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Understanding retinol

Ok it's time to talk Retinol. You see, for many years, we have tried to steer our clients away from 'retinol' products. We've ranted and raved and now we have some explaining to do.

Here's the thing... The "Retinol" advertised in many products is (to put it bluntly)... totally crap.

Products advertised as "Retinol" are commonly using a form of vitamin A called Retinyl-esters.


Stay with me, I promise it'll all make sense soon.


Retinol-esters are the mildest types of retinoids, because they need to be converted within our skin before they become active. Yep you read that correctly, at the time of applying it to your skin it is doing ABSOLUTELY nothing.


Retinol esters needs to convert not once, not twice but THREE times on the skin! As you can imagine, whilst these conversions are happening it can cause quite a-lot of irritation for the skin. This is why some people experience redness, increased sensitivity and dryness.


Retinol, the most popular over-the-counter retinoid, (hence why everyone talks about retinols) goes through two conversions before it becomes active. That means you're getting a more effective form of vitamin A than the retinol-esters.


Retinaldehyde, also known as retinal, is the direct precursor of retinoic acid—meaning it is directly converted into active vitamin A by our skin (meaning minimal irritation). Plus compared to retinol, it converts 11 times faster!


Retinaldehyde is proven to be just as effective as retinoic acid for treating sun damage, with fewer side effects. Studies have shown that it improves skin thickness and elasticity, repairs UVA damage and (in conjunction with hyaluronic acid) reduces wrinkles, nasolabial folds and crow's feet.


Retinaldehyde is also particularly effective for acne since it is antibacterial and helps regulate cell turnover. More active and less irritation, Retinaldheyde is my personal fave and one I refer to as the "sweet spot" when explaining to my clients!

Imagine it like a scale. After retinoic acid is retinaldehyde, then retinol, and finally retinol-esters — each one is less potent than the last.


While retinoic acid is a very pure form of vitamin A, it is prescription only in the UK.


So why doesn't every skincare brand use retinaldehyde?


Well for one, it's expensive and two, it's unstable. To stabilise retinaldehyde we need to encapsulate it, this requires some rather clever science.


Don't worry though, we work with Medik8!


Medik8 are a science led brand and are pioneers in cutting edge retinoid innovation. Medik8's active encapsulated polymer shells means stabilised vitamin A with time release technology!


See, clever or what!


Don't be put off by what you've used in the past. This is just a nugget of information where retinoids are concerned.


Just recently I was speaking to a client who said retinol "didn't suit her skin". I knew immediately that what she was referring to and had been using, would have been a retinol-esther (3 conversions meaning maximum irritation!).


So after explaining the science behind it, she left with a Medik8 Crystal Retinal (a retinaldehyde meaning maximum results with minimal irritation). I can guarantee she will be loving her new retinal!


If you'd like some more information on how retinoids could benefit your skin, just ask!

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