“Retinol is proven to exfoliate the skin, aid the production of collagen and able to help fight free radicals,” explains Dr. Murad, dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare. “However, some retinol products can be highly irritating and are known to cause peeling and redness.” According to Dr Murad, this is especially true if you’ve selected a product that is too strong for your skin, or are using the product in the wrong way. The problem is, between confusing terminology and misleading claims, the world of retinol is difficult to navigate even for the most seasoned user.
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If you have sensitive skin, using a skincare product that contains retinol can be a little daunting. Despite the claims that it is a wondrous wrinkle-smoothing, blemish-clearing ingredient, it can leave sensitive skin feeling aggravated, appearing red and flaky after a couple of days.
“A lot of my clients find retinol confusing,” says Dr. Ewoma Ukeleghe, medical and cosmetic doctor and founder of SKNDOCTOR. “Around 20 per cent of them don’t know what retinol is, and the others have heard of it, but are confused about the percentages and different types.” Pure retinol, Dr Ukeleghe explains, is typically the aspect of retinol that is quite irritating. “Pure retinol works instantly upon contact with the skin, which is great in some cases, but it be too much in others, causing flaking and dryness.”
But before you throw in the towel on retinol all together, you may want to invest in one of the new sophisticated formulas that harness all the benefits of the renowned ingredient but are also able to mitigate any potential irritation.
A great way to lessen the irritating effect of retinol while still enjoying the same skin benefits, is to opt for a product that contains a gradual releasing version of retinol. Always at the forefront of skin science, and specialising in formulas for sensitive skin, La Roche Posay’s new B3 Retinol Serum contains 0.1 per cent pure retinol, 0.2 per cent gradual release retinol (retinol palmitate) to be kinder to sensitive skin. Similarly, Dr Murad’s new range of reintol products also relies on gradual release technology.
“We use Retinol Tri-Active Technology in all three products that delivers an instant dose of retinol and a dose of retinol over time to minimise irritation and prolong the benefits,” says Dr Murad. “The technology features a fast-acting retinoid, time-released retinol and a retinol booster to quickly and visibly minimise lines and deep wrinkles, even skin tone and boost radiance. It’s this combination that makes it possible to treat all skin types including sensitive skin, by minimising the risk of irritation and redness.”
As well as the type of retinol used, there are other key ingredients to look out for when selecting a product suitable for sensitive skin. “I always consider the complementary skincare ingredients that help to alleviate any irritation or dryness,” says Dr Ukeleghe. “If the corrective ingredient (the retinol) is offset with the nourishing ingredients then it can improve its overall suitability for sensitive skin.” Within La Roche Posay’s formula, there’s also 10 per cent glycerin, 2 per cent niacinamide, and their renowned thermal water, all helping to calm, soothe and moisturise the skin. “Personally, I’ve never seen that combination together and it’s clear that the brand had sensitive skin at the top of their minds,” says Dr Ukeleghe.
Similarly, LA-based skincare brand Kate Somerville is launching a new collection that aims to rebuild the skin barrier that has been damaged due to improper retinol use. “We’re seeing more and more sensitised skin coming into the clinic as our clients are trying all the new skincare products in their homes such as peels and advanced ingredients like retinol,” says Kate. “The new range of products coming this Spring will act as a recovery system for sensitised skin and will help to rebuild compromised skin barrier.”
Finally, there are a number of things you can do to ensure your skin is protected while using retinol. Always use the product at night as the ingredient can make skin more vulnerable to sun damage, and always wear a broad spectrum sun screen. Above all, it’s important to acknowledge that there’s no right or wrong way to use retinol. “Everyone’s skin is unique,” says Dr Ukeleghe. “Always see how your skin reacts to a new product – if you’re skin is red and irritated, it’s probably not the product for you.”
Keep scrolling to discover the latest retinol formulas available to buy right now…