When the goal is to prevent aging and correct existing damage, virtually all skin experts will agree that daily retinoid use is the answer. The term “retinoid” refers to vitamin A and the various molecules derived from vitamin A—which itself is also known as retinol. Below we explain why prepping your skin for Retinol is an absolute MUST.

Vitamin A overview

Vitamin A is essential for normal skin cell development. It inhibits collagen breakdown, increases collagen synthesis, increases elasticity, improves water barrier function, is anti-inflammatory, regulates sebum production (making it an excellent choice for treating acne as well as aging) and is the only ingredient we know of that actually reverses the signs of photo aging.

prepping your skin for Retinol

Why should I be using retinol?

Basically, as we age, the epidermis (surface of the skin) thickens while the dermis (layer of tissue underneath the surface) thins. The use of retinoids inverts that aging process, so long term retinoid users enjoy an epidermis with less age spots and wrinkles as it is supported by a constantly thick dermis.

Early retinol usage also helps delay the aging process, so the best time to start using a retinol is in your early thirties, when your cell turnover rate begins to slow.

Integrate retinol slowly

You’d never head into a big test or job interview without preparing (even if that means cramming a few hours before). The same can be said for your skin. The best prep you can do for your new retinol regimen is to make sure you have built up skin barrier function to good health.

That means starting on a solid skincare routine —morning and night— for at least 6-8 weeks or so before you begin using the retinol. During the day, wear a broad-spectrum mineral-based sunscreen every day, at night, layer on an intensive healer, like Radical Night Repair. Finally, once skin is in peak condition, know that you’re only through the first stage!

A study called ‘Facilitating Facial Retinization Through Barrier Improvement’ showed improving barrier function before beginning retinoids and continuing use of a barrier-enhancing skincare products facilitates the early phase of facial ‘retinization’ (more on this below) and enhances the treatment response.

Ease in the routine

Because using a retinol at night is best (retinoids degrade in the light), you can start with at least twice a week and build up slowly, either alternate days or tacking on an additional night each subsequent week.

It’s important to build up to whatever works best for your skin. Some people can use it every single night. Others, like people with sensitive skin, may only be able to use it every other night or even less.

What can I expect when I start?

A few symptoms common to the beginning stages of retinoid use might explain why many people either fear to try them or discontinue their use before they’ve had the opportunity to revel in the improvements. Retinoids initially can cause peeling and some redness, a process called ‘facial retinization’. 

prepping your skin for Retinol

Users should be aware that this is normal and even to be expected — peeling and redness are side effects of retinoids working at a profound level to influence gene expression, resulting eventually in enhanced collagen production, skin smoothing and the evening out of pigmentation.

When people experience such symptoms, they often make the mistake of stopping their treatment program, then waiting until the skin gets “better” before beginning again. Giving the top layer of skin time to rebuild can unfortunately initiate another round of redness and peeling which ultimately delays the anticipated benefits.

What if it gets too much?

You’ll know you’re going too hard with your retinol applications if your skin becomes extremely red, dry, and flaky. You’ll also notice other products will sting. This indicates it’s time to stop, repair your skins barrier function, and restart only once things normalize at a lower intensity.

The bottom line.

Don’t go rushing into retinol use! Your skin needs to be in tip top shape to get the real benefits of this anti-ageing miracle cream.

Making retinols part of your daily skin care routine gradually is the key to seeing long-term results.

With continued use, your results will get better and better over time. This is not an overnight process for anyone, and depending on the type of retinoid you use, the condition you are treating and the condition of your skin, it could take 12 weeks before you start to see significant changes.

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