When it comes to trending skincare ingredients, they don’t come much hotter than retinol. At this point in the year, I’ve pretty much lost count of the number of press releases and product drops containing the stuff, and when I ask basically any dermatologist or skin expert what ingredient they’d recommend everyone to start using, the answer is always resoundingly the same. Yes, it’s official—everyone in 2019 is totally obsessed with retinol.
Except, that is, for me. It is to my shame as a beauty editor that I’ve spent the best part of this year feeling absolutely terrified about putting retinol on my face. For context, here’s the back story: After reaching peak frustration with my adult acne toward the tail end of last year, I decided to bite the bullet and pay for a private consultation with a dermatologist.
Reluctant to try isotretinoin (more commonly known as Roaccutane), I settled on a three-month plan of antibiotics and topical treatments—including azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide and retinol. How did I get on? Well, let’s just say, my face and retinol were not a match made in heaven.
With retinol, it’s important to build up your usage of it gradually over time. I started by using it twice a week, then slowly incorporated it more regularly into my routine until I was using it every evening. Honestly, my skin has never been so irritated. As well as trying to keep my breakouts in check, I was now facing flaky skin, redness and patches of irritation. Not a good look. After about eight weeks of using it, I gave up and my skin slowly returned to normal. I, however, vowed to never use retinol again.
Of course, my dramatic claims didn’t last long. Back in March, I was invited to a panel discussion about the rise of retinol with Indeed Labs. One of my favourite skincare brands, I actually switched to Indeed’s natural bakuchiol pads during my retinol hiatus thanks to the way that they offer up similar effects—more even skin tone, diminished breakouts and smoother skin—without the risk of irritation.
After the event, I was given a tube of their retinol serum, and following an hour of the brand’s president Dimitra Davidson raving about its skin benefits, I cautiously gave it a whirl. I have been having a retinol love affair with this product ever since.
Since using this product as part of my evening skincare routine, I’ve noticed that my skin looks so much smoother and brighter than ever before—and, even better, I haven’t had a hint of the negative side effects that I noticed when using my prescribed retinol. In fact, the scars that I have from old acne breakouts are now starting to fade after about eight weeks of using this. I’m seriously impressed.
To find out a bit more about this product works—and to get some advice on retinol in general—I caught up with Davidson. Keep scrolling for a beginner’s guide to retinol, and then shop the best retinol products for you.