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What Is Encapsulated Retinol and Is It The Better Choice For Your Skin?

Morgan McHose

You may have heard the phrase “encapsulated retinol” lately. This version of retinol is being touted as the superior choice. But is it? We’ve collected the best information available so you can make an informed decision about your skincare products. Check out what we found!

WHAT IS ENCAPSULATED RETINOL?

You may have already guessed what encapsulated retinol is from its terminology alone. If you deduced that encapsulated retinol is retinol that’s been encapsulated, you’d be right! But why encapsulate retinol at all? Doesn’t it work fine without any barrier?

Traditional retinol has no barrier and its conversion to retinoic acid occurs relatively quickly. This retinoic acid, or Vitamin A, works within the body to stimulate collagen production, encourage cell turnover, smoothen wrinkles, and more. However, retinol is infamous for its common side effects like dryness and irritated skin. It can take a frustrating amount of time for your skin to adjust to the product.

Additionally, retinol has a reputation for being unstable. When retinol destabilizes, it becomes much less effective and can even cause side effects that worsen its benefits. A destabilized retinol also has a shorter shelf-life. Common retinol destabilizers are oxygen, heat, or light. In fact, that is one of the reasons that retinol is a nighttime routine product.

At night, retinol can be applied without any detrimental exposure to sunlight. The most important reason, however, is that retinol can cause sun sensitivity, or make you more likely to burn in the sunlight. Using retinol at night when the sun isn’t out is better, although it is still incredibly important to wear and reapply sunscreen during the day. And when you need to replenish your sunscreen supply, try to purchase biodegradable sunscreen if possible. Biodegradable sunscreen breaks down naturally without polluting the land or bleaching the precious coral reefs.

Main benefits of encapsulated retinol

Encapsulated retinol drastically reduces the two biggest problems with retinol—instability and irritation. With a protective layer in place, you can worry less about exposure to environmental factors. The encapsulated retinol is commonly referred to as a time-release product, with the retinol being released into the body more gradually and at a deeper level. This alternative can significantly reduce the common side effects associated with traditional retinol. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too good at bypassing the skin’s surface. Some recommend using a combo approach, with a product that uses both encapsulated and traditional retinol together to effect change at both the deep and superficial layers of the skin.

UNDERSTANDING RETINOL

We went over a lot of the downsides of retinol, but there’s a reason many people still swear by it. Retinol can be extremely effective at anti-aging and improving overall skin appearance. The product typically works at a cellular level. See, we have about fourteen(!) layers of dead skin cells on top of our skin at any given moment. These dead skin cells can clog up your pores and potentially cause acne. Retinol helps to peel away some of that dead skin and ensure that the new layers are even in texture and pigment.

It also promotes collagen, an important component that our bodies start to make less of as we age. As the collagen breaks down, fine lines and eventually wrinkles appear. By stimulating collagen production, retinol helps to reduce visible signs of aging.

Choosing a vegan retinol has many benefits. Plant Mother’s vegan, plant-based retinol serum is 100% organic and all-natural. Like encapsulated retinol, Plant Mother’s vegan retinol works effectively without causing common negative side effects such as peeling, sun sensitivity, irritation, redness, and dryness. Synthetic retinols often contain harsh chemicals, whereas Plant Mother uses gentle and natural ingredients only. Our impressive ingredient profile includes natural powerhouse Bakuchiol. Bakuchiol is such an effective anti-aging agent that it earned the nickname “botanical facelift.”

That’s not all that sets Plant Mother aside from the rest, either. Plant Mother is dedicated to protecting and improving the health of the environment. Its packaging is plastic-free, made from an eco-friendly biodegradable pulp instead. All of the products are proudly cruelty-free and farmed ethically, without the use of GMOs or pesticides. Vegan skincare is the best way to maintain skin health without degrading the health of the world around us.

cruelty free retinol

SIDE EFFECTS OF ENCAPSULATED RETINOL

Encapsulated retinol appears to excel at reducing typical retinol side effects, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll experience no side effects at all. You can still experience some peeling, irritation, sun sensitivity, dryness, skin purging, etc. It is, however, more likely to be a significantly milder case, especially if you pair it with a moisturizer and start by introducing the retinol gradually. Don’t couple the retinol with BHAs, AHAs, or Vitamin C. That’s not to say you can’t use these products too, just not at the same time. You’ll want to use acids or Vitamin C (ideally plant-based, natural Vitamin C serum) in the morning, and retinol at night, or simply alternate days.

There’s a bit of trial and error involved when you’re building or adding to your skincare routine. Remember to introduce any new product, but especially retinol, slowly. That means a small amount, once or twice a week to start. If you have a skin condition or particularly sensitive skin, you may want to reach out to your dermatologist before starting a new product. A dermatologist will know what is compatible with your skin type and current routine. Your medical provider can also prescribe a retinoid for you if they feel it will work best. Prescription retinoids are actually stronger than over the counter products, and may be preferable for you if you’ve had no luck with gentler retinol options. But be aware of tretinoin purge and other harsh skin reactions that you may encounter as a retinol beginner.

How To Introduce New Retinol Product Into Your Skincare Routine

If you experience serious side effects like severe discomfort, swelling, excessive itching or tenderness, or any pain, stop the new product immediately and get help from a medical professional. Professionals do not recommend using prescription retinol products if you are pregnant or nursing.

If you’re apprehensive about starting a new skincare product, you can always try a patch test first. Choose a small area of skin and apply a tiny amount to the area first and observe for adverse reactions. It can be exciting to envision a new skincare combination and start slathering on the revised routine. However, it’s always best to start with one new product at a time. Or you can use active ingredients every other day – a process known as skin cycling. If you start multiple skincare products at the same time and experience a negative reaction, you won’t know which product is the culprit.

IS ENCAPSULATED RETINOL BETTER THAN TYPICAL RETINOL?

All signs point towards encapsulated retinol being the victor. Annoying side effects are reduced, stability and shelf-life are improved… Actually, it may work better than typical retinol at improving your skin, given its unique ability to penetrate deeply. In many respects, it is very similar to vegan retinol that can be superior than regular synthetic retinol. Encapsulated retinol isn’t more potent than traditional retinol, but its time-release property enables it to reach further and more easily access the necessary cells. And on top of that, it doesn’t lose its potency as easily as typical retinol. Once retinol is destabilized, it loses potency and can become even more irritating to the skin. A more stable form of retinol like encapsulated retinol must be best then, right?

Well, there’s no conclusive answer to this question. What works best for one individual’s skin won’t necessarily work best for another’s. If you need a retinol that primarily tackles the superficial layers of skin, you may opt for a combination retinol product or a traditional retinol. However, if you have sensitive skin, you might decide on encapsulated retinol, or vegan retinol that cause less irritation.

If you do decide on a traditional non-encapsulated retinol, don’t leave it near the window! Be sure to keep it away from light and warmth. Any retinol you pick should be used at night and stored somewhere dark and cool when not in use.

glycolic acid and retinol

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I USE FOR MY SKIN?

To reduce the dryness and irritation of retinol, it’s a good idea to use a moisturizer. This addition can help keep your skin hydrated. And, of course, sunscreen is a must. Be sure to apply it each morning.

Washing and cleansing your face regularly will help prevent excess oil, dirt, and other skin pollutants from building up and causing clogged pores. Cleansers and toners are more optional than strictly necessary, but you should always do what works best for your routine and skin. Always do your research and check the ingredients list for potential red flags. You may have heard or read somewhere that natural means ineffective, but this is simply untrue. There are so many natural, gentle, effective products out there – do your research!

If you are currently using retinol or want to start, consider adding glycolic acid to your routine. Glycolic acid and retinol can be a powerful duo. Don’t use glycolic acid at the same time as retinol! You’re almost guaranteed to have a bad time (and extremely dry skin). It’s best to alternate—one day apply retinol, the next day glycolic acid, and repeat. Research has shown that this combination approach can significantly help with pitted acne scarring. 

Vitamin c And Retinol

And for your morning routine, we recommend adding Plant Mother’s organic plant-based Vitamin C serum. This Vitamin C serum brightens and rejuvenates your skin. 100% non-toxic and chemical-free, this serum owes its efficacy to an incredible ensemble of antioxidants and vegan ingredients. One of the all-star ingredients of our Vitamin C face serum is the Kakadu plum. The Kakadu plum boasts the highest amount of Vitamin C of any plant in the world—it contains 55 times more Vitamin C than oranges! What’s more, this Vitamin C serum is waterless, packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins. When you buy other Vitamin C products, you’re usually buying something that is over 80% water and chemicals. We want you to feel confident in your purchase and know that you are buying something well worth the price tag. 

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. The publisher of this content does not take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, skincare product, or lifestyle program.

Morgan McHose
Morgan McHose is a graduate student at the University of Southern California studying Public Relations and Advertising. When she’s not studying, Morgan loves writing and reading the latest YA fantasy novels. Morgan currently volunteers as a multimedia journalist at the USC Media Center and writes as an opinion staff writer for the USC newspaper. She aims to find a creative career in Los Angeles in entertainment PR.
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