Skincare

Everything You Need to Know About Retinol

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The ever-evolving world of beauty has introduced us to a plethora of skincare and cosmetic products and ingredients that promise to give us our best skin yet. One ingredient that has stood the test of time and has been proven to be effective in reducing the signs of aging is retinol.

As a makeup artist and educator and author of the book, Be Your Own Makeup Artist, I like providing informational posts that help you make educated and confident decisions in your beauty product purchases

In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about retinol, including its benefits, how to use it, and what to expect. We will also provide some tips on how to incorporate retinol into your skincare routine, regardless of your skin type.

What Is A Retinol?

Retinol is a skincare ingredient that has been around for decades, but it has recently become very popular, especially among people who are looking for effective products and non-invasive skincare solutions. Retinols are also often associated with ‘anti-aging’ or making your skin appear in a more youthful state. These are beauty industry marketing claims I try to ignore because there’s nothing wrong with aging!

Caring for our skin shouldn’t be a trend but a habit. Retinols are products that we can use as we age to help improve our skin’s elasticity and reduce the appearance of sun damage.

But what is retinol, and what are the benefits of using it?

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is a popular skincare product known for its effectiveness in treating a variety of skin concerns, including acne, fine lines and wrinkles, age spots, and uneven skin tone. In a nutshell, retinols work by increasing cell turnover and stimulating collagen production, which results in smoother, plumper, and more radiant skin. Retinol can also help to treat acne and reduce inflammation.

What Is The Difference Between a Retinol and Retinoid?

Retinol and retinoid are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two.

Retinol is a specific type of retinoid, while retinoid is a general term for all vitamin A derivatives. 

Retinol is the weakest form of retinoid, but it is also the most gentle and least likely to cause irritation. Other retinoids, such as tretinoin and isotretinoin, are stronger and more effective, but they are also more likely to cause side effects.

Characteristic  Retinol Retinoid
Strength Weaker Stronger
Availability Over-the-counter and prescription Prescription
Effectiveness Effective for treating a variety of skin concerns, including acne, fine lines and wrinkles, age spots, and uneven skin tone More effective than retinol for treating a variety of skin concerns, including acne, fine lines and wrinkles, age spots, uneven skin tone, and hyperpigmentation
Side effects Less likely to irritate other retinoids More likely to irritate retinol

Key Ingredients: 

The key ingredient in retinol is retinol itself.  However, retinol products may also contain other ingredients that help to boost the effectiveness of retinol or to reduce irritation.

Some common additional ingredients in retinol products include:

  • Humectants, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, help to keep the skin hydrated.
  • Emollients, such as squalane and jojoba oil, which help to soften and smooth the skin.
  • Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that helps to strengthen the skin barrier and reduce inflammation.
  • Peptides are short chains of amino acids that can help to stimulate collagen production and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

It is important to note that not all retinol products are created equal. Some products contain higher percentages of retinol than others, and some products may also contain other ingredients that can interact with retinol. When in doubt, consult with your dermatologist or esthetician. It is important to read the label carefully and to choose a retinol product that is appropriate for your skin type and needs.

benefits of using retinol

Some of the benefits of using retinol (for some people) include:

  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Fades age spots and hyperpigmentation
  • Evens out skin tone and texture
  • Improves skin elasticity
  • Promotes collagen production
  • Reduces the appearance of pores
  • Treats acne
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Smooths the skin
  • Brightness of the skin

What are the side effects of using retinol?

  • Dryness
  • Redness
  • Peeling
  • Flaking
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Irritation
  • Sun sensitivity

Here are some tips to help minimize the side effects of retinol:

  • Start with a lower percentage of retinol product and gradually increase the percentage as your skin tolerates it.
  • Apply retinol at night, as it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
  • Be sure to wear sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days.
  • Avoid using retinol on irritated or broken skin.
  • If you experience any irritation, reduce the frequency of use or discontinue use altogether.

How long does it take to see results from using retinol?

It can take several weeks (4-8 weeks) or even months (3-4 months) to see results from using retinol with consistent use. This is because retinol works by stimulating the production of new collagen and elastin, which takes time.

The amount of time it takes to see results will vary depending on the following factors:

  • The concentration of retinol in the product you are using: A high concentration produces results more quickly, but they can also be more irritating.

 

  • Your skin type: People with oily or combination skin tend to see results more quickly than people with dry skin.

 

  • Your age: Younger people tend to see results more quickly than older people.

 

  • The severity of your skin concerns: Retinol can be effective for treating a variety of skin concerns, including fine lines and wrinkles, age spots, and acne. However, it will take longer to see results if you are treating more severe skin concerns.

 

Inside my Learn Makeup in 5 Days course, Day 1 covers all things skin. Inside the 65+ page workbook, included in the course, there’s a fantastic and handy skincare tracker. Check out the course here.

Natalie Setareh Learn Makeup in 5 Days course, the ultimate Makeup For Beginners Online Course

Are There Alternatives To Retinol?

It is important to note that no single skincare ingredient is a perfect substitute for retinol. However, some ingredients provide some of the same benefits and may be a good option for people who are unable to use retinol or who are looking for a gentler alternative.

Bakuchiol: Bakuchiol is a plant-based ingredient that has similar effects to retinol, such as improving skin texture, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and fading age spots. Bakuchiol is also less likely to irritate retinol, making it a good choice for people with sensitive skin.

 

THE INKEY LIST | Bakuchiol Moisturizer

THE INKEY LIST | Bakuchiol Moisturizer

Peptides: Peptides are short chains of amino acids that can help to stimulate collagen production and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Peptides are generally gentle and well-tolerated by most skin types.

YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE | Polypeptide-121 Future Cream with Peptides and Ceramides

YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE | Polypeptide-121 Future Cream with Peptides and Ceramides

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help to protect the skin from free radical damage and brighten the complexion. Vitamin C can also help to reduce the appearance of age spots and hyperpigmentation.

SKINCEUTICALS | C E Ferulic

SKINCEUTICALS | C E Ferulic

  • Niacinamide: Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, is a versatile ingredient that can help to improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of pores, and brighten the complexion. Niacinamide can also help to strengthen the skin barrier and reduce inflammation.

THE INKEY LIST | Niacinamide Serum

THE INKEY LIST | Niacinamide Serum

  • Azelaic acid: Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid that has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Azelaic acid can help to treat acne, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea.

PAULA’S CHOICE | 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

PAULA'S CHOICE | 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

The best retinol is the one you use consistently!

What Are The Common Ingredients Used In Conjunction With Retinol?

  • Sodium hyaluronate: Sodium hyaluronate is a form of hyaluronic acid, which is a humectant that attracts and retains moisture. Product With This Active Ingredient: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer that can also help to soothe the skin. Product With This Active Ingredient: Kopari Beauty Coconut Melt
  • Cetearyl alcohol: Cetearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol that is used as an emulsifier and thickener in skincare products. It is non-irritating and non-comedogenic, making it a good choice for people with sensitive skin. Product With This Active Ingredient: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
  • Hydrolyzed collagen: Hydrolyzed collagen is a smaller form of collagen that can be absorbed into the skin. Collagen is a protein that helps to keep the skin firm and youthful. Product With This Active Ingredient: Mario Badescu Collagen Moisturizer SPF 15
  • Stearyl alcohol: Stearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol that is used as an emulsifier and thickener in skincare products. It is non-irritating and non-comedogenic, making it a good choice for people with sensitive skin. Product With This Active Ingredient: Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream
  • Cocoa butter: Cocoa butter is a natural moisturizer that can also help to soothe the skin. This can be helpful for people who are using retinol, as retinol can be irritating. Product With This Active Ingredient: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Swivel Stick
  • Tocopheryl acetate: Tocopheryl acetate is a form of vitamin E. It is an antioxidant that can help to protect the skin from free radical damage. Product With This Active Ingredient: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
  • Palmitoyl pentapeptide-4: Palmitoyl pentapeptide-4 is a peptide that can help to stimulate collagen production. This can be helpful for people who are using retinol, as retinol can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Product With This Active Ingredient: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream

When To Apply Retinol In Your Skincare Routine

** read the directions on the bottle **

However, retinol is most commonly at night, after cleansing and toning your skin. This is because retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun and UV rays, so it is important to avoid using it during the day. Putting a moisturizer on top of the retinol is soothing and helps the retinol wear more comfortably on the skin!

If you have sensitive skin, you may want to start by applying retinol every other night. You can gradually increase the frequency of use as your skin tolerates it.

Retinols for people with different skin types

As a makeup artist and beauty coach, 99% of makeup issues stem from gaps or inconsistencies in skincare routines and skin prep ahead of makeup. Of course, it’s always recommended to consult a dermatologist and/or esthetician to fine-tune a skincare routine that works for you — but if you want to determine your skin type and get some example skincare routines, you can download my free skin type guide. It’s a great place to start and/or reset.

If you want recommendations on retinol for your specific skin type, book a product consult here.

 

Retinol For All Skin Types

Product Percentage of retinol
Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum 0.1%
Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Face Cream 0.25%
Depology Anti-Aging Retinol Night Cream 0.25%
First Aid Beauty Fab Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate 0.25%
RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream 0.25%
The Ordinary 0.5% Retinol in Squalane 0.5%
CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum 0.3%
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum with Retinol 0.3%
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Cream 1%

Retinols for the Eye Area

These patches all contain retinol, as well as other beneficial ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and peptides. They can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, dark circles, and puffiness under the eyes.

 

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Instant Firmx Eye Contour Gel

PETER THOMAS ROTH | Instant FIRMx Temporary Eye Tightener

This gel contains a blend of retinol and caffeine, suitable for all skin types

 

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Treatment

MURAD | Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum

This treatment contains retinol and peptides, suitable for normal, dry, and combination skin

Paula’s Choice Retinol Eye Treatment

PAULA'S CHOICE | Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

This treatment contains retinol and hyaluronic acid, suitable for normal, oily, and combination skin

RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream

ROC | Retinol Correxion Anti-Wrinkle + Firming Eye Cream for Dark Circles & Puffy Eyes

This cream contains retinol and ceramides, suitable for all skin types

Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Eye Cream

OLAY | Regenerist Retinol24 Night Eye Cream

This cream contains a blend of retinol and retinyl propionate, suitable for all skin types

First Aid Beauty Fab Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream

FIRST AID BEAUTY | Fab Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream

This cream is formulated with retinol and colloidal oatmeal, suitable for sensitive skin.

As we wrap up this deep dive into the world of retinol, I hope you found these insights valuable for your skincare journey.

The beauty conversation doesn’t have to end here!

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skin type guide by Natalie setareh

 

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