How to Choose an over the Counter Retinol Product
Retinol is a form of Vitamin A used in skincare to promote rapid skin cell turnover, helping to reduce wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots. It is a weaker member of the family of retinoids (like tretinoin and retinoic acid) and is found in variety of non-prescription creams, oils, and lotions.How can you choose a good over-the-counter retinol product? You don’t need to break the bank — just make sure to get the right active ingredient in the right amount.
Checking for Active Ingredients
Look at the product labeling.First of all, you’ll want to find an over-the-counter anti-aging product that actually works and actually contains retinol. So, you should take a close look at labels. This can be hard, as there tends to be a lot of jargon as well as misleading claims on skin care products. You will have to learn to cut through the noise.
- Know that the ingredients in skin care products are listed in descending order. This means that ingredients with the largest amounts are listed first. If an ingredient is listed at the end, there isn’t much of it present.
- However, keep in mind that you don’t always need that much of active ingredients – retinol content of 0.1% or less is fairly standard.
- Don’t get taken in by flashy marketing. Labels might claim that a product is “dermatologist tested” or something similar. This doesn’t mean that dermatologists endorse it, however.
Choose a product with the active ingredient retinol — not other derivatives.Retinol as well as the retinoids and retinoic acid in prescription creams are all derived from Vitamin A and get synthesized by your skin in the same basic way. Not all over-the-counter products are created equal, however. Some active ingredients are just not as effective in repairing wrinkles.
- Take a close look at each product’s active ingredient. This should be listed in the product label under “active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).”
- Favor products that use retinol as the API. Retinol is gentler on the skin than the tretinoin found in prescription formulas, but it gets converted at the cellular level into the same chemical.
Know that similar sounding ingredients are not the same.You’ll probably notice that some skin care products have names that sound an awful lot like retinol. These are often other Vitamin A derivatives and are called “pro-retinols,” i.e. retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinyl propionate, and retinyl linoleate.
- Retinyl propionate is a derivative of retinol, but it doesn’t offer the same anti-aging benefits as retinol.
- Derivatives of retinol are in general weaker and less effective than retinol. If your goal is to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, you’d probably be better off choosing something with plain retinol.
Choose a reputable brand.One problem with over-the-counter retinols and other skincare products is that they aren’t regulated (prescription products must be FDA-approved, so they go through vigorous testing).This means that companies don’t have to list the amount of the active ingredient, so you can’t be exactly sure how much you are using.
- Consider a brand that you know and trust, especially if you are new to retinols. This will make it more likely that the level of retinol you get is sufficient to improve your skin.
- For instance, you might try brands like Neutrogena, Olay, Vichy, Aveeno, or other reputable manufacturers.
Finding Retinols for Sensitive Skin
Buy a low-concentration retinol, to start.Retinoids and retinol tend to cause some skin inflammation and redness, especially in the beginning.If you have naturally sensitive skin or red and inflamed acne, normal over-the-counter retinol products can make the situation worse. You might therefore want to start with a low-concentration and work your way up.
- Topical retinoids can cause what’s called “retinoid dermatitis” even in people with normal skin. This is characterized by redness, scaling, dryness, and pruritis. The level of irritation correlates with the strength and concentration of Vitamin A in the product.
- Look for the words “sensitive skin” on the label, which will generally mean that the product has lower concentrations of active retinol. Be aware that low-concentration creams and lotions are not as effective but are gentler.
Choose a moisturizer with soothing ingredients.While your skin gets used to retinol, it may become irritated. If possible, go with a retinol moisturizer that is not only lower in concentration but that also has added ingredients for sensitive skin. This should help to soothe the skin as it builds up a tolerance to the retinol. Moisturize your face every day to keep your skin looking fresh and healthy.
- Try something like RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream or Avéne’s RetrinAL, which are both targeted at more sensitive skin. For instance, the latter contains a less irritating Vitamin A derivative called retinaldehyde as well as thermal spring water, which offers an anti-inflammatory effect. Lancer Younger: Pure Youth Serum also has calming peptides.
- You can also reduce inflammation further by applying the retinol every other night and by following it up with a good moisturizer.
Move up gradually to higher concentrations.Over time, as your cells turn over, your skin should become less irritated and more used to retinol.This adjustment period can be two to four weeks, though a total resolution of your complexion may take a few months. You can then move on to higher concentrations.
- Skin cells adapt to retinol in a few weeks and begin to build up tolerance for the ingredient. This means that minor irritation should start to subside.
- Switch to a higher concentration of active retinol in order to see more anti-aging benefits. Many people eventually move from over-the-counter to prescription formulas with tretinoin, a Vitamin A derivative that can be up to 20 times more potent than retinol.
Finding the Best Value for Your Money
Don’t be impressed by big names.There are a number of high-end, luxury retinol products on the market that boast impressive names. These are probably excellent, but you can get a quality product that works nearly as well for only a fraction of the price. Don’t think that a product will work better just because it costs more and has a fancy name.
- There are a lot of high-end retinols that sell for well over 0 a bottle, like NaturaBisse’s Essential Shock Intense Retinol Fluid (5) or Kate Somerville DermalQuench Liquid Lift (). These probably work great but are very pricey.
- Another bank-breaker is Youth Corridor by the surgeon Dr. Gerald Imber. This is most definitely for people with large budgets: 0 for a 50mL bottle!
Watch out for gimmicky ingredients.Some high-end retinols also make use of expensive or gimmicky ingredients that add to price but don’t necessarily add anything major to the product’s effect on your skin. Be wary of these, as well, to find a good value retinol.
- Perricone MD OVM serum is a pricey example at 5 for a 30 milliliters (1 fl oz) bottle. They claim the “secret ingredient” is egg shell membrane, which is supposed to protect your skin from irritation.
- The London-based surgeon Yannis Alexandrides offers a retinol product called “111 Skin Celestial Black Diamond,” which contains actual black diamond powder and costs 0 a bottle. You can probably go without the powdered diamonds.
Aim for a price range of to .You can find a range of great retinol skincare products for less than . In fact, you can get good value from recognized brands without any gimmicky or outrageously expensive ingredient.You really don’t need to pay much more than to .
- Look for something like Olay’s Regenerist Intensive Repair Treatment. This uses mild retinyl propionate and costs .99. Look for it at your pharmacy or online.
- You might also try Aveeno’s Positively Radiant Targeted Tone Corrector, a retinol cream that lessens dark spots and costs about . Neutrogena also offers a Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum with retinol for .99.
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