Shani Darden Skincare

What the Frenshe: Retinol 101 with Shani Darden

10.30.2020 — The Frenshe Editors

What the Frenshe is our content series surrounding the big questions our audience frequently ask. We dive deep into these topics, demystify the truth, and debunk the myths. 

By now you’ve more than likely heard about retinol, and by now some of you might already be using retinol. But, does it feel like lately you’ve heard and seen more of the powerful skincare ingredient? Probably. As we all become more invested in our products and what’s inside of them, the ins and outs of every single ingredient matter more than ever—especially when it comes to retinol. Let us just come out and say it, the retinol hype is so worth it. If we’re being honest, as we get older skincare has an entirely different meaning, and one of the main benefits of using retinol is its anti-aging powers. But, to help us explore well beyond that we asked skincare guru and retinol expert, Shani Darden to tell us more about what retinol can really do for our skin.

What is Retinol?

Let’s start with the basics—what’s retinol to begin with. “Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that penetrates the skin deeply and works at the cellular level to address so many different issues from anti-aging to keeping skin blemish-free,” says Darden. The vitamin A derivative encourages cellular turnover, which is the process of replacing old cells with new cells. “This is what helps to bring fresh, new cells to the surface of your skin, resulting in more glowing and smooth skin,” she explains.

Why Retinol?

While the benefits make your ears perk up, it’s important to know how to introduce it to skincare and why even use it in the first place. “Retinol is one of my absolute favorite anti-aging ingredients,” she says. Apart from its multi-tasking effects, it can completely transform the appearance and texture of your skin. “It boosts collagen in the skin, minimizes fine lines and wrinkles, smooths the texture of the skin, evens out the skin tone, and it can even help with acne,” she adds. If you have any of these concerns, you should definitely consider incorporating a retinol-based product into your routine. We’ll dive deeper into this below.

The Candidates

As you all know, skincare is not universal, so it’s crucial to learn who’s a “good” candidate for retinol and exactly when it’s time to start using it. “I recommend starting a retinol product in your early twenties if your skin can tolerate it,” says Darden. While most skin types can truly benefit from the powers of retinol, some may not be able to use it as often as others. “It can help address multiple concerns from anti-aging, brightening, to even acne,” she says.

“I always recommend my clients use Retinol Reform to keep their skin glowing in-between facials,” she says. Darden’s best-selling Retinol Reform combines retinol and lactic acid to help boost collagen production in the skin. It also helps minimize fine lines and wrinkles, even out the skin tone, and keep skin blemish-free. “It’s a really effective treatment that won’t cause any of the dryness or irritation often associated with prescription formulas,” she explains.

On the other hand, if f someone has extremely sensitive skin, they may not be able to use retinol at all. But that’s not the case for everyone who considers their skin to be sensitive. “Those with mild to moderately sensitive skin, or even those with mild rosacea can try Texture Reform which is the gentler sister to Retinol Reform,” says Darden. Texture Reform is formulated with retinyl palmitate, a milder retinoid, which can also help boost collagen production and improve cell turnover. “It’ll reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, and uneven texture without causing irritation,” she explains.

However, Darden does warn that those who like to spend a lot of time in the sun during the summer should not use retinol.

[Photo: Instagram/@shanidarden]

The Ideal Routine

If you have your skincare routine down-pact, adding another product can get tricky. However, it doesn’t have to be and we’ll help you find the right order of application. “I recommend not layering too many products at the same time when using a retinol,” says Darden. She explains that using too many products at the same time can affect their efficacy and prevent them from working properly after all of your hard work. “Additionally, if you’re layering too many active products, it can cause a lot of irritation,” she warns.

For a morning routine, she suggests starting off with a gentle cleanser, an antioxidant serum (i.e. vitamin c), hyaluronic acid serum (if extra moisture is needed), and sunscreen.

“At night, after cleansing the skin and using a toner (if needed), apply retinol,” she says. She recommends only following up with a hyaluronic acid serum and a great moisturizer after using retinol. “One night a week, but not on the same night as retinol, you can exfoliate using a chemical exfoliant,” she explains.

The Concentrations

There are different retinol concentrations, and retinol-based products can be found everywhere from the drugstore to a prescription from your dermatologist. “A prescription retinol will be stronger than an over the counter retinol formulation, but they can often cause a lot of irritation, dryness, and flaking because of how fast they work,” she says. She formulated her signature Retinol Reform with an encapsulated retinol which is a stable, quick penetrating, yet a slow-release form of retinol that minimizes irritation, yet still delivers powerful results. On the other hand, her Texture Reform is formulated with retinyl palmitate which works more slowly than retinol and prescription retinoids and therefore less likely to irritate the skin.

The Cons

Like with any other skincare ingredient, retinol involves a process of trial and error. You won’t learn that it doesn’t work for you unless you try it at all. “Starting slow and allowing skin time to acclimate is so important when using any retinol,” says Darden. She suggests starting with one night a week and building up slowly, adding in one additional night each week. “Build up to as often as your skin can tolerate. This will help to minimize any dryness or irritation as your skin acclimates,” she explains. Sunscreen is vital here! Retinol can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage, which shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The Results

You’re hoping to get glowing, radiant skin, right? Well, there’s more to it than that! “All retinol-based products can take upwards of 12 weeks to begin seeing the benefits, which is why it’s so important to just stick with it,” she exclaims. However, her fan-favorite Retinol Reform and Texture Reform products are formulated with lactic acid to provide immediate smoothing and brightening benefits along with the long term results of the retinol! In other words, patience is essential here, but for a quick fix you should definitely consider these products with lactic acid too.

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[Lead images: Instagram/@shanidarden]

The Frenshe Editors