Will Long Term Use Of Retinol Actually ’Thin’ Your Skin?
A very random misunderstanding that I heard recently ironically made a little bit of sense to me.. I was asked; ‘Will I run out of skin cells by the longterm use of retinol?’…
As whimsical as this might sound, it actually triggered something regarding the ‘physical’ reality of constant ‘skin shedding’ caused by retinol.. Will retinol thin your skin? Read on for the real deal..
Today I will sort out any confusion you may have regarding this beauty powerhouse called retinol.. For starters, in skincare terms, retinol is known to be THE pillar of impeccable skincare.. It is in fact the most widely researched and acclaimed ingredient, the go-to potent factor that addresses all manners of skin, from firming skin, diminishing wrinkles, clearing acne and reducing pore size.. We are clearly aware of its downside as well; think redness, peeling, flakiness and general inflammatory behavior.. To many users, retinol turns out not what it’s cracked up to be.. Which leads them to the misconception that it can damage skin, in particular causing it to thin and the skin barrier to degrade.
Below, 3 retinol myth busted..
1 || Retinol Actually Thickens The Skin…
There’s no arguing otherwise.. So rest assured it’s a common misconception that retinol thins the skin.. On the contrary, it only thins the dead layer of horn cells (corneocytes) on the skin’s surface, not the living skin itself. Retinol thickens living skin.. This exfoliation of corneocytes is a good thing, not only because your skin will look less dull and lacklustre, but also because it signals to the basal cell layer of the epidermis (where our all-important skin stem cells live) to produce more lovely new cells, which means that the living epidermis actually thickens over time, making it healthier so that it appears ‘younger’.
Retinol has even been shown to not only thicken the epidermis (the outer layer of our skin), but also the dermis (the deeper layer, where our collagen and elastin live).
2 || Retinol Thinning Skin Is A Misconception
Retinol revs up the skin’s collagen and elastin synthesis to strengthen skin over time and reduce the likelihood of collagen breakdown. However, it’s overuse, or incorrect use, is in fact what causes issues such as the raw side-effects described previously. Whatever skin thinning issues you witness is actually irritation as a result of using a retinoid that’s too potent for your skin, or using it too frequently, particularly if you’re a beginner. It could also be that your skin doesn't tolerate retinol full stop, in which case, cease and desist. It’s worth seeing a specialist for a tailored routine.
3 || Long Term Use Doesn’t Damage Skin
There’s also a perception that using a retinoid long-term can cause skin to thin by way of excessive skin cell turnover. Unlike an exfoliating scrub whereby you’re physically sloughing off layers and eventually damaging the skin barrier, retinol encourages the skin to regulate its own cell turnover, so shouldn’t weaken your epidermis, just as long as you’re not going very strong and excessively.
A moderate strength retinol used two to three nights a week, ideally in the evening, could help your skin to appear ‘thicker’ and improve its resilience.
“Moderate percentages of retinol (0.04% to 0.1%) give you results faster than lower percentages of retinol. Research shows that retinol concentrations of 0.04% and great could counteract the visible effects of environmental damage and visible thinning of skin.”
So, let’s put an end to the skin thinning drama here.. Starting low and slow, especially if you’ve never tried retinol before, another expert tip will be;
"Be aware that any irritation might appear with a delay of a few days, so don’t increase usage or potency too quickly! People with more robust skin can tolerate them every day, once their skin gets used to it, while people with very sensitive skin might just tolerate them once or twice per week, both of which is fine. Select your product depending on skin-type.”
Final tip? Never underestimate the importance of using an SPF of between 30-50 alongside retinol, although that should be standard practice anyway, avoiding excessive sun exposure after a heavy night on the retinol is a must, as skin will be more sensitive to the damaging effects of UV rays. Also, be sure to moisturize afterwards to ward off any potential flakiness and keep your skin barrier strong and supple/stable as you’re adjusting to a retinol regime and beyond.