Retinol Ruined my Skin

Nikki Butler

Nikki Butler

"Retinol Ruined my Skin"

If I had a pound for every time some has said ‘retinol ruined my skin’ to me, I’d be pretty rich right now! Retinol is a SUPERHERO skin ingredient, but it can be a tricky world to navigate.  You might also have heard retinol called retinoids, retinaldehyde, or vitamin A. They are all forms of retinol, but do have some differences – although all are derivatives of vitamin A. 

What they all have in common, is the ability to speed up your cell turnover, and boost collagen levels in your skin. The results are reduced lines & wrinkles, improved skin tone and texture and brighter, more youthful skin.  Not all products are created equal though, and not all skins tolerate retinol well.  So, lets dig a bit deeper into why you might have been left screaming ‘retinol ruined my skin!’. We’re going to look at what retinol is, it’s benefits, potential side effects/risks, and how to choose a retinol that’s right for you. So, lets get started! 

Before I say anything else – please seek advice before using retinol products, as there are some contraindications. Pregnant and breast feeding women advised not to use or take any form of vitamin A. Also, if you are taking medications for skin conditions/antibiotics/steroids.

What is retinol?

We will briefly look at the different types of Vitamin A derivatives. All forms need to be converted into retinoic acid, in order for your skin to make use of it. The fewer the steps needed to do this, the more potent it is. So, in order of potency, I give you;

  1. Retionoids: This is the highest strength, and should only be prescribed by a Doctor. The most common is Tretenoin. This form can be highly irritating for skin, and cause flaking, burns and discomfort. 
  2.  Retinaldhyde; This is the next level down, and is found in high strength serums, but can still cause a lot of irritation in your skin. Prescribed by a professional.
  3. Retinol; This is the most common form of vitamin A and can be found in over the counter, and medical grade skin care (not prescribed by a Doctor). This is more gentle on the skin, although using high strength products can still lead to irritation.

What are the benefits of using Retinol?

But retinol ruined my skin?

It’s a pretty impressive list, isn’t it! So why do so many women claim ‘retinol ruined my skin’? The reality is that there could be a number of reasons why some women have adverse reactions to retinol, which include flaking, burning, itching, irritation, sensitivity, redness. And most of them are within your control! 

The power is in YOUR hands!

Looking at that list of reasons why women claim ‘retinol ruined my skin’, you can see that there are many factors that are within YOUR power to change – to avoid the nasty reactions. 

Not all retinol (or products) are created equal. Retinol is an incredible active ingredient that, in my opinion, is essential to anti ageing skin care routines. But it’s a little scary, as there are so many products out there, and it’s hard to know what to choose. This is where I do recommend that you seek the guidance of a skin care professional, because they will help you get the right products for your skin. I’ve referred to ‘retinol’, rather than the other forms of vitamin A, because unless you are working with a Doctor for specific skin concerns, this is the form of vitamin A you will most commonly see in skin care. 

The general rule with retinol is to start LOW AND SLOW. Which means to start with a lower percentage and introduce it gradually.  Below are my top tips for using retinol.

My top tips for using retinol

  1. START LOW:  Don’t start with the highest strength retinol you can get your hands on, that’s asking for trouble.  I know that when we really want to target lines & wrinkles, we think more is better, but in the case of retinol, you need to start with lower strength products and build up, so your skin gets used to it, and strengthens. 
  2. START SLOW: Introduce retinol into your skin care routine slowly. Start with a couple of times a week and build up, as your skin tolerates.  With some retinols (see below for more info), it’s not necessary to use them every night, to get the benefits.  No 1. and No. 2 combined are the biggest reason that women claim ‘retinol ruined my skin’, by the way! 
  3. Only use retinol at night: Retinol should only be used at night, as UV rays can make it unstable.  
  4. Always apply to clean, completely dry skin: Retinol is the first product you apply after you have cleansed your face at night. It’s important that your skin is completely dry when you apply it. Applying it to damp skin can cause irritation. 
  5. You only need a small amount: Don’t saturate your skin in retinol, you really only need a pea size amount for your whole face.  Don’t apply the same retinol you’re using on your face to your neck, as the skin on the neck is far more delicate. 
  6. Invest in a targeted and high grade skincare range. This is where I really do recommend in investing in a medical grade (medical as in active ingredients, not Doctor prescribed).  The quality and quantity of active ingredients is always much better than anything you can buy over the counter.  Over the counter products will have lower quantity and quality ingredients, as they have been mass produced. They also tend to have buffer ingredients that keep products stable for longer shelf life. 
  7. Look for encapsulated versions of retinol:  These versions of retinol can penetrate into the deeper levels of your skin, where they are more active, and therefore more effective. They also tend to be kinder to your skin and minimise irritation, and a good one will be slow release. 
  8. Look for serums that contain soothing ingredients, alongside retinol. Niacinamide is a great active ingredient to partner with retinol, as it’s calming and soothing, retinol serums with soothing ingredients will be kinder to skin.
  9. ALWAYS WEAR SUNSCREEN! Yep, it’s in capitals, because it’s super important!  When you’re using active ingredients, such as retinol, you must wear your sunscreen 365 days a year, come rain or shine.  Remember that UVA rays are present all year round, and are responsible for 80-90% of premature ageing. But, if you’re using active ingredients, particularly high strength, you need to protect your skin from UV rays, to avoid triggering damage to your skin, and causing irritation and sensitivity. And, in truth, if you’re investing in amazing skin care products and not using sunscreen, you are literally wasting your money – as the UV rays will undo any good that products can offer. 

Medical Grade Skincare

This is an article on ‘retinol ruined my skin’, so I won’t do a lengthy  section on medical grade skin care, but if you are interested to learn more, you can click on the  button below. 

Please don’t think that medical grade skin care means MORE expensive and MORE products – it doesn’t. Quite the opposite, in truth. 

When you’re using high quality skin care, you’ll often find that you use fewer products, use less of each product and overall, end up spending less. 

For many of my clients, they end up using fewer products and achieving much better results. And for most, for less than the cost of a take away coffee a day! Click below if you’d like to learn more. 

'retinol ruined my skin' - not any more!

If you have been one of the unlucky ones, that’s cried ‘retinol ruined my skin’, then Alumier MD is for you. 

I have worked with many skin care brands over the years. I by far favour AlumierMD. Their products are in bio-available form, which means in a form that your skin naturally knows what to do with. This means you achieve better results, without the irritation of some other brands. 

Their retinol is very special. It actually works in the epidermal/dermal junction, which is where new collagen can be stimulated. It also slow release and contains soothing ingredients.  

Alumier’s retinol is microencapsulated retinol allows for gradual timed release overnight. By encapsulating the retinol and adding soothing and hydrating ingredients like niacinamide, honey, and sodium hyaluronate, maximal results can be achieved in comfort. And the polymer that encapsulates the retinol is drawn to the deeper layers of the skin, where it can work it’s magic. The effects of Alumier’s retinol last 72 hours, so you can use it 3-4 times  a week, and still see great results. So you see, not all skin care is created equal. 

I'd love to help you

Nikki Butler Skin Clinic

I hope that your faith in retinol is now restored. It really is an incredible anti ageing ingredient, when it’s used in the right way. 

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my blog, discussing what causes women to cry ‘retinol ruined my skin’.  I hope that you now feel that you’re able to introduce retinol into your skin care routine, safely. 

 I’d love to welcome you to my aesthetics clinic is based in Alton, Hampshire. I am right on the Hampshire / Surrey border, and just 15 minutes from both Basingstoke and Farnham.  

If you would like to book a no obligation Skin Consultation You can book your appointment via the button below. If there are no slots available, then please add yourself to the waiting list, or use the contact form, and we will be in touch when an appointment becomes available. 

I offer online services for skin care prescription and advice, so if you’d like some help, but you’re not local to me – that’s absolutely fine, I can still help you. 

I look forward to hearing from you.  Best, Nikki 


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