Retinol Skincare Benefits: A Beginner’s Guide
Is retinol part of your skincare routine?
Retinol is one of the most well-known and buzzworthy ingredients in the skincare world but also one of the most misunderstood. While this multi-functioning antioxidant powerhouse has a long list of benefits, from anti-aging to acne, it is not all unicorns and rainbows.
Retinol has many potential side effects and not recommended for some skin types or conditions. We are here to share retinol skincare benefits, dos and don’ts, and help you understand what it is and how to use to obtain your most gorgeous, radiant skin.
What is Retinol?
Retinol in a type of retinoid, which is derived from Vitamin A, which works by speeding up collagen production. This encourages rapid epidermal turnover, where skin cells die, to be replaced with younger, healthy cells. A common misunderstanding is confusing retinol with an exfoliant as it is actually classified as an antioxidant. Retinol does not have the capability to remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface or break down the bonds that hold them together.
“Retinoid is a generic term for any topical product that contains a vitamin A derivative,” says Shari Marchbein, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. So it serves as a catchall term for any vitamin A derivative—be it retinoic acid, retinol, retinol palmitate, or retinol propionate (a.k.a. pro-retinol).” – Glamour (1)
There are different types of retinoids, all which must be converted to retinoic acid first before it is used by the body. The more steps of the process, the weaker type of retinoid it is. For instance, Retinol takes two steps to convert to retinoic acid and Retinyl Palmitate takes three. Therefore, Retinol is more effective of the two but also comes with more possible side effects.
Skin Tip: Retinyl Palmitate, the least irritating retinoid, is a great option for those with sensitive skin. It can also be a powerhouse ingredient in eye creams.
Retinol Skincare Benefits
Retinol is one of the most highly researched and recommended skincare ingredients for anti-aging. Proven benefits include:
- Improved skin texture
- Even complexion
- Gives skin a plumper, fresher appearance
- Skin brightening
- Combat acne
- Soften wrinkles and fine lines
- Fade age spots and dark pigment
- Boosted collagen production
- Stimulated blood vessels
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Retinol but that does not mean it doesn’t come with some side effects, like photosensitivity, irritation and dryness. Although side effects usually subside as your skin builds up a tolerance, it is best to ease into it and start slow.
Skin Tip: It’s always a good idea to integrate any new product slowly into your routine.
How to Use Retinol
Slow and Steady.
Begin with a low percentage (up to 0.25%). Apply retinol at night, starting at 1-3 times a week to begin for the first month. Skin cell turnover is occurring quickly so light peeling or flakiness is common. Once your skin become accustomed to this frequency and you aren’t experiencing irritation, increase to every other day.
Over time, increase retinol strengths to 0.5 and then to 1.0, depending on skin’s adjustment. Always listen to your skin!
It takes 2-3 months of consistent retinol use to see true results.
- Only use a pea size amount for entire face.
- Apply retinol to a clean face.
- SPF is always a major “do” but definitely when using retinol as it makes skin more sensitive to UV rays.
- Always wait 10-20 minutes after washing your face before application. Applying to damp skin can increase absorption as well as side effects.
- Apply moisturizer after retinol.
- Do not mix with L-Ascorbic Acid, a form of Vitamin C, as they are both active ingredients. Apply Vitamin C in the morning and use Retinol in the evening.
- Retinols should not be combined with or used on the same evening as Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) to avoid irritation or skin sensitivity.
- Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Don’t use too much at once and avoid higher concentrations until skin builds up a tolerance.
0.01% to 0.03% for beginners with sensitive skin, then work your way up to 0.04% to 0.1% for intermediate users, and then 0.2% to 1%+ for advanced users.
Darker skin should not exceed concentration of 0.5%. (3)
We advise consulting your dermatologist or a skincare expert before starting a retinol product to discuss your concerns about its effects and how it will work for your skin.
Skin Tip: Nu Age – Retinol + Lactic Acid Serum is a high strength retinol concentration and not advised for first-time retinol users.
- Retinoid vs. Retinol: When to Use Each and Why Not all vitamin A is created equal.Deanna Pai. Glamour.
- New to Retinol? A Complete Guide to the Skin-Care Ingredient. Lawler. Everyday Health.
ANTI-AGING. RETINOL: DOS AND DON’TS. Depology.
Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Malwina Zasada. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology. PubMed.