• Anastasia Pentias

TBN: Affordable Retinol Edition- Airol Update

This is a much-requested update for you, regarding affordable retinol. Here in Greece, we can buy the Airol cream (0.5 mg per 1g tretinoin), over the counter. You can get the same strength products throughout Europe freely and affordably, while in the UK that's also possible through the Dermatica service.

I first tried Airol when a sales person in her 60's assisted me at Clinique. Her skin looked so amazing that I had to enquire about her regime. It was down to Airol, she said. I knew this as a loved/hated, strong retinoid, decided to take the plunge and tried it soon after. It was a disaster for me. I entered a purging phase that would not end, with proper, widespread acne on my cheeks, jaw and forehead. I quit after a few weeks. I still have anxiety about my past skin infections during my acne years; it was too much.

Fast forward to this fall. My skin is very used to high-strength retinol products. As luck would have it, most of them are expensive. As in, very. I needed to find a way to not spend 80 euros a month on retinol alone, because it was too much for my budget. My absolute holy grails are Neostrata's NAG, Sunday Riley's A+ serum and Sunday Riley's Luna (for upkeep and conditioning the skin). I bought them all this fall, and thought I'd alternate between them at nights to avoid the full-on retinol peeling face and actually make all of them last longer (Luna lasts so long; you only need a little). Then, I started an experiment with Airol and my decolletage, which went well and I decided to slowly introduce Airol to my face again. Maybe it would help me stretch my beloved retinols even longer.

Sure enough, I got acne again. Less of it this time, on the jaw and forehead. But HOW?? I thought I was done with purging with so much retinol. I applied Airol every third night on dry skin, no buffers; any more than that and my face would fall off. The acne lasted three weeks, then disappeared. What did appear, however, is the peeling. Barely perceptible to the eye, like a spider's web, all over the face. When that was done, I tried applying Airol every other night.

A mistake, as it turns out. This stuff is radioactive. My face quickly turned sore and red, so I cut back. DO. NOT. PLAY. AROUND. WITH. THIS. ON. YOUR. FACE. It will turn around and bite you in the *ss.

It took two months, but I finally found a balance with this product and can honestly say it's a great tool in my beauty arsenal. My advice would be to buy it in two cases:

a) If your budget is limited and you are new to retinol, you can indeed use only this, provided you buffer it by mixing with a cream or hydration/conditioning serum of your choice (do not be a skin kamikaze like me, I do it for the kicks of experimenting). Use, buffered, only every third night at first. Then work your way up.

b) If your budget allows and you are accustomed to retinol, this is GREAT to make your more sophisticated products stretch longer. Consider this as a super-boosted retinol treatment that you'll use every few days to give your skin a swift kick in the behind, then go back to conditioning your skin. You'll need it.

Please remember: because this costs 3 euros, it doesn't mean you should go on a retinol bonanza. You might use it carefully and get great results or be reckless and cause actual damage. Be prudent and respect your skin's reactions.

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