Welcome to the latest installment of my 12 Skincare Rants of Christmas! (I don’t even know what number I’m on rn, lol.) Today I’m going to talk about retinol. Retinol is a really wonderful anti-aging and anti-acne active when used properly. It functions by pushing basal cells in skin (these are the lowest skin layer) to divide, which then gives more epidermal cells coming to the surface. The more of these cells that migrate to the skin surface, the more rapidly the old cells are shed via exfoliation. This gives skin a smoother appearance. Retinol also stimulates collagen production in cells, and increases blood flow to the skin.

Retinol is a form of Vitamin A, and can be found in a dizzying array of products, and in different forms. The most potent form is retinoic acid, and is only available by prescription. OTC retinol is in the form of precursors which are converted to active retinol by enzymes in the skin. These forms will take longer to have an effect

I ran across this article, and did some serious fist-pumping while reading what this dr has to say about retinol use, because he is a voice of mfing reason. I spend a significant amount of time telling people under 35 to put down the retinol. Our obsession with youth has 20-somethings using 5% retinol products, and it makes me 🤯. Not only are the kids misusing retinol, but so are we ‘olds.’ For some reason in this country, whenever a skincare active shows some benefits, we are encouraged by the industry to use that active in EVERYTHING. The ‘if a little is good, a lot must be better’ mentality is causing many of you to f**k up your skin royally. If I catch you doing this, I will mom-voice you so hard. Here’s why.

(I know most of you won’t read the article, so this post is a summary. 😉)

When you use retinol to cause cells to divide, the cells produced this way are not fully functional because they were rapidly produced. They don’t have the ability to protect your skin properly, and as a result, your skin’s barrier function is compromised. The more retinol you use, the worse your barrier function gets, which is why you experience peeling and redness when using it at higher concentrations or with prescription retinoids.

There’s one more reason to chill TF out with the retinol, and this is a BIG deal. Fun fact: cells cannot divide an unlimited number of times because we are not immortal. The Hayflick Limit states that normal cells can only divide ~50 times before they become the cellular version of ‘olds.’ These cells will no longer divide, and will have all the ‘aged’ characteristics you’re trying to fight, but with no hope for improvement. So, if you overuse retinol in your 20s when you shouldn’t be using it at all, you are using up cell divisions that I promise you’ll wish you had once you get to your 50s. Similarly, overusing retinol in your anti-aging skincare regimen will use up cell divisions you REALLY want. Once more, for emphasis: if you use retinol too much, you use up cell divisions. When the limit for divisions is reached, your cells become old and dull, and NOTHING WILL CHANGE THAT. While I am aware that climate change will kill most of us before we have to worry about prematurely looking haggard, let’s not bet on the climate wars to save us from morphing into a version of the witches in Death Becomes Her.

Finally, he gave some advice that I support wholeheartedly. He said that before you even think about using retinol, you need to reduce inflammation and restore barrier function. Adding retinol that destroys barrier function to skin with a compromised barrier will result in massive inflammation, which will age your skin. Y’all are just out there washing your face with floor cleaner, stripping everything out of your skin, and then putting retinol on top of it, and it makes me shudder to think of it. Get your barrier right, then think about retinol. And if you’re 20-something, PUT THE RETINOL TF DOWN. #themoreyouknow


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