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A powerhouse anti-ageing ingredient that also works wonders for acne-prone skin. Retinol is a highly active ingredient that can also cause irritation when overused. I’ve got your top retinol questions answered in this blog, including what is retinol, the benefits of retinol, and how we can use it at home to visibly firm, smooth and brighten skin overnight.
I have all my clients over the age of 30 use retinol two to three times a week. When it comes to visible age repair, retinol will be your best friend. From helping to remove environmental damage, aid in wrinkle reduction, reduce scarring, minimise pore size to improving skin texture and removing brown spots… What more could you ask for from one ingredient?
What Is Retinol?
Retinol is derived from vitamin A (sometimes referred to as Vitamin A1) and is primarily used to treat mature-looking skin concerns as well as acne.
It stimulates the fibroblasts in our dermis to synthesise collagen fibres, improves skin elasticity (removes degenerated elastin fibres) and promotes angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels.) It has also been proven that retinol can also enhance production of our elastin fibres.
How Does Retinol Help With Anti-Ageing?
When you apply the ingredient topically, it helps to combat the appearance of wrinkles by increasing the skin’s ability to retain moisture. As your skin becomes more hydrated, your face will appear fuller and skin smoother. It also helps soften age spots and even out skin tone. Additionally, also acting as a great exfoliator, unclogging pores and removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. Exfoliating also helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by buffing away the surface layers of skin, exposing younger-looking skin, which is great for visible age repair.
How Does Retinol Help With Acne?
Retinol’s exfoliating properties help prevent breakouts and clear existing breakouts from the skin’s surface. Exposing these new layers of skin also aids in evening out your complexion and minimising the visibility of acne scarring. In addition to it’s exfoliating benefits for acne-prone skin, retinol is also helpful because it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that help clear breakouts.
How Can I Pair It With Other Active Ingredients?
As mentioned above, retinol is an active ingredient that has the potential to irritate the skin. As it tends to cause dryness and irritation, you can combat it’s negative side-effects with hyaluronic acid and niacinamide – both hydrate the skin and maintain your skin’s function as a protective barrier. Combining retinol with AHAs, BHAs, or Vitamin C, especially if you have reactive skin, can increase sensitivity and cause reactions. It is also ESSENTIAL to remember to wear SPF during the day times (more than usual) as retinol increases your sensitivity to UV rays which can cause more severe damage.
How Do I Start Using Retinol?
If you’re new to using the ingredient in your skincare routine, I recommend starting with a product that’s expertly formulated with retinol and other ingredients that mimic the visible results of retinol without irritation.
A gentle formulation can be used on skin multiple times a week. Start with once or twice a week, see how skin responds, and increase frequency depending on your age. As a general rule, use retinol three times a week in your 30s, four times a week in your 40s, and up to five times a week after the age of 50 and when your skin is acclimated.
Retinol vs. Retinoids

Retinoids (including retinol) are a common part of modern skincare routines, often side-by-side with a multitude of other products. While retinol is a type of retinoid and they share many of the same benefits, the two terms are not interchangeable and have several key differences:

Composition: “Retinol” is a specific term that refers to a vitamin-A derivative that doesn’t function as an active ingredient in skincare formulations. Instead, you must apply it to your skin so your enzymes can convert it to retinoic acid. On the other hand, the term “retinoids” refers to a range of ingredients (including retinol) that can be active skincare ingredients and typically already contain retinoic acid.

Effects: All retinoids (including retinol) offer similar potential skincare benefits, such as increasing collagen production, unclogging pores, helping with hyperpigmentation, reducing fine lines, and fading sun damage or acne scars. However, because retinol is a low-strength retinoid, it often won’t perform these anti-aging or acne treatment functions as well as a prescription-strength retinoid.

Time frame: Retinol is a slow-acting retinoid, typically taking about twelve weeks of regular use before you can see its full effect. Alternatively, higher-strength retinoids can show results as soon as four weeks after your first use.

Best uses: Many retinoids, including retinol, have side effects like redness, dryness, flaking, or irritation. However, since retinol products are lower-strength, dermatologists may recommend them for individuals with sensitive skin, dry skin, or irritation-prone skin or those just starting with retinoid products. Dermatologists may recommend higher-strength prescription retinoids, like tretinoin, if you have previously used topical retinoids or have a skin type that can tolerate it.

Access: Retinol serums are widely available as an over-the-counter product, while higher-strength retinoid products are typically prescription-only.

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