Retinol: The Basics

If you feel like you’ve seen Retinol everywhere in cosmetics recently, it’s because it’s another trending ingredient! If you’re sitting here wondering what exactly is it and why do we need it in skincare, we first need to understand what Retinol is and what it can do for us.

Retinol is a fat soluble derived from Vitamin A that assists with a few functions:

  • Vision
  • Cell development
  • Maintenance of mucous membrane
  • Immune system function
  • Reproduction development

There are 2 forms of Vitamin A: Preformed Vitamin A & Provitamin A or Carotenoids

Preformed Vitamin A (Retinol & Retinyl esters) is found naturally in animal sources

  • Cod liver oil
  • Liver of beef, pork, chicken, turkey & fish
  • Eggs

Provitamin A (Carotenoids) converts into Vitamin A during digestion in the intestines. Carotenoids are found in

  • Carrot
  • Squash (particularly potent in pumpkin but generally found in yellow squash)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Capsicum (most potent in red capsicums)
  • Mango
  • Kale & Spinach
  • Orange

For those with dry, eczema or sensitive skin types, it’s best to avoid retinol products because there are a few side effects:

  • It doesn’t add moisture to the skin
  • It can cause itching, redness & burning
  • It’s photosensitive: it’s sensitive to light & can cause adverse effects in sunlight.

Due to its sensitivity & side effects, there are many companies claiming they have retinol alternatives that do the job just as well or they have organic retinol alternatives, some of which are fantastic & some that are honestly, just a lie.

Rosehip oil is a popular ingredient in formulations, with the increase in retinol trends, rosehip oil is hoisted as an organic retinol alternative because it contains retonoic acid, however it only contains 0.00004% of retinoic acid! It’s an incredible ingredient because it is moisturising and helps soothe the skin but it is definitely not a viable retinol alternative.

Wile retinol & other trending ingredients like Niacinamide certainly have their benefits, before picking up a product that’s marketed as “anti-ageing” or “contains 20% Niacinamide (which, by the way, more than 5% and you’re just paying more for no additional benefits or a worsened skin condition), first figure out what you want from your self-care routine & what you actually need.

We’re constantly bombarded with amazing marketing that promises us the world while keeping us in fear about certain things that are essentially unavoidable, like ageing; wrinkles appear, hair goes grey, we decay, it’s part of the circle of life. What is in our control is taking care of our mind, body & soul, so that we continue to show up at our best every day for ourselves & our communities.

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