Retinol: Trendy Ingredient or Worth The Hype

Retinol has become somewhat of a buzzword again but the reported anti-aging miracle worker has been around for a while. It was discovered 81 years ago and helps defend against fine lines and maintain a healthy glow.

The ingredient has been praised numerous times as a revolutionary youth-enhancing active. Currently, it can be found in products everywhere from drugstores to dermatologist offices. But is it really worth the hype?

What is Retinol?


Retinol like other retinoids, such as retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate, is a derivative of vitamin A. Vitamin A is the key nutrient responsible for boosting cell turnover. Retinol is found in food, dietary supplements, and beauty products.

“It’s added to topical skincare products to promote skin renewal, brighten skin tone, reduce acne, and boost the collagen production. It also functions like an antioxidant to help address free radical damage, which leads to visible signs of aging.”

explains New York City dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD.

When Should You Start Using It?


While most people tend to introduce anti-aging measures into their skincare routine around the age of thirty this has changed over the years. Early signs of aging, such as sunspots or crows feet, and the shift from treatment to prevention many women are starting to introduce products like retinol much earlier. Many dermatologists recommend introducing retinol into your routine in your mid-twenties.

How To Introduce It Into Your Routine?


It is important to note that Retinol can be extremely irritating to the skin and should be introduced slowly into the skincare routine. It is recommended to start with a pea-sized amount and to use a low percentage over-the-counter formula that has about .01% to 0.03% retinol. Do not immediately start using it every day. Rather use it two times per week then slowly increase the usage as your skin becomes used to it.

For those with sensitive skin, rather try a time-release formula. These are designed to release the retinol in small doses over time making them perfect for skin types prone to redness or breakouts. Prescription retinol is more potent than over the counter formulas as it has a higher percentage of retinol and will only be prescribed if a dermatologist determines your skin is ready for the dose.

Side Effects


Since the ingredient is highly reactive, there are some side effects that are relatively normal reactions to experience while your skin is adjusting to retinol including mild irritation, dryness, and sun sensitivity. However, if you experience intense flaking, redness, and burning discontinue use immediately. If you have sensitive skin or conditions like rosacea or eczema avoid retinol as it could aggrevate your skin condition.

Important Tips

  1. When using retinol ensure to use a daily broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher as it will make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. Sunlight also decreases the efficacy of the product so if you plan to be outdoors for extended periods of time avoid using the product.
  2. When applying a retinol-infused cream remember to take it down onto your neck or décolletage. These areas are known to show the signs of aging and should therefore also be taken care of.

Product Recommendations

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Retinol and Granactive Retinoid are a lot like siblings. 👯‍♀️⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣ They’re part of the same Vitamin A family, and just like siblings, they appear to be similar but are actually quite different. Retinol (the "older" sibling) has been around longer than most of us (since the 1930's), and as such, has been studied very extensively. Retinol is often considered one of the most effective skincare ingredients due to its ability to improve the appearance of multiple skincare concerns, including visible signs of aging and textural irregularities.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣✨ ⁣ The Ordinary offers the pure, waterless form of Retinol in 0.2%, 0.5% and 1% concentrations in a base of Squalane. If you’re an inexperienced user, it’s best to start your regimen with our Retinol 0.2% in Squalane, and then adjust to higher strengths of Retinol 0.5% in Squalane and Retinol 1% in Squalane once your skin has grown tolerant to each formula.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣💪 ⁣ The "younger" sibling, Granactive Retinoid, is a much newer next-generation advanced retinoid active complex which has been shown to target multiple signs of aging, offering the same long-term benefits as retinol, without any of the drawbacks often associated with retinol use. This technology cannot be compared directly with Retinol itself in terms of concentration because they include a different Retinoid molecule, in a similar way that Retinol cannot be compared with Retinoic Acid in terms of concentration. ⁣⁣⁣🔬 ⁣ The Ordinary offers Granactive Retinoid of 2% concentration in a creamy emulsion format, as well as a 2 and 5% concentrations in a hydrating, light Squalane base. Sun protection is particularly important when using retinoids and they may increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV radiation.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣ Whether you stick with the tried and true retinol options, or go for the next generation granactive retinoids, both are incredibly effective in the long and short-term. If you have any further questions about these two technologies, please let us know in the comments and we'll be happy to help (as always). 👍

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There are many retinol based creams and serums on the market. For those looking for an affordavble option, The Ordinary’s Retinol 1% in Squalane is the perfect no-frills 1% retinol. More sensitive skins or beginners can try the Retinol 0.2% in Squalane. For those looking for the most potent retinoid on the market try the r-Retinoate® Intense from Medik8.

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