Talking to an expert: Dr. Sarah Hart on the power of retinols

I swear in my life I have tried about every single ‘hope in a jar’ out there, spending god knows how much on moisturisers, eye creams, serums and whatnot as I (fruitlessly for the most part) battle the creeping signs of ageing. There’s certainly no way to escape them, but a little softening here and there is more than welcome, and if I can find a product that gives my skin that extra boost then bring it on.
In the skincare world there is one thing that we know absolutely delivers the goods however, and that’s retinol. Some are so potent that can completely change your skin overnight, but not all are created equal. There are a lot of misconceptions about retinol too, with good reason. Also there is the fact that there are ‘Retin-A’ products, and ‘retinol’ products… and both are ‘retinoids’. It’s all vitamin A, but the first kind is pretty heavy duty (i.e. you need a prescription) and the second type you can buy over the counter. Unlike standard exfoliators, retinoids work at the cellular level to increase collagen, smooth-out annoying fine lines and even-out the tone, all of which are on my shopping list thank-you-very-much.
This is where the experts come in, and in my humble opinion you shouldn’t embark upon the use of a retinol without first consulting one. My choice is Skin Institute Ponsonby’s Dr. Sarah Hart, who is a fountain of knowledge (and then some) when it comes to all things skin. What this woman doesn't know about how to transform and take years off your visage is just not worth knowing, and when I first met her I was immediately struck by her incredible knowledge base and her approachability. When it comes to the kind of patients Sarah sees discretion and a caring approach is key, and she has both in spades. A Fellow of the New Zealand College of Appearance Medicine, Sarah is one of only two New Zealand doctors on the international Botox Advisory Board and trains other doctors around the country in facial rejuvenation techniques.
“It is so important that you talk to someone before trying retinol,” she says of the proven skin rejuventor, adding “for some people even the weakest retinol can cause havoc if they haven’t first restored the barrier of their skin.” She says the first thing to do when you want to try one is look at your cleanser, “as so many people are using ones that are just stripping their skin with ingredients like sodium laurel sulfate. The trend towards just using oil to cleanse your skin is much preferable, and really effective.” Adding Vitamin A to a non-prepped skin can be “a recipe for disaster, with redness, irritation and flaking that can put you off for life,” Sarah tells me. If your skin is particularly sensitive you can also wait ten minutes after cleansing before applying your retinol, to allow your natural oils to start appearing again.
She says that once your skin is ready, adding small amounts of Vitamin A is the way to go, and it can take up to twelve weeks to work your way up to the level that will start making a real difference to your skin. “Then you’ll start to get that elusive dewy look,” says Sarah, “and your skin will feel thicker and pigment will be fading.” She likes to use a moisturiser before or after applying retinol, and this is again when your skin expert will step in and advise which of the two is the best for you.
Often called “the perfect entry level retinol”, Aspect’s Retinol Brulee is one of the names that does what it says, and is a great place to start. Unlike some of the more questionable so-called ‘Retinol’ products out there it promises to deliver the results you want day after day, week after week, month after month, and you get the long-term results accordingly. It is the first Australian developed cosmeceutical to take advantage of what is called “Tocoretinate” technology, a non-irritating variety of "true" esterified Vitamin A acid that is guaranteed to maintain its potency and superior performance even under the most adverse of conditions. To further enhance the aforementioned Tocoretinate, the clever clogs at Aspect have now literally turbocharged Retinol Brulee with the addition of Lanablue, a remarkable Blue algae extract that clinically mimics the topical cosmetic effects of pure retinol without any of the side effects.
Sarah is a huge fan of the Skin Medica range’s retinol offerings, which are three depending on which level works with your skin, and are practitioner only. “I love Skin Medica and the Aspect Dr. range as they have true clinical data behind them,” she tells me. “They have tested them and they work. I also have incredible support from both companies in terms of education and asking advice on my clients.” See, even the experts consult with the experts!
So if you are looking at adding a retinol to your skincare arsenal then please do, but ask advice beforehand and always, always use a sunscreen. You will reap the benefits!

(this article first appeared in the always-awesome Ponsonby News)


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