All about acids and retinol

Posted on October 28, 2019 in Beauty


If AHAs, BHAs, Retin-A and Retinoids have you puzzled or even breaking out in a panic then this one is for you. Chemical exfoliants and peels were once associated with days sometimes weeks in hiding or even just for professional use. These days there is a host of readily available counter side acids and retinols products of varying strengths and benefits. For example, our Take-Off-Touch-Down uses a gentle plant based acid to exfoliate and really draw out the oil and impurities that build up and clog pores. 

However knowing what is what can still be intimidating, so we sat down with Facial Aesthetician Katie Collier to answer all your burning questions.

A Q&A on acids and retinols with Katie Collier, Facial Aesthetician, kallistiaesthetics.co.uk

Q

Why do I need to add an acid to my routine?

A

The benefits of introducing an acid into your routine include eating away the dead skin cells to smooth and brighten dull looking skin, unblocking sebum or dirt-filled pores and reducing fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen density.

Q

Which acid is best for oily skin?

A

Salicylic acid is best for oily skin because its molecules are able to penetrate deep into the pores to help dry out excess oils and dead skin cells, while cleaning the pore from within. Salicylic acid is also known as a BHA (beta hydroxy acid), and is oil soluble, meaning it can be easily mixed into oils and applied on the skin without lowering its effectiveness.

Q

Which acid is best for sensitive skin?

A

As far as medical grade acids go, Glycolic or lactic acid, are great options to start with if you have sensitive skin. Start with a low strength of 5%, and see how you get on. Glycolic acid is derived from cane sugar, while lactic acid is from milk. It’s best to start slowly and build up your skin’s tolerance over time, rather than risking irritation or a reaction. If your skin takes the acid well and you notice it becoming brighter and clearer, then you can start to slowly work your way up to 10-15% strength. Lower concentrations, below 5%, can also be used to calm sensitive skin and rosacea. If you’re going to use salicylic acid, start with a dose of 0.5% and work your way up to 5% over time. A good formulation, can use any acid in combination with other ingredients in the right proportions and still be non-irritating. Be sure to read what they say where it concerns sensitive skin and always patch test products if using them for the first time. 

Q

How do I use acids correctly in my routine? 

A

Both AHA and BHA acids can be used in combination. For example, you might start with a low dosage of glycolic acid in the morning to exfoliate your skin, and switch to salicylic acid in the evening to calm redness and acne. With any products that contain medical grade, potent ingredients, it’s advisable to build up a tolerance over time. If you experience any reactions, then stop using the acids until your skin has returned to normal. 

Q

What exactly is retinol?

A

Retinols are a class of natural and synthetic vitamin A, that are derived from Retin A and converted to retinoid acid, so they can be safely used by the skin with less chance of any reaction. Retinol stimulates the fibroblasts that produce collagen (responsible for firmness) in our skin, which starts to slow down during our mid to late 20’s. This anti-ageing benefit is the reason for its popularity. 

Q

What strength should I be using if I’m new to retinol?

A

 If you’ve never used retinol before, it’s wise to start with a lower percentage of around 0.25%. If this is too much for your skin, you might notice too much redness or peeling initially, and can drop down to a lower strength of 0.025%. The skin’s tolerance needs to be developed slowly, so it’s wise to start off with a low strength and see how your skin reacts, otherwise you might experience too much dryness or irritation.

Q

What are the potential side effects of using retinol?

A

Retinol increases photo sensitivity and leaves you more prone to sun damage, so if you’re using retinol, it’s advisable to use a high SPF both in the summer and winter months. Possible side effects can include peeling, redness, irritation, dryness and breakouts, which are all a sign that the retinol is possibly too strong for your skin. Light peeling is normal, as is some redness, but if you notice any aggressive changes or discomfort, then stop using the product for a few days and let your skin return to normal.

If you’re still unsure about venturing deeper with retinols, then you can still get your Vitamin A fix in the form of natural plant based oils like Kahai oil, which can be found generously in A-Game. It contains a whopping 3x more Vitamin A than Rosehip oil, this little balm boosts collagen production while plumping your skin to perfection.

Kate Collier is a qualified facial Aesthetics with many years of training and a roster of famous clients. She is also a qualified ZO skin health and ZO medical practitioner and completed advanced NVQ level 4 in skin science. Learn more about her services here.

This article was part of our Halloween series on intimidating beauty topics. If you loved this article, you’ll love our bi-weekly newsletter – sign up here .