What is Retinol?

And why you should add it to your skincare routine.


What Is Retinol?


Meet retinol — the anti-aging skincare icon.  I’m sure you've heard of retinol before, but what does it do?  And why is it hiding in your skincare?  Lucky for you, you're in just the right place.  Today, we will dive deep into anything and everything retinol.  Ready?  Let’s go!

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a synthetic form of vitamin A.  Vitamin A helps prompt and aid the body in cell division, growth, reproduction, and immunity — all of which are vital for healthy skin.  Vitamin A is also a natural antioxidant and can even help prevent sun damage!  A lack of vitamin A can lead to inflamed skin and poor cell turnover which often results in acne and breakouts.  This is why finding the right dose of retinol for your skin is so important!

What Does Retinol Do?

Did you know that your skin’s natural collagen production starts to decline in your 30s? Bummer, right?  Retinol works on the basal layer of the epidermis and speeds up the cell turnover process by assisting the cells to die quickly.  This allows new cells to be generated and more collagen to be produced.  Retinol also helps slow down the aging process by reducing the appearance of fine lines, rough patches, wrinkles, and dark spots.  

Should I Be Using Retinol?

Yes! Of course, you should be using retinol! The best time to fight against aging is before the signs of aging show up.  Being one step ahead will help keep your skin supple and smooth for years to come.  

If you've never used retinol, start by slowly incorporating it into your skincare routine.  We recommend 2-3 times a week or every other day for those just starting out.  As your skin adapts, you may increase the frequency.  If you notice any irritation or flaking skin, back off and hydrate with a water-based moisturizer.  

Retinol vs. Retinoids

One of the biggest questions floating around in the world of retinol is how it compares to a retinoid.  In short, retinoids are much stronger than retinol and usually require a prescription in the US.  On the other hand, retinol is an ingredient found in various skincare items and can be picked up over the counter.  

Retinol is the antecedent to retinoids. In the conversion process, our skin turns the retinol into a retinoid.  This is what boosts collagen production and cell turnover.  

Retinoids contain up to 20 times more retinoic acid (a derivative of vitamin A).  In addition to cell turnover, retinoids help thicken the skin and reduce oil production.  This process can be extremely drying to the skin and should only be used if cleared by a dermatologist.

Side Effects

As mentioned, both retinol and retinoids can leave the skin feeling dry and possibly flaky.  This is common in the first 2 to 4 weeks of use while the skin adjusts.  After this period, the skin should learn to tolerate the retinol and the full benefits should kick in.  If you experience an excessive lack of moisture, use less frequently until your skin builds up a tolerance.  

As always, contact your dermatologist if you have any questions or believe a prescription retinoid would be right for your skin!  

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