The Beginner’s Guide to Retinol

Dr. Amna Ahmar’s how-to on Vitamin A as a key skincare ingredient

Dr. Amna Ahmar is a foreign qualified Dermatologist with a Masters in Clinical Dermatology from the University of Cardiff, UK. The American Academy of Procedural Medicine, USA, is where she took all her trainings for Aesthetic procedures and Laser therapies. She is the founder of Cleo Clinical Care, which is making waves in Dermatology and Aesthetic practices in Pakistan. In this article she gives her in-depth expert knowledge on the use of Retinol in skincare.

With the extensive list of skincare options out there, one can’t choose what all to incorporate in their regime. So let’s talk about that one key ingredient which can be a game changer for all skin types – Retinol!

The widely spoken about ‘Retinol’ is a chemical derivative of Vitamin A. It has been used for many years to treat medical skin conditions. A low percentage of it is available in many forms by various cosmeceutical and pharmaceutical brands.

How it helps:

⁃ It will boost collagen formation that has been damaged by UV exposure over the years. Collagen is the main protein of the skin, which keeps it firm, tight and smooth.
⁃ It helps in tightening pores.
⁃ It helps in stretching the skin and reducing fine lines.
⁃ It controls oil production and hence also reduces acne.
⁃ It helps in reducing the appearance of freckles and brown spots.
⁃ It helps in reducing melasma.

How to use:

⁃ Retinol products are to be only strictly applied at night.
⁃ After you cleanse your face wait for 10-15 minutes and then apply a pea sized quantity of the retinol on your face and neck. I apply retinol on my hands too and that helps in keeping my hands young. I recommend my patients Retinol preparations from The Skin Theory line of products – Cleo Revive cream, Cleo Skintinni, or Cleo Beam Up Plus, depending on the skin type and its requirement.
⁃ In the first week allow the product to stay on for half an hour, following week increase the time to 2 hours and then third week onwards you can keep it on for the entire night. This is how one should add a retinol in their night routine. People often overdo it and then result in scaly, flakey, dry and sensitive skin.
⁃ You can’t use retinol and then apply a night cream by any brand as most night creams have active retinol so read up on ingredients and then decide.

What to avoid:

⁃ Always use a sunblock in the morning when using retinols.
⁃ Always make sure you avoid your retinol application prior to a bleach, clinical facial, peel, scrubbing, threading or wax session, restart it after 1-2 days.
⁃ The days you use any exfoliants or scrubs at home avoid using the retinol that day.
⁃ Avoid Retinol a day before and after your Laser hair removal sessions.
⁃ Keep using your moisturizer religiously.
⁃ Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers should avoid topical retinol.
⁃ Avoid applying your retinol right after exercise.
⁃ Avoid retinol while you are travelling – during travelling focus on maximum moisturisation and sun protection. Once you are back home restart retinol application after 2-3 days.

What can be used with Retinol?

Try getting a blend when selecting a retinol, as you wouldn’t want to keep layering products at night. For example the Cleo Revive cream is best for people looking to reduce pigmentation, acne marks and active acne with an anti-ageing element. Cleo Skintinni is great for firmness and Beam Me Up Plus is best for achieving glowing, clear skin. One can layer the retinol with a soothing hyaluronic acid preparation or a moisturizer as well. Adding Vitamin C to your morning routine while using retinol helps in achieving a healthy glow.

Is it okay if skin peels?

This means your skin is not tolerating the preparation well. Try avoiding the retinol and moisturize well for 2 days and then restart with the way mentioned above or change the retinol formulation. Ideally you should go to a dermatologist who will guide you correctly on the right retinol for you.

Dr. Amna’s Retinol Recommendations

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