Everything You Need To Know About Retinol

Everything You Need To Know About Retinol
‘What is retinol?’ is one of the most common skincare questions we get asked and for good reason. Originally used by dermatologists to treat acne in the 1940s, retinol is now used to help smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, ease the appearance of dark spots, pigmentation and acne scarring, as well as fend off breakouts by keeping pores clear. Speak to almost any dermatologist and they’ll tell you that retinol is a gold standard skincare ingredient.

Finding the right retinol product for your skin and knowing when and how to use it can be a minefield though. For a start, there’s the various names (retinol, retinoids, retinyl palmitate to name just a few) and the different percentages (should you start with 0.01% or 1%?), and that’s before you’ve even considered whether you want to use a retinol cream or serum. We’ve created a cheat sheet covering all the key questions around the ingredient, including what is retinol? Scroll down to discover the difference between retinols and retinoids, where to slot them into your routine and how long you’ll have to wait to see the results.

What Is Retinol?

Originally used by dermatologists as an acne treatment, retinol soon took on a new role when experts noticed a reduction in fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation. Alongside retinol, you may have also heard of retinoids, retinoic acid and potentially even retinyl palmitate. All of these ‘R’s are a derivative of vitamin A.

Retinol is an over-the-counter form of Retin-A, a prescription retinoid. While Retin-A is stronger and takes effect quicker, biochemically regular retinol does the same job but just takes a longer. The retinol serums and creams you buy off the shelves have become more sophisticated in recent years as Oskia founder, Georgie Cleeves explains: “There are encapsulated retinoids which penetrate deep into layers of skin, and even irritant-free forms that bypass the irritation and peeling that’s so often associated with the ingredient.”

What Are The Skincare Benefits?

Retinol has a seriously impressive CV. “It removes bacteria from pores and reduces oil production in the sebaceous glands,” says Dr Yannis Alexandrides of 111SKIN, which makes it particularly useful for those with acne. It’s most impressive quality though, is it “stimulates the production of new cells and collagen, whilst reducing melanin production to help ease hyper-pigmentation,” says Georgie.

How Often Should I Use Retinol?

“Start with once a week, in the evening, post-cleanse to build your tolerance,” says Dr Alexandrides. If the introduction goes well, up your usage to twice a week, but if the reception is frosty, revert back to one. And, don’t be impatient – visible results can take anywhere from four weeks to three months. SPF applications should be dutiful when using retinol, as some experts believe it can further sensitise your skin to UV rays.

What Are The Best Retinol Products?

If you’re new to retinol, start with a low percentage and introduce the cream or serum into your evening routine twice a week. Wearing SPF every day becomes even more important when you introduce retinol into your routine – we love Eve Lom Daily Protection SPF 50, $95.00.

For those who have used vitamin A before and are looking for a slightly stronger dose, we can highly recommend Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum, $112.00. With an immediate hit of retinoid, a time-released retinoid and a retinol booster, this creamy serum is the perfect step-up. If you want more of a regimental approach, look to or . With four different strengths available (Retinal 1 with 0.01%, Retinal 3 with 0.03%, Retinal 6 with 0.06% and Retinal 10 with 0.10%) Medik8 has created an easy-to-follow system where you can gradually build up a tolerance. Each formula is also packed with hyaluronic acid, glycerin and vitamin E to hydrate the skin and strengthen its barrier too.

Posted: Friday, 14 April 2023