Take the most effective anti-aging ingredient, make it a serum, pour it over a few cotton pads, and make it as easy to use as a face wipe; that’s what retinol pads are. Given that retinol is pretty much the ‘it’ ingredient to tackle anything from wrinkles to acne and to hyperpigmentation, it’s no surprise that we see it in different product forms like toners, cleansers, and now, pads. But don’t confuse a retinol pad with your regular peel pads. The best retinol pads work a little differently, which makes them even more worthy of your attention.
Retinol is like the crazy girlfriend; can be a little psycho and unpredictable at times. But once you get on the good side of her, you’re in for the ride of your life. This vitamin A derivative is an ingredient that rewrites your whole skincare journey, redefines your anti-aging routine, and retexturizes your complexion. And now, you can swipe it right with the convenience of retinol pads.
Keep reading to learn more about how they work, how to use them, and the best retinol pads on the market.
What Are Retinol Pads?
Retinol pads or retinol peel pads are like toner pads, except that they’re soaked in retinol or its esters.
So what’s the difference between an exfoliating peel pad and a retinol pad? Unlike traditional peel pads, retinol pads aren’t primarily about exfoliating your skin. The pads, because of the presence of retinol, stimulate skin turnover and increase collagen production.
And they target major skin concerns like wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, enlarged and clogged pores, and blemishes. Traditional peel pads like glycolic acid pads or salicylic acid pads work on the surface of the skin whereas retinol pads work beneath the skin.
As an example, glycolic acid works on the surface of the skin by loosening the bond between the dead skin cells to encourage desquamation; the shedding of the outer layer of the skin.
Retinol, on the other hand, starts from the deeper layers of the skin and works its way up. It accelerates the production of new skin cells in the deeper layers. New cells travel upward and push the old ones out to shed off.
So the aim with retinol pads is not to get rid of dead skin cells laying on the surface of the skin. That’s just one aspect of how retinol works. The aim is to regulate cell turnover and improve the skin’s health on a more profound level.
The major advantage of retinol pads over retinol serums has to do with stability. You’ll see that most of them, especially the minimal ones, come in packets and not jars. You tear open the packet and with each use, you have fresh and potent retinol that hasn’t been oxidized due to light or air.
So what are some good retinol pads? Below are the best retinol pads for wrinkles, acne, and discolorations.
First off, Exuviance set the bar high with these retinol pads. They contain 0.3% retinol to activate the lazy cell turnover rate and fire up collagen production. In addition, the pads are soaked in a patented ingredient called CitraFill, which has a nice, instant plumping effect on the skin, which reduces the look of fine lines too.
The formulation is pretty minimal, meaning that retinol flies solo without a major anti-inflammatory wingman. Because of that, proceed with caution if you have very sensitive skin. Besides that, these once-a-week retinol pads will amplify your anti-aging routine considerably to better target signs of aging.
These retinol pads come with a hefty list of antioxidants to supercharge your routine. That’s why they are so gentle on the skin. Besides retinol to target wrinkles and sunspots, they’re presoaked in ferulic acid too. It’s a fascinating antioxidant that boosts the effects of the pads and helps improve the skin tone as well.
Retinol comes at wrinkles with a potent blend of humectants like hyaluronic acid, squalane, lactic acid, and sodium PCA. In addition, you have anti-inflammatory botanicals like green tea and Centella Asiatica. They mitigate sensitivity and dryness considerably. The new and improved formula also contains bakuchiol for added anti-aging benefits without irritation. And for that, these retinol pads work great for all skin types.
This has almost the same exact formula as Exuvaince, which is understandable as the two are practically the same company. Similar to Exuviance, the potent formula contains 0.3% retinol in addition to a propriety ingredient to hydrate the skin and give it a bouncy feel.
Only this one contains 12 pads, which makes it more cost-effective. But again, it’s a matter of preference. But rest assured, you get all the benefits of retinol. Use it once a week to manage excess oil, blemishes, pores, and signs of aging.
With this one, you have a bottle that contains the oil and another bottle that has the pads. You pour the oil over the pads to soak them in retinol. After that, you use the pads like regular pads.
If you’ve ever used a retinol oil before, then you know how the oils help eliminate the drying effects of retinol. Retinol is formulated with vitamins C and E. The two antioxidants target free radical damage on the skin and also keep the formula stable. The oil formula instantly locks in moisture, so you don’t need to apply anything afterward.
Argan oil, safflower seed oil, and olive oil, which are already rich in antioxidants, care for parched skin. And thanks to their emollient nature, they nourish the skin, moisturize, and keep it super soft. As some of the oils are comedogenic, this one isn’t the ideal option for people with oily skin. Dry skin, however, can go ahead and wipe it all over.
Similarly, this semi-DIY product offers a fresh bottle of retinol skin-loving goodies ready to be poured over pads. These ones are especially helpful for darker skin tones and for people who are dealing with hyperpigmentation, and skin discolorations.
Because the solution contains major skin-brighteners. It boosts collagen with retinol and gently exfoliates the top layer of the skin with lactic acid, which happens to increase the skin’s hydration as well.
And to help even out the skin tone and fade dark spots, the solution also contains niacinamide, arbutin, kojic acid, and azelaic acid. With regular use, these pads promote a smoother skin texture with improved skin tone and minimized lines.
These are great for people with acne-prone skin that are dealing with stubborn marks and discolorations. The pads combine glycolic acid (2%) with retinol (1%). You’d think the two would never come together in a single formula. But you have two of the most effective ingredients to come at two of the most annoying skin problems: acne and wrinkles.
They get to work on your skin both from the outside and inside. They encourage cell regeneration and skin exfoliation to promote healthier and more resilient skin. And to fade away dark spots, the pads are soaked in 4% arbutin and 3% percent kojic acid as well! Considering the potency and the effects, these are some of the cheapest retinol pads you can get.
If you have dry and very sensitive skin, there are several gentle retinol serums to help you with your skin concerns. But a common workaround for people with sensitive skin is to go for a natural retinol alternative. Enter bakuchiol. It’s the beginner’s retinol to get the anti-aging effects without irritation.
However, the data behind bakuchiol isn’t nearly as rich as the one behind retinol. And similarly, the results aren’t always as effective either. But when you have sensitive skin, it’s best to play it safe. These bakuchiol pads also have 7% lactic acid in them, another alternative route for people with sensitive skin who can’t tolerate other acids.
The gentle anti-aging and anti-acne pads exfoliate and retexturize the skin without irritation. Plus, they are formulated with papaya enzymes for gentle surface exfoliation and oatmeal for anti-inflammatory benefits. These pads work more like exfoliating peel pads and less like retinol pads, which is why they’re better for people who can’t seem to make peace with retinol.
How to Use Retinol Pads?
First of all, if you’ve never used retinol before, use your retinol pads only once a week, no matter what the instructions say. This is especially important if you have sensitive skin. With retinol, consistency is key. So you’ll get more results if you go slow and steady as opposed to fast and sporadically.
Use your retinol pad on clean, dry skin. Once it fully absorbs, top it off with a moisturizer. Don’t use an exfoliating toner, serum, or treatment in the same routine you use a retinol pad. And never forget to wear sunscreen during the day.
With every opening, your retinol serums, creams, or toners are exposed to air and oxidizes. Any retinol product in a bottle, a dropper, or a jar loses some potency along the way. This isn’t something alarming to the extent that the product becomes completely useless. But it’s a fact.
But this isn’t the case with retinol pads. Because of the way they’re packaged, they stay potent. And pads or wipes can’t usually accommodate chock full of antioxidants or anti-inflammatories like serums do.
So even though the retinol concentration is usually lower in pads than it is in serums, the effects of retinol pads can even sometimes exceed that of serums. The point is, start small and take it up to a maximum of 3 times per week.
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