Retinol is one of the best ingredients you can use on your skin for resurfacing, collagen synthesis, and protein development. I have been a fan of retinol for many years.
I admit, great retinol treatments are something in which I have indulged, spending serious money. I have found that over the counter "retinol" products are usually not as hyped, using ingredients other than pure retinol or using concentrations so low as to allow for a label claim without actually providing enough active ingredient to yield any significant effects. Retinol is an exfoliant, skin densifying treatment, regeneration stimulant, and brightener. Anyone wanting the skin to be smooth, strong, bright, and even in colour, should seek out retinol-based products.
The best retinol products I have found are in dermatology centres, rather than mass retailers. Usually, they are very expensive. I have seen quality retinol products retail for as much a $250 per 30mL.
So, what makes a retinol product effective?
1. Concentration of retinol
2. Carrier agents
3. Balanced hydration
Without all three of these elements in place, the retinol product will not perform as well as it could.
1. Concentration: This is crucial. If the concentration is too low, the retinol will only exfoliate the skin, but will not stimulate the protein development or collagen synthesis, which provide dramatic, long-lasting, visible change. Too high and it will irritate the skin. The ideal concentration is 2% pure retinol. Make sure the product is pure retinol. Retinol esthers (which most over-the-counter brands use) will not work the same. Easy way to know—look for the word "retinol" in the ingredient list. If it does not appear, then it is not a pure retinol formula.
2. Carriers: Retinol can make the skin photo sensitive and should not be left on the surface of the skin too long. The carriers need to deliver the retinol deep into the skin (preventing it from sitting on the surface) as quickly as possible. Most formulas use some form of alcohol to achieve this. The wrong alcohol will cause skin to become dry on the surface, however, so while the retinol is absorbed, the surface becomes dry and irritated. Seems counter productive. Not all alcohols are drying, however. Selecting the correct carrier is key. Avoid any alcohol listing that says: Alcohol Denat., SD Alcohol, Alcohol, or Isopropyl Alcohol.
3. Hydration: Most retinol products require the application of a separate moisturizer. I am not a fan of using two products when you can use one. For me, a great retinol product is also a moisturizer.
So what is all this leading to?
Well, you can imagine my delight when I recently discovered this great product: Glow by Dr. Brandt ($85 for 50mL).
At first I was skeptical, because this product is available in mass retailers and I have never found a great retinol product in a mass retail store.
Here's what makes it great:
1. This is a 2% pure retinol formulation—as potent as formulas found in doctors' offices.
2. Non-drying carriers—this product will penetrate the skin without causing surface dehydration. In fact, there are no drying compounds in the formula at all.
3. Complete moisturizer—no need to use a separate moisture product. Contains 8 lipid identical compounds to prevent water evaporation from the skin, anti-inflammatory agents, vitamin C compounds, and all without paraben preservatives.
For the price point, this is a superior product. When compared to formulations with the same sophistication, this is truly well worth the purchase!
The single most common question I am asked is:
"What do all the symbols mean on a cosmetics label?"
Each symbol on the packaging is standardized information for the buying public to know exactly what to expect in regards to shelf life, reactions, usage, etc.
Let me break down some of the most common symbols on cosmetics labels:
PAO—Period After Opening
This symbol will tell you how long the formula will remain stable after you remove the factory seal. This is not a "best before" date, however—this symbol refers only to shelf life after the seal is removed. Shelf life, for most cosmetics with an intact factory seal, is 36-48 months.
This symbol indicates that the product is registered with a third party that will collect the empty package for recycling purposes. All cosmetics companies selling products in jurisdictions where curbside recycling programs do not exist, are required to provide services to recycle the packaging components. This symbol informs consumers that the manufacturer provides such services. In Canada, because most municipalities offer blue bin service, this symbol is often not required.
This symbol indicates that the outer packaging does not provide sufficient space to print all the pertinent information required to fully understand the usage of the product. When this symbol appears, there is always additional information available to the consumer not appearing on the outer packaging—either in the form of a leaflet, inside the outer packaging, or online.
Due to the evaporation rate of various formulas, each package fill is slightly different. This symbol indicates that at the time the jar was filled, it met the "average fill requirements" as set by law. For liquids it is in mL and for solids it is in g. A label may indicate 200 mL, but the product fill may actually be 201 mL or 197 mL due to the average fill requirements.
Some products are flammable. Nail polish and hair spray are good examples of flammable cosmetics. This symbol specifically indicates the danger of using open flames around this product.
In 2003, I decided to retire from service. I gave up my make up artistry and aesthetics practices, resigned from my position as Director of the largest spa group in Western Canada, and headed to Toronto to start a new chapter in my career. I wanted to become a true artist, using my skill to create looks for women that were not just for commercial purposes. I wanted my artistry to transcend just the business of cosmetics. When I arrived in Toronto, I almost immediately found myself surrounded by amazing performers who inspired me to find my inner artist. For the first time in my entire career, I realized I could be more than just a business person, I could actually be a real artist.
Over the last eleven years, I have met, worked with, socialized with, and, of course, admired some of the greatest talents in this city. Every one of these artists, whom I have met, has allowed me to create looks for them and encouraged me to keep improving my talents.
Dione Taylor holds a special place in this pantheon of women. She has continually challenged my perceptions of life, encouraged me to express my art, and, most importantly, allowed me the great honour of designing make up styles for her.
Dione is a world-renowned entertainer—having performed for audiences as far away as Tokyo—who interprets jazz in a way that cannot be easily described. She has performed at the White House for the President of the United States and the First Lady, on Parliament Hill for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and graced the stages at The Kennedy Centre and Massey Hall. Part soul singer, part gospel singer, and all R&B singer, Dione can make a person dance in one moment and bring them to heartbreaking tears in the next, all with her ability to tell a story in a way very few singers actually can. Dione’s unique ability to evoke the soulful musical truth is a rare quality, one attractively complemented by her keenly trained musical ear. It's little wonder she has been nominated for a Juno, Gemini, and National Jazz Award. She is also the recipient of the 2009 Govenor General's Mentorship Award.
Dione is currently working on a brand new CD, and plays to packed houses every Friday night as her alter ego DeeDee Martini, at Toronto's Reservoir Lounge. I have seen this show several times and it is, truly, not to be missed.
Recently, I asked this incredibly talented woman what beauty means to her:
"When I am feeling healthy, happy and confident then it’s impossible not to be beautiful.
I love to dress up! It’s easy to feel amazing and beautiful when my hair is perfectly coiffed and I’m wearing that sexy little black dress, a full face of make up and coveted four inch heels. When I’m at home donning my comfy gym suit and fuzzy slippers I still feel amazing and beautiful because I feel beautiful from within.
Beauty is complete acceptance that I am beautifully and wonderfully made.
When I’m not working I don’t really wear make-up or “dress up” too much (just a feather boa with my winter coat!). I often get stopped by perfect strangers who tell me how gorgeous my skin is and how beautiful I am. This used to confuse the hell out of me until one day it dawned on me: true beauty starts from within and is enhanced by make-up and clothes.
Every Friday night is Halloween in my world! I get to play “dress up” as my stage persona: DeeDee Martini. She’s a cross between my aunt Joyce and Diana Ross…just enough style and attitude to keep you coming back for more!"
Dione's show starts at 10pm every Friday night and runs until late. Her acclaimed CD is available now and her new work will be out very soon.
Next Month: Christine Horne