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The Retinol Uglies: Fact vs Myths

Retinol can benefit skin in a myriad of ways. Often implemented into routines for anti-ageing and skin clearing, its potency can sometimes cause side effects in the short term. Termed ‘retinol uglies’, the skin shedding function of this ingredient results in sensitivity for many users.

Retinol Uglies: Facts vs Myths

Many people are interested in using this superhero ingredient but are worried about potential retinol symptoms. In this comprehensive guide, see which retinol reactions to expect, and which gentle ingredients can support skin through the transition.

Ahead, we answer retinol uglies facts and myths, alongside common questions like ‘can I use retinol during the day?’ and ‘can you apply retinol twice a day?’. With the right routine in place, even those with sensitive skin can enjoy the skin-boosting Retinol benefits!

What are the side effects of retinol?

Retinol is one of the most effective skincare ingredients you can implement. Used to visibly diminish signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles and reduce blemishes and breakouts, it can renew skin at a fast and impressive rate. However, with retinoids like retinol, users often report a ‘worse before better’ experience. Retinoids speed up the skin cell cycle which renews complexions and sheds excess oil or ageing cells. The immediate effects, sometimes called ‘retinol uglies symptoms’, can include:

  • Dryness and flaking
  • Redness in skin
  • Discomfort in skin
  • Sometimes, initial breakouts

  • How to navigate retinol side effects

    In order to limit retinol side effects on skin, products should be introduced with care. This means a few things – and when followed correctly, they can support complexions against retinol uglies. Opt for daily-strength dose formulas that help to promote skin tolerance and start with once-weekly doses. Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum and evening Retinol Fast Release Wrinkle-Reducing Night Serum are powerfully skin renewing, but suitable for those with sensitive skin.

    To avoid the common drying side effects of retinol, moisture intake should be increased. We suggest boosting your moisturiser by adding thicker-textured formulas like Midnight Recovery Omega Rich Cloud Cream alongside a retinol routine.

    Retinol reactions: fact vs myth

    To understand and limit retinol for skin side effects, we bust some of the common myths surrounding it and help you use it for success.

    Fact: Retinol helps visibly firm skin and diminish wrinkles

    Retinol penetrates skin deeply and accelerates the rate of renewal. This helps to bring fresh skin to the surface, which can plump, firm and tighten complexions. Potent formulas like Retinol Fast Release Wrinkle-Reducing Night Serum can visibly reduce fine lines in 5 days and diminish more deep-set wrinkles in 2 weeks.

    Fiction: Retinol is only recommended for visibly aged skin

    Many people implement retinol at the first signs of ageing skin, or when the cell cycle begins to slow (at around 30 years of age). Alongside its efficacy, retinol is also one of the most versatile ingredients in skincare. Acne-prone concerns and persistent dullness can benefit from retinol use.  

    Fiction: Retinol thins the skin

    Because of the initial retinol side effects which can affect skin, it’s commonly believed that retinol thins skin’s layers. This is a misconception: the ingredient does peel dead skin away, but actually surfaces stronger layers and encourages collagen reserves, which in turn plumps complexions.

    Fact: It’s not uncommon to experience visible retinol side effects

    If retinol reactions do occur, it’s a common experience and does not necessarily indicate misuse. To give your skin the best chance, use supportive formulas in the Kiehl’s’ range, and always build up use gradually. When skin has sufficiently adapted you can begin to increase dosage.

    Fiction: If you see side effects, you should stop using retinol

    Retinol uglies are not an inherently bad sign – and are for the most part to be expected initially. In the first two weeks, you can mitigate retinol symptoms like discomfort and redness with gentle ingredients like niacinamide and vitamin B5.

    Fact: There are different forms of retinoids

    Retinoids are all derivatives of vitamin A. When isolated, different forms like retinol, tretinoin and adapalene each have varying potency levels. While versions like tretinoin require prescriptions, pure retinol and retinol compounds can be purchased over the counter.

    Fiction: Only higher percentages of retinol are effective

    It’s important to know that all forms of retinoids are potent. Our micro-dose Retinol formula works by topically delivering a small amount of highly potent Pure Retinol to skin, to gradually address signs of visible skin aging. The patent-pending formulation makes it easy for you to incorporate our Retinol formula into your daily routine with minimal discomfort. The inclusion of peptides and ceramides helps complement skin’s elastin reserves and buffer skin against dryness.

    Retinol Uglies: Facts vs Myths

    Fiction: Retinol isn’t safe for daily uses

    First time users should always begin with once-per-week application. Once tolerance has been built up, the Kiehl’s Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum has been developed for daytime use. As retinol side effects include heightened sensitisation to UV radiation, always follow daytime retinol application with optimal sunscreen use.

    Fiction: You can’t use other active ingredients with retinol

    This isn’t entirely true, but retinol pairings should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Potent ingredients like vitamin C can be used alongside retinol, but may increase skin sensitivity initially. You should however avoid exfoliating acids when using retinol, as the side effects of retinol may be enhanced.

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