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Everything You Need To Know About Retinol


Retinol, the all-singing, all-dancing skincare ingredient that’s hailed an anti-ageing wonder. But with an overwhelming amount of information out there, it’s easy to get put off. Here’s your cheat sheet…

What Is Retinol?

Essentially, a form of vitamin A. Originally used by dermatologists as an acne treatment, it soon took on a new role as patients noticed the reduction of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation. Disclaimer: there are a lot of ‘R’s, but bear with us because of all the skincare ingredients, this is the one to get your head around. Retinol is the over the counter form of Retin-A, a prescription retinoid, and retinoid is the catchall term given to all vitamin A products.

Although prescription retinol is stronger and takes effect quicker, biochemically, regular retinol does exactly the same job. And, as Oskia founder Georgie Cleeve notes, formulations have never been more sophisticated. “There are encapsulated retinoids which penetrate deep into layers of skin, and even irritant-free forms that bypass the irritation and peeling that’s so often associated with the ingredient,” she says.

What Are The Skincare Benefits?

Retinol has a seriously impressive CV. “It removes bacteria from pores and reduces oil production in the sebaceous glands,” says Dr Yannis Alexandrides of 111SKIN, which makes it particularly useful for those with acne. It’s most impressive quality though, is it “stimulates the production of new cells and collagen, whilst reducing melanin production to help ease hyper-pigmentation,” says Georgie.


How Often Should I Use Retinol?

“Start with once a week, in the evening, post-cleanse to build your tolerance,” says Dr Alexandrides. If the introduction goes well, up your usage to twice a week, but if the reception is frosty, revert back to one. And, don’t be impatient – visible results can take anywhere from four weeks to three months. SPF applications should be dutiful when using retinol, as some experts believe it can further sensitise your skin to UV rays.

What Are The Best Retinol Products?

For Beginners… Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula’s Choice founder, Paula Begoun knows what she’s doing when it comes to formulating great products. If you’re new to vitamin A, this serum is the perfect place to start. Once a week, use two pumps on your face and neck area after your evening cleanse. If you have super sensitive skin, look to Paula’s Choice 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment, which is gentler and has the added benefit of antioxidant superhero, bakuchiol.


For Intermediates… Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

With an immediate hit of retinoid, a time-released retinoid and a retinol booster, this creamy serum is the ideal step-up if you’ve used vitamin A previously. Introduce the formula into your routine once a week to avoid any irritation and flaking.

For Pros… Oskia Retinoid Sleep Serum Level 2

If you’ve been using vitamin A based products for a while and want a slightly stronger dose, then this serum is worth exploring. With 0.5% retinoid, as well as vitamin C and co-enzyme Q10, this lightweight serum means business. Incorporate it into your evening routine once or twice a week under your usual night cream.


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