What is Retinol? And Why You Should Be Using It

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A being used predominantly as a cheap at-home treatment for aging. There has been a spike lately in the amount of retinol products available on the market; but what is Retinol? And why should you be using it? Read on to find out.

What Is Retinol

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A. Retinol is the most common form of the ingredient you’ll find in most skincare creams and serums. There is a stronger prescription version of Retinol known as Retinoic Acid which provides more immediate results, but it is a harsher treatment. Consult your dermatologist for more information about acquiring retinoic acid.

Once Retinol is applied to the skin however, it is converted to Retinoic acid by enzymes present in our skin. You will still see fantastic results to your complexion with Retinol alone, it may just take a little longer.

Retinol Chemical Formula

Key Benefits of Retinol

Boosts Collagen Production

With continued use, Retinol boosts collagen production and promotes cellular regeneration. As we age, the collagen in our skin begins to breakdown. Using Retinol can slow down this process, therefore reducing signs of aging.


By boosting collagen and elastin production, the skin will be smoother and firmer; this can minimise the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Minimises Pores

Enlarged pores occur through the aging process as the skin around the pores begins to sag and droop. By boosting the production of collagen and elastin, the appearance of your pores can be minimised. Read our article for more Ways to Reduce The Size Of Your Pores.

Even Skin Tone and Sun Spots

Retinol can even and smooth out skin texture and tone, and over time, it can fade sun spots and hyper-pigmentation. Retinol has a mild exfoliating effect as a result of increased cell turnover.

How to Use Retinol

Retinol when used in skin care is a topically applied product, usually in serum form (cream forms are also available). As with most serums, they should be used after cleansing but before moisturising. Retinol serums should be applied everyday, it can take up to 3 months before you start seeing visible results. You’ll notice that retinol is added to most night creams/serums as it should generally be applied in the PM.

You should limit sunlight exposure when using retinol, as it can reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. Unlike AHA/BHA’s however, it is generally safe to be in the sun while using Retinol.

Combining Treatments

While retinol can be used with other treatments including AHA/BHA’s, it’s generally best to avoid combining the two. Retinol itself isn’t really an exfoliating agent but since it boosts cell turnover, it can cause redness and peeling.

We do recommend combining retinol with hyaluronic acid, as this will combat the dryness associated with using retinol. If you’re not familiar with Hyaluronic Acid, be sure to read What is Hyaluronic Acid? And How It Can Benefit Your Skin.

Side Effects

Typical side effects of Retinol include; skin peeling, dryness, redness and general irritation. No need to be alarmed however, this is very common and is usually part of the process of your skin acclimating to the ingredient.

If you are concerned by these side effects, try starting with a lower concentration Retinol formulation, and increase it gradually as your skin gets used to the treatment.

Products We Recommend

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane - 30ml

Try The Ordinary – Retinol 0.5% in Squalane. A fantastic water-free Retinol formulation at an affordable price point. A lower and higher strength formulation is also available.

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La Roche-Posay Retinol 0.3%+ Vitamin B3 Serum

Try La Roche-Posay Retinol 0.3% + Vitamin B3 Serum. This is a gentle formulation, better for those with sensitive skin. The addition of Vitamin B3 ensures your skin remains hydrated and soft.

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Sunday Riley | A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum | Cult Beauty

Try Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum. This is a high-strength formula with a 6.5% concentration Retinol blend. Also includes Hawaiian white honey, a humectant which ensures your skin is hydrated.

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Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment - Paula's Choice

Try Paula’s Choice – Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment. This treatment includes Vitamin C and will be effective in improving skin tone and texture while softening fine lines and wrinkles.

Get it here