What happens when you start Retinol in a high concentration?

What happens when you start Retinol in a high concentration? A case study/review using The Ordinary's Retinol 1% in Squalane

With the rise of ingredient driven brands such as The Ordinary, The Inkey List, Emulsion and Revolution Skincare, many of us have been deep diving into the science of skincare. Dedicated Instagram pages and Youtube channels aid in figuring out exactly how to tackle specific skin concerns and what products to use. Seeing as I am an angry ass bitch, I have quite a pronounced frown line running all the way across the width my forehead.

I took to the only trustworthy source of information these days, The Internet, and found out I could try some retinol to take that roadmap on my forehead down a notch.

What is retinol?

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, a molecule that naturally occurs in our skin. Vitamin A is essential for the creation and repair of skin cells and is pretty much responsible for all the elements of Good Skin™: plump- and firmness, a nice glow and even texture. Yaaas.

Our bodies source vitamin A from meat, fish, eggs and dairy, or convert carotenoids from red, green, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables into vitamin A. Deficiencies are rare in the developed world, but to really get that skin glowing, more is more.

What does it do for my skin?

Applying retinol topically through skincare products promotes cell turnover, brightens skin tone, boosts collagen production and reduces acne. Because of its antioxidant properties, it’ll also help protect your skin from free radical damage, an important cause of premature aging.

Why do I need to build up my retinol use?

Retinol can be very irritating if used too frequently or in a strongly concentrated formula. The Ordinary suggest starting your retinol regimen with their 0,2% concentration and gradually move onto 0,5% and 1% to give your skin the chance to build tolerance. Side effects if you don’t may contain redness, peeling and a burning sensation. Especially around the eyes and mouth, things can get truly flakey.

Another important note to make is that, just like acids, retinoids make your skin more sensitive to UV. So unless you slap on that SPF, all that hard work could be completely futile.

Read more: Paula’s Choice is even more diligent and has a moisturiser with a 0,01% concentration! 

The Ordinary’s Retinol 1% in Squalane: a review case study diary

So let’s rewind to me trying to find a cure for that earthquake rupture on my forehead. Beautybay had a nice promotion going on and I figured I would use the opportunity to finally jump aboard the retinol train. I looked at 0,2%. I briefly skimmed over 0,5%. Fuck that man I want to see RESULTS. Why build sKiN tOlErAnCe anyway?

So, thinking I was putting my big girl pants on, I went for the 1% concentration. Mind you, this is before I did the research for this post. Anyway, this is how it went down…

Dear Diary… Day 1

I finally got my Beautybay order today! Along with the Retinol 1% in Squalane, I ordered the regular Squalane, too. I went trough my first bottle recently and I had been missing this stuff. I put a few drops of the Retinol on my forehead, between my eyebrows and around the eyes. I was expecting to feel something, but nope, nothing so far! Let’s see how this goes tomorrow…

Day 2, 3 and 4

I had to check if maybe I had mixed up the Retinol with the regular Squalane cause I’m not noticing anything. No redness, no flaking, no irritation but also: no results. Booo. I’ll keep using it for a little longer, but for now I’m a little sceptical.

Day 5

HOLY MOTHER OF SHITBALLS MY FACE IS ON FIRE!!!! Instead of taking my regular Body Pump class I haphazardly stumbled into a Body Attack class with, oh I don’t know, about 40 people in a non-airconditioned room. The heat was unbearable and as soon as the sweat started to flow, it felt like Satan himself was breathing down my face: a fiery burning sensation started to spread and mostly the area around my eyes was SUFFERING.
Because I was dying from all those fucking jumping jacks anyway, I decided to retreat to the locker room and splash some water in my face. Don’t even bother with the towel: that shit feels like sandpaper. The sensation lasted until I thoroughly washed my face at home and slathered my skin in a fragrance free cicacream. No retinol for me today.

Week 2

The past few days my face has been recovering from the literal Body Attack. I left my skin alone for a bit, only applying some day and night creams and being super gentle with cotton pads and towels: no rubbing, just dabbing. Other than the irritation, I noticed my under eyes look like two deflated balloons. Floppy and wrinkly. Dear lord, what have I done.

Week 3

Every sweaty gym session leads to an uncomfortable feeling but I’m glad to say the worst of it has passed. I’ve started applying the retinol almost daily on my forehead again, because you know, Y O L O. The visibility of my frown line has decreased significantly, especially in the middle. Because the eye area is still very delicate, I’m on a hydration only routine there.

Week 4

I’ll be going on a sunny vacay soon so I’ve temporarily put all retinoids and acids on hold to avoid the increased sensitivity to UV rays. My eye contours have regained moisture and plumpness and are almost back to their normal selves. Has my brief encounter with Satan retinol brought forth any permanent results? Well yes, my forehead does look better in fact! But the question remains: was it worth the abominable experience?

In conclusion:

Do as I say, not as I do, and get yourself the 0,2% concentration if you’re starting out. I rarely ever break out or experience any sort of irritation and I’m very nonchalant about what I put on my face, as you can probably tell by this article. When I get back from my holiday and my boyfriend has finished his second bottle of Marine Hyaluronics, I’ll be ordering the 0,2% because I am now a responsible, informed woman. I’ll probably get their new cleanser too, cause I flappin’ love trying out cleansers.

The Ordinary‘s retinoids range from € 5,30 to € 13,90. 

Until next time!

Signature XO Vicky

  1. lol I relate to this on every level. I did the same thing but with their glycolic acid. That stuff is going nowhere near my eye area ever again. It’s nice to hear someone else having success with retinol, especially this specific one. I like that you reviewed over a period of weeks/months not just a week or a few nights. Those reviews tell me NOTHING. I just started the 1% retinol in squalane (because why would I listen and start at a lower percent? That’s for babies.) but I’ll only be using it 3x a week. Pray for me.

    1. OooOOOoOooh you have my thoughts and prayers! Just try not to sweat – salt exaggerates the pain. I’m now using a Paula’s Choice moisturiser that has – wait for it – 0,01% retinol haha I ‘m not sure this is doing anything but if I pick up the big guns again, I’ll be wise and get the smallest of big guns.

  2. Oh no, I orderer the 1% in Squalane without ever trying retinol. I’m scared now… I will start by only applying twice a week, that was the plan. How frequently did you applied the serum in the first weeks?

    1. I applied it every day for 4 days straight – perhaps not the smartest thing to do haha. I’d definitely recommend using it twice a week tops at first and then build up from there. Or maybe dilute the product with some more squalane if you have it. Good luck!

  3. Thank you for this. Ive been using the 2% for a week and I aged 10 years around my eyes. The first 4 days were so promising. My skin looked FLAWLESS. Then woke up on the 5th lookin like the crypt keeper. Im just going to lay off it. Use it three time a week now.

    1. It did! I just stuck to a mild moisturiser for a few weeks and everything turned back to normal.

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