What's the best retinol for you?

What's the best retinol for you?

I’m thinking about getting rid of my magnifying mirror. Every time I look into it, I notice a giant new line. What?? Where did that thing come from?

Then I look in a regular mirror and there, miraculously, is the face I’m used to seeing.

The magnifier is useful for plucking out those stray hairs that seem to crop up in places they never were before so maybe I’ll keep it. But I’m going to force myself to stop using it to judge.

What are a few lines anyway? A bit of character and interest that you’ve worked hard for over the years.

Yes, life leaves marks.

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

The story of your life is written on your face. It’s normal and natural and part of your unique beauty .

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

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


What is retinol?

Think of retinol as food for your face.

It’s a form of vitamin A that was originally developed to treat acne but it turned out to do so much more.

Doctors and their patients noticed that besides clearing up their patient’s acne, retinol had a lot of other skin benefits. Like smoothing and firming complexions and diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

 Retinol has been shown in study after study to be effective at so many things:

  • reducing fine lines
  • smoothing your complexion
  • firming the skin by encouraging collagen and elastin production
  • clearing up adult acne
  • 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.

Retinol comes in several different forms. Each one can be effective, and each one has a particular thing that it’s really good at.


Tretinoin is the prescription form known as Retin A, Renova, or its generic name (tretinoin). This form of vitamin A comes in the exact form that your skin uses.

Technically, it’s known as a retinoid. Tretinoin is strong and available by prescription only. It also requires a break in period where you experience redness, dryness, irritation, and flaking. For most people the irritation goes away as your skin adjusts and you start to see the benefits.

It’s very effective, but it can be hard on your skin too.

Interesting fact: if you’re using tretinoin to deal with sun damage, skin firmness, sagging, and the other changes that come with age, it doesn’t make a lot of difference if the strength you’re using is the weakest ( 0.25% )or the strongest (0.1%).

If you’re dealing with acne, the stronger preparation is more effective.

As far as skin absorption goes, tretinoin has a molecular weight of 328. The rule of thumb is that the molecular weight of an ingredient has to be under 500 for it to be well absorbed into the skin. So tretinoin is able to be fairly well absorbed. But it also oxidizes easily and that's part of what can cause the explosion (irritation) on your skin.


Retinol is the non-prescription form of vitamin A for your skin. Once on and in your skin, it must be converted to the active form to do its work.

At first, you might think, well why waste time? Just go for the active form.

But, wait a minute. The evidence is that over the long haul, retinol is just as effective as prescription retinoids for maturing skin concerns. Especially if there’s enough retinol in the product to make a difference.

And it’s a whole lot less irritating. Most people can use a retinol product without a significant break in period. Most people notice none at all.

The problem with a lot of over the counter retinol products is that their molecular weight is over 500, which means they aren’t absorbed well into your skin. If you’ve been using a retinol product for a while and not noticing much in the way ofresults, it may be because the retinol’s molecular weight is too high to be absorbed well. Or there isn’t enough retinol in the product.

All-trans retinol

All trans retinol is retinol that’s been micro encapsulated so that its molecular weight is 286.

This is important because all-trans retinol is able to penetrate deeper into your skin where it’s well absorbed and is time released to help improve your skin over a longer period of time.

This means better and faster results with less irritation.

All-trans retinol is truly a break through in keeping your skin healthy and looking great.

I'm so excited to offer a medical grade product (StarDrops serum) that uses all trans retinol as its main active ingredient.

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. It is a widely studied ingredient that has proven benefits for your skin

  • It encourages your skin to produce more collagen and elastin. This means firmer skin and fewer wrinkles.
  • It helps with breakouts and acne by cleaning out your pores and increasing circulation in your skin
  • It can help fade hyperpigmentation (sun or age spots)
  • It encourages cell turnover so your complexion glows and is fresh and smooth. (It does not exfoliate-this is a common myth, but untrue.)
  • It can make large pores smaller.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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).

 Remember, 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 sunscreen during the day even when you’re using retinol at night. But you should be doing that regardless.

  • You should apply retinol to your face, of course. But don’t forget your neck, chest, and hands.
    • 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.

Retinol serums should be applied after cleansing and before your moisturizer

  • 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.

  • 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?
  • If you wax your face, stop using retinol a few days to a week before so that your skin doesn’t get too irritated.

Retinol is 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 and trans 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 actually give better results. 

Try them and see for yourself.

 Staying healthy and active are the keys to radiant skin and glowing health. But, gravity, aging and Sun Wind and Snow can take a toll. That's why we offer skin care to support your best skin at every age.



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