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What doesn’t it do? The vitamin A derivative addresses every skin concern from fine lines to
acne, pigmentation to sun damage. It works by accelerating cellular turnover, triggering
collagen production, and evening out your complexion. Bingo: younger-looking skin. “Retinol can
strengthen your skin and regenerate collagen, as well as assist with breakouts,” says Melbourne
dermatologist Dr. Alice Rudd. It clears out blocked pores and blackheads, making it a godsend if
you’re dealing with breakouts.
Though countless beauty fans are tapping into anti-ageing products earlier, inspired by factors
including the yen for glass skin and our selfie-obsessed culture, the general consensus is that
your late 20s or early 30s is the moment to embrace retinol. “Our collagen stores start to
rapidly break down from 30 onwards, so this is a good time to incorporate retinols and lactic
acids that encourage cellular turnover to keep the skin firm,” says skin care pro Melanie Grant,
who has offices in Sydney and Melbourne. Undoing the damage to your skin in later decades is
that much harder.
“A general rule of thumb is to apply your products in the order of lightest to heaviest,” says
Grant, who is all about “prevention and protection” during the daytime and “correction and
restoration” in the evenings. Retinol is an integral part of the latter approach. “Retinols are
best applied after cleansing and before a targeting night cream every consecutive or alternative
day, depending on your tolerance levels,” she says. Those with sensitive skin should tread
carefully. Buffering retinol products between layers of moisturiser is one way to mitigate the
irritation that can occur. Even if you’re not sensitive, layering on a rich hydrator will help
prevent flaking skin, especially in winter.
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Leading the charge for daytime-ready retinol are Drunk Elephant, Dr. Dennis Gross and Verso,
which offer encapsulated formulas that resist breaking down in sunlight. Drunk Elephant founder
Tiffany Masterson told us that her A-Passioni Retinol Cream can be applied during your waking hours. “Retinol is safe to
use during the day, it’s a myth that it’s not,” she says , “As long as you are diligent
about wearing SPF, retinol, combined with vitamin C and worn underneath broad-spectrum
sunscreen, helps defend skin against environmental damage.” No matter whether you’re using it AM
or PM, SPF is a non-negotiable.
Some experts argue that these heavyweights counteract each other when applied simultaneously,
reserving vitamin C for the morning and retinol for the evening, but there are several potent
formulas that combine both ingredients. Los Angeles facialist Kate Somerville recently launched
Retinol Vita C Power
Serum, which marries the two dynamos in a radiance-boosting treatment with a subtle
lemony scent. Chantecaille and Kat Burki also fuse the two actives together for double the benefits.
Kat Burki uses rovisome, a stabilised form of the active that is gentler on skin. Ingredients
you really shouldn’t mix with retinol: acne treatments including salicylic acid and benzoyl
peroxide. Blending them can cause irritation or even cancel each other out—they’re beauty
Kate Somerville advises applying it the tops of your hands and on your chest. “This is where the
most visible signs of sun damage and ageing tend to show up first,” she says. Meanwhile, in his
lineup of retinol-fuelled rejuvenators, Dr. Dennis Gross has a targeted treatment for your neck. Turns out the
delicate skin under the chin is even thinner than that on your face, and this serum is designed
to firm, smooth and reduce crepiness. Verso even offers a retinol-enhanced hand serum to banish
dark spots and wrinkles, as well as a plumping lip serum. As with all retinol wonders, introduce them
gradually into your routine until your skin has adjusted.
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