Why You Need Retinol in Your Skin Care Routine, Stat

Written by Dahvi Shira

Magic in a bottle? No, really—at least according to science. When it comes to the best skin care routine for 40s and up, skipping retinol is like going to a fancy dinner wearing no accessories. Wouldn’t you want to effortlessly supercharge your look? Skipping it can leave you looking dull.

No other ingredient has been clinically proven to reduce lines, while minimizing pores, pigmentation and acne blemishes more consistently than retinol. It’s just so easy, why pass it up? Especially as you age, retinol can provide your tired, oxygen-starved skin with a brighter, smoother, firmer complexion. 

But like with any active, powerful ingredient (especially one you haven’t tried prior), you likely have questions and concerns. That’s totally normal, which is why we’ve provided a guide below to starting your skin on retinol for the first time.

How Does Your Skin Change in Your 40s?

Your 40s can bring on major jump scares in the mirror. Your 30s were probably when you saw pesky grays pop up on your head.. But just when you fully processed a trip to your colorist every six weeks, guess what? A skin care overhaul is next.

There’s a good chance you came out of your 30s unscathed, but the big 4-0 brings on some eyebrow-raising hormonal changes (buckle up!). Estrogen production declines slowly during perimenopause, which typically starts in the mid-to late-40s, then takes a steep immediate drop as menopause begins.

This means the supple, dewy skin you once knew and loved suddenly becomes a thing of the past. Estrogen loss leads to diminished overall thickness of your skin, increased dryness and less elasticity (*cough* sagging—god forbid). For lack of a better word, it sucks. And simultaneously, all your years of outdoor concerts  and lazy beach days come to the surface in the form of fine lines and hyperpigmentation (thank you, sun damage and oxidative stress!). To top it all off, at a deeper level, the natural loss of supportive fat and bone create creases in the skin. 

It’s around this time that we preach: It’s ok to ask for help! 

Invite Retinol Into Your Routine

Retinol and its other forms (retinoids) are derivatives of Vitamin A. They’re what we’d call the “popular kids” of skin care. They’re elevated, everyone wants them around, and they’re the life of the party (ok, life of your skin care routine).  These are powerful molecules that increase cell turnover and production (also known as proliferation). 

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Like with anything powerful and popular, it’s easy to overdo it—but slow and steady wins the race here. Overuse of retinol can have your face peeling worse than an unprotected afternoon under the Hawaiian sun. Applied correctly and not combined with too many other active ingredients, retinol use can improve discoloration, increase collagen production, minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and help unclog pores.

Retinoids come in several forms, including retinoic acid (a prescription-level retinoid commonly known as Tretinoin or Retin-A); retinol (the most common retinoid, recommended for all skin types, a great place to get started using retinoids); and retinal (a more advanced form of retinol, recommended for acne-prone skin).

Retinol Is on Top of Your Skin Concerns

While some skin care ingredients amplify already-enviable skin, retinol also serves as a means to improve skin that’s struggling. Studies show that topical retinoids can help brighten, repair and even out skin tone. Use the following as your guide:

For Acne

Thought you left breakouts behind in your high school yearbook? Ha, think again! These pesky bumps are persistent. When your pores become blocked with dead skin cells or oil, that’s when these bad boys rise to the surface. And because clogged pores become more common as you age, acne is along for the ride! That’s why it’s important for skin care in your 40s to include retinol, as it helps prevent this issue.

For Acne Scars

As if acne itself isn’t bad enough, you’re often left with post-traumatic scars to remind you of the struggle. And acne scars aren’t battle wounds you’re proud to say you lived through—they just look like ugly, unwanted marks you did not sign up for. These can result from injury and inflammation (picking or infecting is often the cause). Pink, red or dark spots on your skin can appear as your acne heals, and may last several weeks or longer. 

Luckily, however, retinol can keep the redness at bay. Topical retinol treatments can help reduce the swelling and inflammation that come with breakouts, while helping prevent further breakouts. 

For Dark Spots

Just when you thought all the fun stopped at acne, not so fast! You’ve also got dark spots to take under your wing. Also known as hyperpigmentation, said spots can develop as a result of sun damage to your skin. These are light to dark brown marks of pigment (melanin buildup) that show up on your face, hands, neck or arms. Ah, the accessories you never asked for! 

Also called sun spots, age spots and liver spots, these little dots are painless, but if you don’t like how they look, there are procedures and over 40 skin care that may help—ahem retinol. Some people use it to lighten those spots. 

For Minimizing the Appearance of Large Pores

Kind of like how you can contour your nose with makeup to make it look smaller, you can apply the right skin care to minimize the appearance of your pores. Nope, they won’t actually go away or shrink, but you can create that illusion with the right products—namely, with retinol. 

Pores are openings at the surface of your skin that allow body hair and oils to pass through. When they become clogged with dead skin cells or oil, they become bigger and more noticeable. Topical retinol treats large pores by increasing skin cell turnover, which makes your skin thicker, preventing the development of clogged pores, and therefore making them less apparent. 

For Melasma

Increased hormone levels (hello, pregnancy!), light exposure and heat are common contributors to melasma, a common skin disorder that leads to dark spots or patches on the face. They cause flat or freckle-like patches that are light brown, dark brown or blue-gray. Much like with hyperpigmentation, a topical retinoid may help fade melasma spots.

For Stretch Marks

You’ve reached the #relatablecontent portion of this post. A vast majority of women experience stretch marks on some part of their body, regardless of their age and whether or not they’ve been pregnant. Stretch marks are those stubborn indented scars that develop when our skin is stretched by extreme weight gain or loss, or rapid muscle growth. The marks are pink, red or purple at first, and then gradually fade until they appear silver or white. Just like our pore pals, stretch marks don’t actually go away—but topical retinol can help make them less noticeable. They can show up in the strangest places, so if you’re dealing with a case, you’re not alone!

What Type Of Retinol Is Best? 

So much retinol, so little time! No, but for real, the world of retinoids can be overwhelming. From serums to creams and oils, the best retinol products come in all forms. You’ll commonly find retinol in oil especially, because oil helps buffer irritation (peeling or extreme dryness)—which can be common with its use.

A little goes a long way with this ingredient, and it’s easy to get retinol-happy off the bat. But that can lead to peeling and dryness. We’re fans of our YSE Beauty Last Call Retinol Serum because it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid and beta-glucan, which help keep the skin moisturized and free from those side-effects. Only use as recommended on the label, and you should be good to go.

Above all else, when it comes to this powerhouse ingredient, be sure to apply it to clean skin and don't mix it with other active ingredients such as exfoliating AHA or BHA. And remember, everyone’s skin is different. So, just because your sister uses a retinol product that’s transformed her skin doesn’t mean it will have the same effect on you.

What Results Can I Expect From Using Retinol?

While everyone’s skin is different and one formula may work better on you than someone else, studies regarding retinol have stated the same facts across the board. When it comes to a 40s skincare routine, retinol has a host of benefits from skin smoothing and evening out pigmentation, to enhancing cellular turnover and helping increase collagen and elasticity in the skin.

And regardless of aging skin or otherwise, retinoids also help with acne breakouts, skin resurfacing, effective exfoliation, dullness, and minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Above all else? If you want your Rihanna moment and shine bright like a diamond, here you go! Your skin’s luminosity diminishes with age, but retinol will re-invite the glow you know!