DIY Facial Retinol Cream

Ward off aging with homemade, retinol-powered skin creams.

Photo: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

If you want stay ahead of wrinkles and other signs of skin aging, you need a facial cream with superstar ingredients. At the top of the anti-aging ingredient list is retinol, a form of vitamin A that benefits your skin's health and beauty. Vitamin A derivatives known as retinoids are popping up in specialty creams in drug stores across the country, but you can whip up your own age-fighting concoctions for a truly customized treatment.

Retinol To The Rescue

When you see it listed on the back of a high-tech face cream, you might imagine retinol being grown in a laboratory test tube. Although synthesized forms of retinol exist in the land of skin care, retinol starts off in nature as a form of plain old vitamin A. Active retinol comes from animal sources, such as eggs and milk. Plant sources, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, carry a form of retinol that has to be converted into an active retinoid in your body. Topical retinol treatments penetrate your skin and stimulate your body to produce the collagen and elastin that keeps your face looking fresh and tight.

Why Go DIY?

If you're buying retinol products over the counter, you may be getting a dose of a synthetic form of the age-fighting ingredient. There's nothing wrong with that, but going the OTC route means you'll be paying a pretty penny for a cream that's probably filled with lots of other ingredients, too, and not all of those ingredients are guaranteed to be friendly with your face. Since natural sources of retinol are easy to get your hands on and they are just as effective as the fancy laboratory types, going the DIY route gives you total control of what you're putting in your skin treatments, for a fraction of the cost.

Get Your Retinol Fix

Not all sources of retinol are DIY-cream friendly. Liver might be packed with the good stuff, but you probably don't want to rub it all over your face. Your best bets are eggs, milk, and cooked and pureed retinol-rich veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, kale and spinach. Start simple with just three egg whites and a few tablespoons of mashed carrots or carrot juice. If you opt for juice, add two tablespoons of honey to make a spreadable mask. Let it sit on your skin for 15 minutes and rinse clean. From this basic recipe you can add in extra ingredients, such as milk, or swap out the carrots for your preferred vegetable source. You can also purchase pure retinol serum to add in quarter-teaspoon increments to your masks to up the retinol factor for maximum anti-aging power.

Retinol Words of Warning

Even if you manage to steer clear of the liver, natural sources of retinol are not without caveats. Some retinol-rich vegetables contain high levels of citric acid that can irritate or redden sensitive skin. Stay on the safe side and avoid mangoes, tomatoes and papayas. Even eliminating the citrus factor won't guaranteed peel-free skin, so if you notice that retinol treatments are leaving your skin feeling dry or flaky, reduce the number of weekly treatments or invest in a high-quality moisturizer to combat the issue.

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