Beauty glossary

What Is Retinol? 

Want to be the real-life Benjamin Button? Well then, let us introduce you to retinol, an ingredient so powerful, most derms consider it anti-aging magic thanks to its unrivaled ability to reduce and even reverse, the signs of aging (read: lines, wrinkles, and saggy skin). For those who haven’t heard about its magical powers, retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, which is responsible for boosting cell turnover and keeping you looking young.

What Does Retinol Do? 

Dr. Day, a world-renowned dermatologist, explains that “Retinols act on specific receptors, or targets in the skin, which helps to promote more normal maturation of skin cells.” It also boosts collagen production, cell renewal and a whole host of other skin functions, to help your skin stay firm, smooth and healthy.

The gift that keeps on giving, this revolutionary wrinkle-buster has another major benefit: it can help clear up acne by regulating the turnover of skin cells that line pores, which helps avoid clogging – meaning fewer blackheads, spots, and cysts. A powerful multitasker, retinol is also known to even out skin tone and reduce hyperpigmentation, dark spots and acne scars.

Who Should Use Retinol

If you’re stressing about wrinkles, then it’s time to get aboard the “R” train. While (for most of us) it’s a dream come true, retinol might not be suitable for those with very sensitive skin, so always do a patch test before applying it to your face!

How To Use Retinol In Your Routine

Now for the important bit: introduce retinol into your routine gradually. And when we say gradually, we mean it. Begin by using the lowest concentration (we recommend 0.2%) once or twice a week at night unless it specifies otherwise, as retinol is sensitive to light. A little bit of irritation or redness is normal, especially in the first few weeks, but it should be mild. Apply a pea-sized drop to your face and neck after cleansing and toning, but before other serums and moisturizers.

Once your skin is comfortable, you can gradually increase usage to every other day, and eventually to every evening. When your skin is entirely on board, you can move on to a slightly stronger concentration – but, again, do it in stages. Trust us, your skin will thank you. It’s also important to understand what your skin can and can’t tolerate. Some people who have a tolerance for retinol can’t use it around their mouth or nose for example. Finally, do us (and yourself) a favor and don’t forget to wear sunscreen, otherwise, it’ll undo all of the retinol’s hard work! 

What To Avoid Mixing Retinol With

Avoid mixing retinol with AHAs, BHAs, and vitamin C, as they can reduce its efficiency and cause irritation. You may also need to take your foot off the exfoliator pedal and only exfoliate on days when you aren’t using retinol, to avoid potential irritation. In addition, if you’re using glycolic acid, you might want to switch to a gentler lactic or phytic acid instead.

Our Fave Retinol Skincare Products:

Retinol Source: The Inkey List

The Inkey List Retinol Serum, $13: Spoiler alert: you’re going to be #obsessed with this slow-release anti-aging formula, designed to speed up skin renewal, encourage collagen production and generally plump up your complexion.

Retinol Source: Elizabeth Arden

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Retinol Line Erasing Night Serum 30 Capsules, $48: Sealed in airtight capsules, these covetable pods are seriously potent and 76% stronger than unencapsulated Retinol.

Retinol Source: Roc

Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, $15: An intense anti-wrinkle treatment, this pure Retinol formula penetrates deep into the skin, working through the night to reduce wrinkles, while you enjoy some shut-eye.

For more retinol deets, check out our retinol guide here.