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Experts Corner - Retinol by Dr. Adele Sparavinga

How do you explain to your patients how RETINOL works on the skin?

Retinol is my ingredient of choice to combat photo-aging of the skin because it has a complete and global action on different layers of the skin. It increases the thickness of the epidermis making the skin visibly more supple and much less rough. This is the first effect that is obtained (and quickly).

In a second phase, wrinkles gradually diminish thanks to the deeper action of retinol on the synthesis of pro-collagen (collagen precursors) and on the reduction of collagen degradation. Retinol also attenuates pigmented spots thanks to its action on pigmentation.

Retinol is the most studied and documented anti-aging cosmetic ingredient in the scientific literature; in particular, it has been demonstrated that the effect of retinol on the skin does not wear off*. The more you use it, the more it will work on your skin and the more it will improve your wrinkles. Many of my patients have been using it for more than 20 years with satisfaction and a clear reduction of their signs of aging.

How do you incorporate Retinol into a skin care regimen? Which Retinol products should be used for different types of aging signs? Do you change your patients' skin care routines as the seasons change?

I always recommend that my patients apply Retinol in the evening to respect the skin's natural biorhythm. It is indeed in the evening and during the night that our skin regenerates itself the best.

When using Retinol for the first time, I recommend starting using it every other night for two weeks in order to let the skin get used to it gradually. If it is well tolerated, it can be applied every night.

In the morning, I recommend the complementary use of products containing vitamin C for a complementary action on pigmented spots (if necessary)

In spring and summer, it should be combined with a SPF 50 sunscreen in the morning. There is no need to stop using it in the summer - you can use Retinol all year round in the evening, because once the Retinol has penetrated the skin, it will not be broken down by UV rays. There is no risk of photosensitization. Nevertheless, if you are going to the tropics, on a boat, or to very exposed areas, it is advisable to stop using it during your stay.

    We often talk about the curative effects of Retinol, but we must not forget its preventive action. We can therefore recommend it even before the first visible signs of aging for its preventive action on the onset of wrinkles thanks to its fibroblast stimulation effect. The younger the skin, the more important and effective the stimulation will be.

    How do you address the issue of the importance of Retinol concentration in products with your patients?

    Retinol concentration is the tip of the iceberg! There is an art behind the formulation of Retinol products in order to minimize its irritating effects and allow the right amount of Retinol to penetrate the skin.

    Many factors influence the penetration of an active ingredient like Retinol into the skin. The other active ingredients present in the formula, the galenics of the formula (a serum facilitates penetration) and the stability of the Retinol in the formula are all parameters that play on the effectiveness of Retinol. You should not rely only on its concentration.

    Here are my tips for choosing your Retinol product:

    • Check in the INCI list that the product contains RETINOL (Retinol listed INCI) and not an ester of RETINOL (Retinyl palmitate...)

    • Prefer a formula in an aluminum tube packaging that allows the good preservation of Retinol by protecting it from air, heat and light that are likely to degrade it.

    • Choose Retinol from RoC Skincare.

    How do you explain to your patients that RoC's RETINOL is stable?

    RoC Skincare laboratories have a genuine know-how in the formulation of Retinol - more than 25 years of research and technological advances to preserve its stability, from the first application of the product on the skin to its last.

    Indeed, retinol degrades rapidly if exposed to light and/or oxygen. It is therefore essential to preserve it in order to keep it stable and active so that it is effective. The stability of retinol is perfectly controlled by RoC Skincare thanks to a patented formulation (more than 25 patents) and the right balance of antioxidant, anti-oxygen, and chelating agents to preserve the active chemical form of retinol in the formula. Indeed, the addition of a complex of antioxidants (Vitamins C & E) combined with metal ion chelating agents (zinc & copper) prevents the onset and propagation of retinol oxidation. In addition, RoC Skincare’s Retinol is manufactured under unique conditions (35 patents) to protect it during the manufacturing process before finally packaging it in a way that limits the exposure of retinol to air and light.

    A patented formulation + A patented manufacturing process + An appropriate packaging = a well-protected, stable, and effective retinol.

    How do you best manage the possible skin sensitivity of some of your patients to Retinol?

    RoC Skincare's Retinol is well tolerated due to its unique formulation that combines agents that reduce its irritating power. However, one must be very careful with very reactive skin and offer them an increased application time. I recommend that reactive skin start the first week with one application per week on Mondays and Thursdays, and the following two weeks, I would increase the application to three times per week, gradually working up to a daily application in the evening. You must give your skin time to get used to retinol gradually for more comfort and better results.

    With which other components can Retinol be combined?

    Certain combinations should be avoided in order to prevent the risk of irritation. These include fruit acids, glycolic acid, phytic acid and salicylic acid. On the other hand, retinol can be used with Vitamin C, Hyaluronic acid, and peptides for an even more complete and global action on the treatment and prevention of the signs of aging. And above all, don't forget to use sun protection! 

    * Randhawa M, Rossetti D, Leyden JJ, et al. One-year topical stabilized retinol treatment improves photodamaged skin in a double-blind, vehicle-controlled trial. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015;14(3):271–280.