From bigger pouts to waxy smiles and slimmer ridges, there are not many in Hollywood that has not seen the blade of the plastic surgeon’s knife. “Aging gracefully” has become so passé now that those who want to just let things be, could get the raised eyebrow these days. Comedian Joan Rivers reflects the modern attitude toward nips and tucks nicely – “My body is a temple, and my temple needs redecorating.”
To say “Time is the enemy” would not be a falsity. An increasing number of women, as well as men, start worrying about wrinkles, age spots and discoloration well before they turn 30. Some people have liked the outcome of going “under the knife and behind the needle” so much that they do it regularly. It’s a veritable battle against the ticking clock that they fight with the weapons of the surgeon’s knife and the Botox needle.
There is, of course the dark side to all this. For every story of victory against the wrinkle is a story of a procedure gone really badly and a photo splashed across the news for all the wrong reasons (think Priscilla Presley or Donatella Versace).
So what is to be done? For those of us who fade and wrinkle with the passing years, is there no charm that will reverse the clock? Is there no wand that can transport us back to our beautiful, young selves?
The first point to be made, of course, is that what you are right now is the best YOU there will ever be. Remember the experiment that afforded three ordinary women the chance to look and pose like super-models on the cover of a fashion magazine? Before the shoot each of them talked about what they wanted to change about themselves, but once they saw themselves after the transformation, there was more regret than joy.
Having said that, there is a little package of magic stardust that you can open up when you worry about those worry-lines breaking out. It’s called RETINOL.
Very simply put, Retinol is a form of Vitamin A.
Vitamin A helps the body in three functions: growth, immunity, and vision. As a compound, Retinol can communicate with the cells in your skin and tell them to behave younger and healthier. That is why Retinol creams are able to effectively remove the signs of aging and leave your skin looking fresh, healthy and young. It is definitely a safer bet than knives and syringes, and when used properly will have an effect that is almost as good, if not better than the frozen-mask outcome of Botox.
The science behind the miracle, how Retinol works:
Retinol and other Vitamin A products work at different levels in the skin.
It gives the skin a “pep up” by increasing cell production in the top layer of the skin. They actually cause the existing skin cells to “turn over” and die rapidly so that newer skin cells are being produced more rapidly.
Retinol also encourages the skin to produce collagen, while the skin usually allows the collagen to break down. It also encourages the thickening of skin in the deeper layers so that wrinkles don’t get a place to start.
Retinols unclog pores and allow other specialized products to act properly. Dead cells are also prevented from clogging up pores.
Finally, Retinol is able to counter the effects of exposure to the sun and curbs the production of melanin – the pigment responsible for skin darkening and tanning when exposed to the sun.
Benefits of Retinol
Retinol and its family of skin-friendly compounds came into the market in the early 70s as an anti-acne drug. Over the years they have evolved to treat psoriasis, warts, wrinkles and blotchiness in the skin due to exposure and aging.
In fact, these compounds have been hailed as a cure-all for skin problems. Now although retinol is not the answer to any and every skin problem, there are several problems that have been effectively countered with proven results.
With the use of retinol, the skin is left looking younger and smoother because of the rapid death of the older skin cells and the production of new cells. The fresh look that this process gives you counters the tired, aged appearance that could result from the aging process that your skin naturally goes through over a period of time.
When collagen is allowed to have its play, the skin is left thickened, plumped, and supple. Many women worry about the thinning of their skin which leaves it looking faded, tired and wrinkly. Using a good retinol cream will ensure that your skin is looking supple and youthful for a much longer period of time.
“It’s never too early to start using a retinoid product,” says Chicago based dermatologist Carolyn Jacob, MD.
There has actually been a belief that retinols thin the skin. But with the most recent research, dermatologists have found the exact opposite to happen.
“[Retinoids] typically cause peeling and redness in the first few weeks of use – but they actually thicken the skin,” assures Patricia Farris, a dermatologist based in New Orleans.
Another skin problem that many people dislike is the appearance of brown spots. Uneven pigmentation is also an undesirable sign of aging. A good retinol product reduces pigmentation and repairs the skin by sloughing off brown spots and creating an even tone over the entire face.
Acne help is also a factor to consider when considering a retinol product. When pores are unclogged, the skin is able to breathe. Outbreaks are prevented and acne scars are also history. Clearer skin because of the clearing of acne and reduction of excess oils is a definite benefit to look for here.
So at the end of it, you have a product that will help you:
The down-side of using retinol is that the skin may become worse before it becomes better. Here are a few possible side-effects to look out for when using a retinol product.
As with anything skin related, the first thing to look out for is an allergy. You can tell the difference between an allergy and an irritation if the effects disappear once the product is stopped. If there are breakouts in areas you usually don’t get them, or breakouts in tiny red clusters, you may be suffering from an allergic reaction.
Skin treated with retinol can become irritated, red, and dry. This is the most common side effect.
Since retinols exfoliate from the inside, the skin can become extra sensitive. In fact, skin treated with retinol needs to be protected from the sun. This is important, since sometimes retinols can even break down and become toxic in the presence of sunlight. While retinols can help repair sun damage, the absence of proper sun protection can do more damage than good.
An initial acne flare can also appear in the initial weeks. A process called purging may occur. This involves the worsening of an acne problem that already exists. This means that clogged pores may become bigger pimples and whiteheads may turn into inflamed whiteheads before these go away.
Peeling, flaking, or random flushes have also been reported. Skin may dry out to the extent that no amount of moisturizer may help with the flakiness. Many people also talk about prickles and stings when other products are used, and even while washing with water.
One important thing to keep in mind when using a retinol product is that the area around the eyes is extremely sensitive. The skin here is thinner and more delicate than the rest of the skin on your face. Therefore, retinols should not be applied on the eyelids.
Though the previous section may have wet-blanketed your consideration of retinol, this section comes with the answers to those problems. There may be many side-effects to the use of retinol products, but there is a right way in which to use it so that you get the desired results in a matter of time.
The first thing to remember about retinols is that your skin needs to get used to it. During the initial period, it would be a good idea to use the products minimally - twice or thrice a week, once a day, using no more than a pea-sized amount. It would also be a good idea to use a weaker version of the product so that you allow your skin to get used to the product gradually. Giving your skin a week’s break in between and then returning to the normal routine again is also a good idea to help the skin acclimatize itself. This is also a good way to understand whether your skin likes the product or not. If the side-effects don’t wear off in a week, you should probably think about changing the product.
Also, it is a good idea to consider starting a retinols routine during the summers since cold air can intensify irritation and dryness in the initial period.
Instead of experimenting, it may be a good idea to avoid the area around the eyes when using the product. Protecting this delicate area with an emollient like petroleum jelly is a good point to remember. Also, keeping the skin well moisturized is necessary during the initial period. Give your skin a break when it tells you to – nothing is worth the punishment of going for too much too fast. Things could get worse than you bargained for.
Most prescription retinols are prescribed with antibiotics to minimize potential purging. Using a non-comedogenic product which does not block the pores of the skin will also be helpful against acne. Here’s another good tip: acne-prone skin reacts better to gel-based retinols than cream-based products.
A good sunscreen is a must when you plan to use a retinol so that the skin is protected from the sun, especially the harmful UV rays – both indoors as well as outdoors. If sunscreen is not an option for your skin, keep the sun out as much as it is possible using big floppy hats, giant sunglasses, and UV tinted windows.
As a further note, caution is necessary when using other skin products along with retinols. It is important that you stay away from exfoliating products since retinols themselves have an exfoliating effect on the skin.
Finally, since research is not conclusive on the subject, it is a good idea to avoid using retinols if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning on having a child. These are products that are absorbed into the skin and it is unclear what effect they may or may not have on a developing fetus.
Clearly retinols can be your magic-word answer to the problem of lines, wrinkles, and age-spots or acne that no one really likes. Though there are things one needs to be careful about, after an initial period of getting worse, retinol products could be the answer to those problems that usually require a needle. Anything is better than a botched Botox job that could have you regretting a bad decision for the rest of your life!
Here’s to good health and happy living! Cheers!