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  5. The Ultimate Guide To Retinol: A Skin Elixir

Did you know that dermatologists consider retinol a wonder ingredient in anti-aging? A synthetic derivative of vitamin A [1] (think carrots, greens, eggs and sweet potatoes), retinol is used in most anti-aging creams and serums in the market.

However, it is crucial to take some precautions before using retinol. Find out everything about the ingredient in this blog post.

1. What Does Retinol Do?

Retinol increases collagen production, creates a fresh layer of skin and improves overall skin tone. It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Collagen is a fibrous protein found in the skin. Its molecules are packed together to form long and thin fibrils [2], which anchor skin cells to each other. This is how collagen provides strength to our skin and keeps it firm.

As we age, our skin’s collagen production is decreased [3] due to external aggressors like UV rays, pollution, improper diet and stress. This leads to premature aging.

Retinol stimulates collagen production [4] and slows down the aging process.

Decrease in collagen and elastin in aged skin

2. Benefits Of Retinol

  • Accelerates skin cell turnover
  • Increases collagen production
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles [5]
  • Fades sun spots, age spots and smooths texture
  • Regulates oily skin and minimizes breakouts

3. How To Use Retinol?

1.Apply a pea size amount of retinol right after cleansing your face.

2.Allow your skin to absorb the retinol (for 20-30 minutes) before you apply any other skincare product.

3.Layer with a moisturizer and finish off with a sunscreen.

Note: Retinol produces fresh and tender skin cells that are prone to sun damage. Hence, using a sunscreen becomes mandatory if you are using retinol.

4. Types Of Retinoids


Retinoid: Retinoid is the broad term for vitamin A derivatives. Prescription retinoids contain retinoic acid, while over-the-counter retinoids are gradually converted to retinoic acid through a reaction within the skin.

A. Retinoic Acid

The active form that Vitamin A breaks down into, in order to be utilized by the skin. Following are the functions of retinoic acid:

B. Retinol

The common ingredient found in a majority of anti-aging products. It addresses the signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.

C. Tretinoin

Also called Retin-A, this is a prescription topical retinoid [6]. Milder version of tretinoin fights the signs of aging, while the stronger version is recommended for acne treatments [7].

D. Isotretinoin

An oral vitamin A derivative, it is more effective when compared to its topical forms. This is commonly used for treating cystic acne.

E. Adapalene

Adapalene is an over-the-counter retinoid. It works really well for sensitive skin as it is not irritating in nature.

F. Retinal/Retinaldehyde

One of the recent varieties of retinoids, retinal is faster and more efficient when compared to retinol. [8]

5. How To Choose The Right Retinol For Your Skin?

While shopping for retinol, pick the one in its most stable form (meaning encapsulated [9], to enable deep penetration into the skin. This is because retinol can break down in the presence of light and air.

The good news is that retinol suits all skin types, but it is usually ideal for people with extremely sensitive and dry skin to use concentrations with low strength. You can also choose higher concentrations depending on your age.

Note: In case of any reaction, switch to a weaker formula. 

6. What To Consider Before You Use Retinol?

We recommend that you do a patch test before you start using retinol on your face.

Too much of anything is bad for you. This applies to retinol as well. If used very often, retinol can cause redness or peel the skin. [10]

Like any other skin care active, retinol also takes time to adjust. Flakiness, dryness and occasional breakouts may appear after you incorporate retinol into your skincare regimen. If the irritation is too much, you can use a formula with a lower concentration.


Take it slow: use retinol during the night just one or two times a week and increase it gradually.

Dermatologists feel that retinol works best when applied at night. During the day, the sunlight may diminish its power.

Word of Caution:

Consult your dermatologist before using retinol if you are pregnant. Never use retinol and alpha hydroxy acids together. This can cause redness and irritation. If you've accidentally used the two ingredients together, pop an anti-inflammatory pill to calm the skin.

7. How Long Does It Take To See Results From Retinol?

Wait for at least 12 weeks to see the desired results. It takes time for your skin to adjust to the new regimen.

8. At What Age Should You Use Retinol?

Include a serum containing retinol when you hit 30. Use it thrice or four times a week. By 40s, you can start to use retinol almost every night.

9. Busting Retinol Myths

Does Retinol Cause Cancer?

Retinol does not cause cancer. This belief is associated with retinol as it makes your skin prone to sun damage. But the truth is retinol has the potential to slow down existing skin cancer or decrease the risk of skin cancer.

Does Retinol Thin Your Skin?

This is not true since retinol stimulates collagen production leading to plump skin without fine lines and wrinkles.

Can Retinol Be Used Under The Eyes?

It is a myth that retinol has a tendency to damage the sensitive area around the eyes. But the fact is retinol should be used under the eyes as well since this is an area that shows the first signs of aging like fine lines.

Are you amazed at the whole lot of benefits that this wonder ingredient offers? Let us know in the comments below.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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