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Skincare 101: What is Retinol?

  • 2 min read

Retinol—it’s the most effective over-the-counter ingredient in cosmetic dermatology. This isn’t just our opinion. In fact, retinol’s incredibly multitasking benefits for both aging and acne concerns are evidenced by substantial scientific research. Really, what’s not to love about it?

Maybe you’ve heard of retinol, or maybe you’re already using a retinol product in your routine. Regardless, we hope after reading this you 1). have a better understanding of retinol and its benefits, and 2). are convinced that you need to incorporate a retinol product into your regimen, no matter your age.

So, let’s go ahead and get down to it!

What is Retinol?

Retinol falls under the umbrella of “retinoids.” Retinoids are the family of Vitamin A, which occur in our bodies naturally, and can be divided into two different categories: non-prescriptive and prescriptive. The non-prescriptive and most familiar form, retinol, is the purest form of Vitamin A that can be purchased over-the-counter. The prescription-strength retinoid—Tretinoin (retinoic acid)—is most commonly distributed by dermatologists.

Retinol, when applied to the skin, is converted into retinoic acid. Keep in mind, Tretinoin is retinoic acid. Retinol derivatives, like retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate, are much easier to formulate but nowhere near as effective as retinol. Be aware these cheaper derivatives are often used in many department store brand products, despite the claims. Just check your labels carefully so you know exactly what you’re investing in!

Understanding the Benefits

What exactly makes retinol so incredible? Retinol supports collagen production and accelerates skin cell turnover for those coveted skin rejuvenation results. It helps smooth fine lines & wrinkles, it plumps and firms the feel of your skin (which naturally loses elasticity over time through the process of maturing), it evens skin tone and texture, and it boosts the skin’s radiance. Most importantly, it helps maintain a healthy skin barrier for sustainable and consistent results.

You might also be surprised to learn that while many people assume your skin becomes immune to retinol’s efficacy over time and repeated use, the truth is, your results will actually continue to improve over time.