This common retinol mistake is costing you brilliant results

·2-min read
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Are you this common retinol mistake?Anna Efetova - Getty Images

One of the most efficacious and well-known skincare ingredients on the market, retinol is praised for everything from improving skin texture and tone to softening fine lines and increasing the skin's general 'glow'.

Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is popular for the dramatic way it can transform skin, and is available in a wide range of strengths and formulations. 'Research shows that retinol can help target fine lines and pigmentation alongside boosting collagen production and improving skin cell turnover for a brighter, smoother complexion,' consultant dermatologist, Dr Anjali Mahto, previously explained to Women's Health UK.

Unfortunately though, as is often the case when left to play bathroom chemist, the misuse of retinol (overuse or applying something too powerful for your skin), can lead to irritated, reactive, flaking skin. And it can feel counter-intuitive to switch to milder retinol, especially if you feel like it may slow down your results. According to dermatologist Dr Shereene Idriss, this is exactly what to do.

'Whoever said more is more and more is better, did not know their way around retinol,' Dr Idriss warns, replying to a viewer's question asking if swapping to lower-strength retinol would harm their results. 'The trick to getting what you want out of your retinol is (and write this tagline down) consistency over intensity. I say this every single day in my practice.'

Using a retinol that's too strong for your skin, no matter how inconsistently, can lead to visible, painful reactions, something Idriss cautions against when dabbling in higher and prescription-level percentages: '[Your skin is] red, it's inflamed, it's flaking, it feels irritated, it's just not happy.'

And, while these side effects can be treated, the long-term effects of retinol overuse can cause inflammation in the skin, leading to 'premature ageing and the breakdown of collagen.'

'I would much rather you used something less intense much more consistently... and your skin be in a happy state than you try to push the limit. When in doubt, consistency > intensity. And, if that means you can only use a strong retinol once a week and the rest of the week you're using [a lower] percentage and less strong... then you're winning.'

If you suspect you're in the camp of using a retinol that's too strong, too often, begin by addressing the frequency or stopping altogether. Then, look for a retinol that's milder than the one you're using, even if you think it won't have as dramatic an effect. Medik8, a brilliant, award-winning British skincare brand, has a retinol ladder to follow, with the lowest 'rung' the Medik8 Crystal Retinal 1. Or, if you prefer to cushion your retinol with the hydration of an oil, Drunk Elephant's A-Gloei Retinol Oil counteracts potential dryness and is suitable for sensitive skin.

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