Ask An Expert: Retinol - does it really work?

By Gilly Ferguson

Gilly Ferguson
Q What’s the best treatment for forehead wrinkles? I’ve heard that retinol eye cream is good for crows feet but does retinol cream really work on wrinkles – and if so, when should I start using it? Asked by: Kirsten, 36, Surrey

A What are the best over the counter Retinol creams? When should I start using Retinol? What are the side effects? What is the number one, best Retinol cream on the market? Retinol may be this season’s most talked about skincare ingredient, but yours is perhaps our most frequently asked, Kirsten. Put simply, for millions Retinol is the gold standard for anti-ageing products and the most successful over the counter product for improving the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, yes. But it’s more than just anti-ageing, it also visibly reduces dark circles, reduces dullness and helps to fight acne at any age. Keen to try it? Here’s everything you need to know before you start, as recommended by dermatologists:

What makes Retinol so successful?
Dr. Howard Murad, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Murad skincare says: ‘Retinol works in three main ways: it exfoliates, supports production of collagen and fights free radicals. As the skin ages, we know our cell production slows down but regular use of a Retinol product can help encourage cell regeneration.’

Regular use of a Retinol product helps to encourage cell regeneration and improve the appearance of wrinkles

Dr Murad

When should I start using it?
Now’s as good a time as any! Many dermatologists suggest we start using Retinol based products in our mid-twenties, especially if you suffer from breakouts or pigmentation to avoid uneven skin tone and scaring. Susanna Saiu, REN Clean Skincare International Trainer and Technical Education Manager recommends you use Retinol for three months, and then take a three-month break.

What are the rules of Retinol?

  • Retinol is best used every night, however if sensitivity occurs you may prefer to use every other night
  • Apply a small amount in the evening as part of your skincare regime, after serums but before heavier treatments
  • Most dermatologists recommend applying at night because Retinol breaks down in sunlight so is less effective and may also increase photosensitivity…
  • …Which is why it’s important to always use an SPF 30 or above to protect the action of the ingredients and your skin, whether it’s sunny or not
  • Try adding some Vitamin C into your morning routine for double the benefits, it helps to neutralize free radicals and protects Retinol from oxidation. Fabled by Marie Claire loves Zelens Power C High Potency Vitamin C Treatment Drops.

Is it suitable for everyone?
‘Yes, though different strengths are appropriate for different skin types’, says Susanna. ‘If skin is sensitive use sparingly as it can enhance inflammation and peeling, leaving the skin quite dry, flaky and irritated.’

And what are the best over the counter creams?
For Sensitive Skin:
Fabled by Marie Claire loves: REN Clean Skincare Bio Retinoid Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Oil – which contains a mix of Vitamin A analogues that give ‘Retinol results’, minus the irritation.

For Fast-Fixes:
Fabled by Marie Claire loves: Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream Many retinol formulas rely on a single form of retinol and may take several weeks to deliver results. Murad’s breakthrough Retinol Tri-Active Technology features both fast-acting and slow-release retinol, plus a retinol booster which enhances the efficacy of Retinol without needing to formulate in high concentrations.

For Pre-Payday:
Fabled by Marie Claire loves: The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane Available in lower doses – The Ordinary’s Retinol in Squalane enables you to gradually build up your tolerance (from 0.2% to 0.5% to 1%) and so achieve the same end results, without the redness or peeling. Alternatively, some dermatologists recommend using a buffer cream – aka mixing in a gentle moisturiser – to ease yourself into your new retinol regime.

Best of the Rest