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Skincare Chemistry 2: Retinol & Hyaluronic Acid

I hope everyone is staying warm as winter carries on into this new and exciting year full of hope and New Year’s resolutions. One of the more common resolutions that most people have is to eat healthy or to be in good health, which we are here to help you with. Good habits for skincare start with a nice and balanced diet.

Let’s start with Vitamin A, or the vitamin that is known for strengthening your eyesight by eating a bunch of carrots and spinach. One important derivative of vitamin A is Retinol which helps your skin by increasing collagen production. While retinol is normally found and consumed from animal sources, such as liver, eggs, cheese and milk, the retinol that is used for skincare is synthetically made and vegan friendly.

Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is a clear gooey substance that helps retain moisture in your body and promotes skin healing. Once called ‘Rooster Comb Injections’ as HA was once extracted from the cartilage of rooster combs, modern HA supplements and injections are synthetically manufactured, resulting in no harm to animal welfare.

These two skin treatments are a popular combination used together, along with other treatments such as Vitamin C serums and moisturizers. Vitamin C boosts the effectiveness of retinol and HA, while moisturizers provide thorough hydration for your skin at the end of your skincare routine. Caution, of course, should be used if this is your first time using either hyaluronic
acid or retinol and care on how to use them safely and effective will be discussed further down below.

What does Retinol and HA do?

When applied topically, retinol penetrates the outermost layer of skin (epidermis) into the middle layer of skin (dermis). Retinol helps by eliminating free radicals, which damage your skin at an atomic level and inhibit the production of collagen. This increased production of collagen helps rebuild the structure in your skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Hyaluronic Acid, at a chemical level, binds to and retains water in the in the skin, providing a plump moisturizing effect for dry skin types. This principle also works by helping reduce inflammation, by binding to excess water in the inflamed tissues and signaling the body to repair damage, while providing a naturally antibacterial effect to minimize infection.

If you decide to take them both retinol and hyaluronic acid together, it is recommended to use retinol first on a freshly cleaned face. The effects of retinol, while strong and promoting healing, tends to cause dryness and irritation in your skin. To neutralize this effect, HA is used to offset the negative effects of retinol, providing much needed moisture and hydration to your healing skin.

Retinol and HA are used for skin treatments, but also play key roles in the rest of your body. Retinol still functions as essential vitamin A, which helps with maintaining vision and proper immune health, and can be obtained through the consumption of fatty animal by-products. Deficiency of vitamin A will result in reduced or loss of vision and an increased risk in the rate and severity of infections.

Hyaluronic Acid, besides its function in skin repair, is an important component of articular cartilage. It essentially acts as a lubricant for your joints and tissues, allowing them to freely move and operate without rubbing against other connective tissues and causing intramuscular pain.

Adding them to your Skincare Routine

Before deciding to try out retinol and HA and adding to your skincare, it’s important to know what skin type you have first. There can be anywhere from 4-9 different skin types depending on what source you look at, but we will focus on five of the most important ones: normal, dry, oily, combination, and sensitive skin types.

Those with normal skin types have skin that isn’t overly oily or dry. Oiliness appears as shiny skin while dryness appears as cracked or flaky skin; too much of either can be classified as oily or dry skin. Combination skin appears as a combination of both oil and dry skin on different parts of your face. Lastly, those with sensitive skin have skin that is prone to inflammation and may overreact to skin cleansers and ingredients more easily.

If you decide to incorporate retinol into your skincare routine, those with sensitive skin will need to take extra care in their application as their skin may react easily. Additionally, the concentration will vary from brand to brand, so you may need to look into which brands are best for your skin type. Your first applications of retinol should start slow, seeing how and if your face reacts to treatment. A different cream or serum formulated for your skin might need to be used if a reaction does occur. Your initial applications should also start at no more than twice a week, gradually going up to once-a-day maximum.

Hyaluronic acid is recommended for all skin types. The moisturizing effect HA has helps hydrate dry skin, while regulating the amount of moisture oily and combination skin types receive. Its function in tissue repair and reducing inflammation also makes its application very gentle even on sensitive skin. A first application of hyaluronic acid is more straightforward, as it should be applied to a clean face with slightly damp skin. It can then be applied directly to your face, or just after a complete application of retinol. Similar to moisturizers, HA can be applied 1-2 times per day, depending on your skin type. 

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