The Truth about Retinol

The Truth about Retinol

If you’re living, there is no such thing as anti-aging. Aging is part of the deal that comes with life.

When you start out as a child and young person, your life and your face are blank slates. As you live your life and have all kinds of experiences, your face changes. The story of your life starts to show on your face. It’s normal and natural and part of your unique beauty .

 Yes, life leaves marks. Over time, they start to show up on your face. It’s ok.

 But there are few among us that hasn’t looked in the mirror and discovered a new line or rough patch or late arriving zit, and  wished the new discovery would just go away.

 While it’s true, there’s no magic bullet that’ll restore your skin to the blank slate of young adulthood, there is an ingredient that can help.


 Retinol has been shown in study after study to be effective at reducing fine lines, smoothing your complexion, firming the skin by encouraging collagen and elastin production, clearing up adult acne, and discouraging age spots.

At the risk of sounding like a cure all (or the proverbial magic bullet), retinol really does work. It’s not going to take away deep wrinkles or pull the skin at your jawline tight, but it can improve them and benefit your skin overall.

What is retinol?

 Retinol is a form of vitamin A that was originally developed to treat acne. Doctors noticed that besides clearing up their patient’s faces, it had a lot of other skin benefits. Like smoothing and firming complexions and diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

The original form of retinol was a tretinoin, also known as Retin-A. It’s technically a retinoid. Tretinoin is strong and available by prescription only. It also requires a break in period where experience redness, dryness, irritation, and flaking. For most people the irritation goes away as your skin adjusts and you start to see the benefits.

 The good news is that you can get a more gentle (but still effective) form over the counter. It’s called retinol. For most people, retinol is going to have little or no break in period. Still a good idea to start slow, but your skin will get used to and love it sooner.

 On the other hand, it will take a little longer to see results (12 weeks or so). But the results are the same in the end with will less dryness and flaking.

 What’s so good about retinol?

 There are so many benefits to using retinol, it might sound like a cure all or snake oil. It’s not either, but it does have a lot of benefits.



  1. It encourages your skin to produce more collagen and elastin. This means firmer skin and fewer wrinkles.


  1. It helps with breakouts and acne by cleaning out your pores and increasing circulation in your skin.


  1. It can help fade hyperpigmentation (sun or age spots)


  1. It encourages cell turnover so your complexion glows and is fresh and smooth. (It does not exfoliate-this is a common myth, but untrue.)


  1. It can make large pores smaller.


  1. Once your skin gets used to it, it actually helps to keep your skin more hydrated.


 Remember, prevention is always better than trying to fix a problem after it’s happened. The great thing about retinol is that it can both help prevent new acne, fine lines, sunspots, and sagging. And it can help to improve problems that are already there (it may not make them disappear, but it can make them better).

 Do’s and don’ts of retinol

There are a lot of myths out there about retinol. There are also retinol products that you should probably avoid.


  1. If you’ve never used retinol before, start slowly. For best results, daily use is the way to go, but your skin needs to get used to retinol first. So start by using it every 2nd or third night for a week or so.

If your skin gets red or flaky, go to every 3rd or 4th night but keep using it. If it doesn’t react, you can use it every other night for a week, then every night. The key is to go slow when you’re starting off, but steady-don’t stop.

 If you’ve tried retinol for a few weeks and your skin is still red or flaky, you can mix it with your moisturizer. That dilutes the delivery and works for almost everyone.

  1. Use retinol at night. Retinol actually breaks down in sunlight. Plus night time is when your skin goes into action to repair and renew itself. You might as well use retinol when it’s going to do the most good.
  1. All of a sudden, there are a lot of products that advertise having retinol in them. Sunscreens, make up, day creams. I don’t recommend them. Retinol makes you more sensitive to the sun (actually it doesn’t make you more sensitive than you would be otherwise, but because you have more tender, fresh new skin cells).

 Also, retinol breaks down in sunlight so chances are you won’t get much benefit from it.

Note: you’ll definitely want to be sure to use sunscreenduring the day even when you’re using retinol at night. But you should be doing that regardless.

  1. You should apply retinol to your face, of course. But don’t forget your neck, chest, and hands.
    1. You can put your retinol on damp or dry skin. Works either way, although sometimes you’ll see the recommendation to put it on dry skin.
    2. Retinol serums should be applied after cleansing and before your moisturizer
  1. You may have heard to avoid your eye area when using retinol. It turns out that you actually can use it around your eyes (carefully so you don’t get it in your eyes-it stings). Which is great because your eye area is one of those places where there tends to be more damage.

Yes, your skin is thin and sensitive here but it’s no more likely to get red or flaky than the rest of your face. And the results are good, very good.

  1. Don’t use retinol while you’re pregnant or breast feeding. The risks of systemic absorption into your blood stream are small, but why take any chances?
  1. If you wax your face, stop using retinol a few days to a week before so that your skin doesn’t get too irritated.


I’ve used retinol for years.

It’s truly a superstar active ingredient

It’s potent and effective for so many skin concerns. While just about everyone needs to go through a break in period with prescription retinoids, over the counter retinol is well tolerated with a short or no break in period. Retinols are quite a bit less expensive than prescription retinoid. The results take a little longer with retinols, but in the end they are exactly the same.


Try them and see for yourself. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have at




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