Retinol and Glycolic Acid skincare is very confusing for lots of people and this can make you stay away from products containing them. These active skincare products can, however, revolutionise your skin, so I decided to share my favourite products with you and team up with a skincare expert to help you understand what these ingredients are and how you should use them.
Let's start with explaining what retinols and Glycolic Acid do. Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives and they are a great anti-aging ingredient that communicates with your cells to boost collagen production to reduce the appearance of fine lines, speeds up cell turnover and peels away your skin's top layers to smooth the skin and reduce discolouration, and it also unclogs pores and helps to regulate sebum (oil) production. You need to use retinol products for around a month before you will really see proper results.
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist, skincare expert and founder of the informative Honesty For Your Skin site, which aims to help you make more conscious decisions about your skincare. She says that "when you see an ingredient called retin-something, you’re looking at an ingredient that will breakdown to release the biologically active form of Vitamin A. This is a form of vitamin A technically called all-trans retinoic acid or retinoic acid for short. Retinols are great for two types of skin concern – ageing and acne. Clinically proven to treat both, the most potent form - retinoic acid is available by prescription. Less potent forms like retinol can be found in skincare that you need no prescription for. These are considered less potent because they break down within your skin to form retinoic acid. As you’re not buying the highly potent drug form, this means you can buy retinols without a prescription".
The brand new Merumaya Retinol Resurfacing Treatment* (£33.50 from Merumaya) contains the maximum permitted dose of retinol. This products combines retinol with lots of skin conditioning natural ingredients to help counteract some of the harshness of the retinol on the skin - Squalane reinforces the skin's natural moisture barrier; Hyaluronic Acid floods the skin with moisture and helps your skin retain it; Mediacalm™, an active ingredient from Boerhavia Diffusa Root, calms the skin, acts as an anti-irritant and adds softness to the skin; Matrixyl 3000, a peptide blend, restores key proteins in the skin that are broken down with ageing and it works with Vitamin A to tackle deep wrinkles; Aroleat Samphira mimics the beneficial effects of retinol, but without any of the harshness and skin irritation.
How often should you use retinol products? Cheryl says that if you've never used a retinol before, or have sensitive skin, she'd recommend that you apply just one active skincare product just a few times per week. She says though that "if you have a mature skin type and have used retinol before, your ideal routine would incorporate a higher percentage of retinol applied every or every other evening".
With the Merumaya Retinol Resurfacing Treatment and my semi-sensitive, fairly young skin, I find that applying it at bedtime just a few nights per week is enough for me to see good results without causing irritation to my skin.
The Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel (£73.50 for 30 applications from Space NK) contains AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) Glycolic Acid (which comes from sugar cane) and Malic Acid (from fruit). What is Glycolic Acid and why do we need it? Cheryl says that "Everyone’s skin can benefit from great exfoliation and Glycolic Acid is a great exfoliation tactic for anyone with a normal to dry skin type. Glycolic Acid is a chemical exfoliant. Chemical exfoliants are extremely effective as they work on multiple layers of skin, producing lasting results. After application Glycolic Acid works away slowly loosening the glue holding your top layer dead skin cells together. These layers of skin can become slow to shed, leaving skin dull, sallow and un-even. Chemical exfoliation is a great way to fix this". Glycolic Acid tackles uneven skin, enlarged pores and fine lines and wrinkles. It is great at boosting radiance too.
The Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, which also contain BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acid aka Salicylic Acid, another exfoliant) contains two steps - two towelettes that you gently massage over your face until they are no longer damp. The first is the exfoliating treatment and the second, which you apply two minutes later, is a neutralising step - a water-based toner to stop the action of the peel. This can be quite an irritating treatment - you do feel mild stinging with step one - and the product directs you to begin with applying it once per day, before moving up to AM and PM applications. Like Cheryl says, however, you need to take into account your own skin type and adapt the frequency directions accordingly. With my semi-sensitive skin, I find that using these once per day, on just a few days per week, before applying my normal serum and moisturiser is enough for me. I can really see a difference in the radiance and evenness of my skin after just one day of using this product.
The Alpha H Beauty Sleep Power Peel (£56 from Cult Beauty) is a good alternative to both of these products as it contains both retinol and Glycolic Acid. It has 15% Glycolic Acid and 0.5% retinol. To give you an idea of strength, Cheryl says that "you’ll find retinol treatments from around 0.01 to 1% and glycolic acid treatments from around 2 to 15%". This is, therefore, quite a strongly concentrated product, with both of these actives in it, so I don't think that it's a beginner product if you've never used retinols or Glycolic Acid before. I get on fine with using it the two nights per week as directed and it does immediately boost radiance and make skin look more even. It smells like lemon meringue pie too. After a few weeks, you really see its skin plumping and firming benefits. This is also a great product for those suffering from breakouts.
I find this a really effective product and a handy one as it combines the benefits from both retinol and Glycolic Acid. I'd just recommend that you try using these actives seperately first, to get your skin used to them.
Have you tried any of these products before?
This post contains press samples, but all opinions are my own.
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