more likely to contain retinoid, which is a derivative of retinol. People tend to use the two terms interchangeably. Regardless, products containing this ingredient are used to:
- Increase skin turnover
- Increase blood supply to the skin
- Reduce pigmentation
- Reduce oil production
The benefits of retinoids and retinol are reduced wrinkles and smoother, more youthful looking skin.
Pictured: Retinol has many uses and comes in different forms, like this body lotion.
Retinol isn't a one trick pony; it comes in many different formats. Searching for 'retinol' on the Priceline Pharmacy website alone will throw up a retinol face mask, a retinol moisturiser, multiple eye cream treatments, retinol serum and even makeup removing tips that contain retinol. This ingredient is so much more than a cream, it's a veritable skin care chameleon!
Who Should Use Retinol?
Dermatologists recommend that you shouldn't start using retinol until your late 20s. Retinol is a powerful ingredient, so using it is about not starting too early but not leaving it too late. Rachel Nazarian, M.D, of Schweiger Dermatology Group advises "As you enter your 20s, early signs of sun-damage and aging show on the skin. The skin starts to lose elasticity and the free radical damage of pollution, aging, and sun damage trigger the degradation of skin that desperately needs repair."
If you're in your late 20s and are prone to regular breakouts, or you have oily to combination skin, you should consider waiting until your early 30s before using a retinol cream. Retinol can be effective for acne, but it can equally cause more blemishes if it isn't the right strength or formula. Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau, who tends to the likes of Demi Lovato, explains:
"Many anti-aging products have potent active ingredients, like retinol and peptides, that can increase the metabolism of skin cells. However, these ingredients can also be too active for breakout-prone complexions."
People who suffer from eczema or sensitive skin should exercise extreme caution. If you're in doubt about whether you should start using retinol in your skin care routine, speak to your GP or a dermatologist. An expert will be able to give you advice specific to your skin.
Prescription or Over The Counter ?
Pictured: You can get a day or night cream from most chemists, but what about prescription strength retinol?
Prescription retinol is a thing, but you shouldn't seek it out until later in life. Prescription retinol is extremely strong, hence why you'll need a doctor or a dermatologist to sign on the dotted line before you start using it on your face. During your late 20s and early 30s, over the counter products will suffice. These are relatively gentler and you run less risk of having man adverse side effects.
Potential side effects of retinol use
According to the Australian College of Dermatologists, the potential side-effects of using topical retinoids include:
- Topical retinoids may irritate the skin particularly when first used. This may include skin peeling and stinging.
- Excess use results in redness, swelling, peeling or blistering.
- Topical retinoids may cause or aggravate eczema, particularly atopic dermatitis.
- Irritation may also be aggravated by exposure to wind, cold, sunlight or use of soaps, cleansers, astringents, exfoliants and certain cosmetics.
- Topical retinoids may increase the chance of sunburn. It is important to wear sunscreen during the day and preferably apply the retinoid only at night.
- Retinoids taken orally have caused birth deformities. It is recommended that topical retinoids are not used during pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding
Because of the potential side effects, you should always follow the directions and should endeavour to slowly introduce even the best retinol cream into your skin care routine. If you have an adverse reaction, discontinue use immediately and consult your doctor if necessary.
Do anti-aging products really work?
As yet, there is no product on earth powerful enough to stop the signs of ageing dead in their tracks. If that's your goal, you'll need to find yourself a good plastic surgeon. However, if used consistently, you're likely to see some improved results.
The Best Retinol Cream in Australia
We haven't just found the best anti-aging cream, we've found 7 over the counter products that come highly recommended by both customers and dermatologists.
1. Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream
Product: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream
Cost: $33.99 at Chemist Warehouse
Why We Love It: Neutrogena remains the #1 Dermatologist Recommended skin care brand, so we trust everything from it's retinol to its hand cream.
Dermatologists Say: Of the brand itself, board-certified dermatologist Edidiong Kaminska, MD, co-founder of Kaminscy Medical and Surgical Consulting Incorporated says “They [Neutrogena] actually test the skin and have clinical trials to make sure [products] are working. As physicians, we like data; we like evidence-based medicine.”
Reviews: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream has 52 reviews on the Chemist Warehouse website and has an average rating of 4.5 stars. One satisfied customer said -
"I'm nearly 30 and had very noticeable fine lines from stress, after a week of use I noticed a big change. I've tried and spent loads of money on products that claimed rapid wrinkle repair but didnt do anything of the sort . This product is true to its word!"
2. RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
Product: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
Cost: $39.72 from iHerb
Why We Love It: RoC has been a leading French skincare brand for over 50 years and they continue to partner with dermatologists.
Dermatologists Say: Dr Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and assistant clinical professor at the George Washington University Medical Center says that RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream is “The highest strength of retinol you can get before a trip to the dermatologist's office.”
Reviews: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream has 28 views on the iHerb website and has an average 3.8/5 star rating. One happy customer said -
"I have sensitive skin and I'm 26 so I'm not wrinkly or anything but I use this as a preventative measure as I read a lot of good things about it. I've been using it for about 7 months now and I have definitely seen results. I used to have extremely tiny wrinkles on my forehead, and they are now completely gone. I don't have ANY wrinkles whatsoever and I think I can give credit to this product. It does not irritate my skin or make me red. I use it on a nightly basis and follow up with an oil or moisturizer, as it's not meant to moisturize your skin and can result in a bit of tightness if you don't moisturize afterwards. Pairs well with a vitamin C serum too"
3. Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream
Product: Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream
Cost: $113 from MECCA
Why We Love It: Drunk Elephant is certainly not cheap, but it's definitely a cult skin care favourite.
Dermatologists Say: Dr. Heather Rogers, dermatologist and creator of Doctor Rogers RESTORE is a fan of the Drunk Elephant brand, saying “Drunk Elephant does a great job with their products. Masterson and her team have identified several 'problem' ingredients that are commonly included in skin care products and actively avoid them. Sodium lauryl sulfate, known as SLS, and drying alcohols are all common causes of irritation and are said not to be found in the line."Of the A-Passioni Retinol Cream, she says "The key ingredient here is retinol - which is the over the counter, pre-drug version of tretinoin, a prescription vitamin A derivative. Both retinol and prescription tretinoin have been shown to do great things for the skin, including treating acne, reversing sun damage and improving skin smoothness and texture.
Reviews: Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream has 105 reviews on the MECCA website and has an average rating of 4.5/5 stars. One happy shopper said -
"I was given a sample of this retinol cream and I am already obsessed with it. I had a pimple coming on and was really hoping to stop it in its tracks so I tried my sample at night time and when I woke up and the pimple was pretty much gone. My skin also looked so smooth and even just from one use and the red dots on my chin had seriously lightened. I will definitely be buying the full size."
4. Dermalogica Overnight Retinol Repair
Product: Dermalogica Overnight Retinol Repair
Cost: $117.92 from Adore Beauty. Afterpay is available.
Why We Love It: If Dermalogica products are good enough for the ageless Jennifer Aniston, then sign us up!
Dermatologists Say: Of the brand, The Derm Review said "With its extensive skin care line, Dermalogica is able to provide dermatologists with skin health products that can help treat their patient’s most frustrating skin concerns including common skin sensitivities, acne, aging, and discolorations."
Reviews: Dermalogica Overnight Retinol Repair has 16 reviews on the Adore Beauty website and has an average rating of 4.6/5 stars. One satisfied shopper said -
"I love this product. It’s very expensive but I can see it making a difference and you don’t need much. I’ve had people comment on how I’m “glowing”!
5. Cosmedix Serum 16
Product: Cosmedix Serum 16
Cost: $136 from Adore Beauty. Afterpay is available
Why We Love It: It's a great product to use if you're completely new to the retinol scene.
Dermatologists Say: Francesca Fusco, M.D, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City says "This is a great intro-to-retinol product because if features microencapsulated retinol complex, which delivers results without the irritation and drying.”
Reviews: Cosmedix Serum 16 has 22 reviews on the Adore Beauty website and has an average 4.8/5 star rating. One happy customer said -
"I love this for so many reasons. It has a high degree of potency and the sustained release formulation does not make my skin peel like other retinol products. Best of all it is very moisturising and smells so good. The only criticism is that it’s expensive, I used Cosmedix and then tried a neostrata retinol but it didn’t give me the same outcome. I noticed that my skin look lacklustre after not using Cosmedix-16. This is my holy grail."