Retinols are renowned for taking years off your look. However, many give up before results are visible because they find it difficult to use. Keep reading; you’re about to learn why. 

What is retinol and what does it do?

Retinol is a type of retinoid derived from vitamin A. It is biologically active and the gold standard for antiaging skincare because it defies the behavior of matured and aging cells. This means they can function in a more youthful manner, targeting everything from texture to tone.

Retinol works in a few different ways in the skin.

  • It is believed to speed up cell turnover and thicken and strengthen the skin's subcutaneous layer, giving skin a youthful resiliency.
  • With continuous use, retinol halts collagen breakdown while boosting the production of matrix proteins – both collagen and elastin – smoothing wrinkles and fine lines. Retinol is the only topical agent that has been shown to promote collagen and give supple skin due to the formation of new blood vessels.
  • Moreover, retinol helps exfoliate dead skin cells (older keratinocytes) at an increased rate without clogging pores, therefore preventing breakouts. 

How to stay consistent with retinol if it is intolerable to my skin? 

Unfortunately, super-powered retinol gets a bad reputation due to its side effects like dryness, tightness, peeling, and redness, especially for first-time users. 

Retinization is the initial period when you start using retinoids and your skin adjusts. Experts recommend using only a pea-sized amount of retinol for your entire face at a lower concentration of retinol (e.g., 0.15%). A lot of the retinol-gone-wrong stories are caused by people going straight to prescription vitamin A (AKA tretinoin) and applying too much, too often. Remember that consistency is preferred over intensity. A controlled clinical trial published in 2015 showed that 0.1% retinol improves multiple signs of ageing in eight weeks, with cumulative results over the course of a year. 

A few more things to know

  1. Retinol is beneficial for most skin types, but not all skin types can tolerate retinol. Talk to your doctor if you have skin conditions like rosacea. 
  2. Retinol packaging is a key issue! Any packaging that lets in air or sunlight, like jars or clear containers, just won’t cut it. When retinol is exposed to air and sunlight, it degrades quickly and loses its potency. Retinol serums contained in single-dose capsules are a great way to preserve their full potency during the entire shelf life.
  3. Retinol-containing products work best when combined with other active ingredients, especially antioxidants like vitamin E and calming and hydrating substances such caprylic/capric triglyceride.
  4. Retinol increases sun sensitivity. Always remember to apply a sunscreen of 30SPF or higher during the day to protect the skin.
  5. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not apply retinoids, including retinol. 


  1. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments
  2. Do retinoids really reduce wrinkles?
  3. A comparative study of the effects of retinol and retinoic acid
  4. Improvement of Naturally Aged Skin With Vitamin A (Retinol)
  5. Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne
  6. Cosmeceuticals: The Evidence Behind the Retinoids

DISCLAIMER: These articles are intended to help educate on specific ingredients and skincare topics and are designed for informational purposes only.