People have been talking about retinols and AHA-based products basically non-stop lately. Okay, maybe not non-stop, but almost, kind of. And look, while I’m not one to totally obsess over the ingredients or formulations of products, the big question has been mulling itself over up there;  WTF are these ingredients.

So naturally, I was curious and hit up my good friend google to do a bit of prelim research and tested like crazy, to, y’know, do the ground work for you.

Let’s start with retinol. A derivative of vitamin A, this guy has been proven to increase cell turnover, unclog pores and boost collagen production. In other words, it’s your BFF if you want to reduce wrinkles, prevent fine lines and brighten skin tone. Sounds magic, right? Yes, it is, but the answer, like most things, is you need to find the right one for you because not all retinols are created equally.

Retinol comes in oral prescription form, as well as countless creams and serums but here’s the thing; while pretty impressive in the ‘anti-ageing’ stakes — retinols can also sensitise our skin, making it dry and extra susceptible to sun damage. Which is why the concentration is important, as well as the amount (most dermatologists recommend no more than a pea-sized pump).

I personally find a strong retinol product like Verso’s Super Eye Serum a little full-on for the delicate skin around the eye area. It’s definitely suited to those less sensitive or perhaps those with more mature skin, given its Retinol 8 formula is said to be “8 times more potent than typical non-prescription vitamin A”. The Serum 16 by Cosmedix, on the other hand, feels gentler for me and its Retinol/Retinal Complex can be used all over the face. That said, I still only use it every second day at most.

Then there’s AHAs — and no, we are not talking about the 80s band responsible for smash hit ‘Take On Me’, we’re talking about alpha hydroxy acids. These acids are chemical compounds that help to get rid of dead skin and make room for new skin cells. So instead of your regular scrub, you swap out for this. Lactic acid is one of the most common AHAs found in cleansers and other skincare products these days. Sunday Riley’s Good Genes is a great example.

And while we highly recommend adding AHAs into your skincare routine from your mid 20s and a retinol mid to late 20s, we all need to be aware that both naturally make skin much more susceptible to sun damage. So guuuuys, don’t mean to harp on, but you need to up your sunscreen game, which means every day for the record. There’s also some evidence to suggest that when the two are mixed, they become a cocktail for redness. Again, it’s important to test out what works for you and how much your skin can take, the key is taking it slowly. 

At the end of the day, we all know that the sun, perhaps our greatest frenemy, is the most damaging and ageing. So your very best form of defence is sunscreen. Physical sunscreen — as opposed to chemical sunscreens — are usually best, but La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL 50+ goes a long way for protection without the greasy stickiness that many sunscreens offer. A French pharmacy staple, it goes on about as moisturising as Crème de la Mer. OK, not quite, but almost — and that’s saying something for a sunscreen.

So show some love to the skin your in and find the stuff that works for you! BRB, 80s dance party…

Words, Rosie Dalton