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If you know anything about skincare, it’s likely you’ll have at least heard of retinols. Alongside vitamin C, retinol is one of the few proven anti-agers in terms of the skin, and tends to be the holy grail of eternal youth outside of surgical intervention. But retinol also has another reputation – for being scary, dangerous and difficult to use. This shouldn’t have to be the case – and our handy beginners’ guide is here to help.

Retinol (and other retinoid ingredients) is a derivative of vitamin A. Vitamin A speeds up skin cell turnover – Accutane, the world’s most intense acne medication, is essentially a concentrated vitamin A pill. Speeding up cell turnover has a few different skincare benefits, all based around faster skin renewal. It can help skin become brighter, glowier, smoother, and less acneic or congested. Vitamin A also boosts collagen production and repairs free radical damage, giving it a bunch of skin-loving, age-fighting benefits.

The downside? Retinol products can be a little harsh on the skin. There’s a steep learning curve with them, and usually a period of skin looking worse before it looks better. Many complain of the shedding of the skin they experience with starting a retinol – I’ve even heard it compared to “face dandruff.” Also, when purchasing a retinol product, it can be difficult to gauge the strength thanks to confusing labelling. Don’t worry. I’m here for you.

I’ve tried a fairly wide variety of retinol-based products, with varying degrees of success. But there’s one which has stood out for me above the rest – the A313 Vitamin A Pommade. It has a cult internet following, and can be purchased on Amazon for not-that-much money, and I really, really love it.

Unlike other retinol products I’ve tried, the A313 is extremely thick and hydrating. It almost has the texture of glue, or hair wax. I take a tiny amount (it spreads easily with the warmth of your fingers) and smooth over as the last step of my night time skincare routine. When I wake up, I’m hydrated as hell, smooth and super glowy.

Because of the thick, balmy texture of the A313, I didn’t really experience any peeling or dryness from it, and now my skin is balanced and pretty much texture free. I also think it has a noticeable (although not miraculous) effect on blemishes and dark spots.

If you’re introducing A313 (or any retinol product) for the first time, the key is to start slow. You want to introduce it on a once-a-week basis, perhaps on a Sunday night to help you put your best face forward on Monday. When using A313 I would recommend not also using other exfoliating products like acid toners or scrubs, unless your skin is extremely hardy and can handle it.

You can build up A313 use to two or three times a week, but I personally don’t think using it every night is necessary. Not only does every-night use just mean you’ll run through the product quicker, but I think it’s overkill, plus it renders you unable to enjoy other exfoliating products. Mix and match to see what gives you the best results.

A couple of final caveats. You must use the A313 only at night. It doesn’t react well to sunlight, and can cause an itching, irritated reaction if worn by day. On that same note, SPF. If you’re speeding up skin cell turnover, you need to be protecting the new skin from environmental damage, otherwise you’re negating the point. A pricey but excellent option I’ve been loving is the Zelens Daily Defence Sunscreen – use liberally (and daily) to maintain the complexion of a newborn baby.

Shop 6 editor-approved retinols for glowy skin

Featured images via Stocksy

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