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Retinol is derived from Vitamin A. Some people call it vitamin A1 because of this. There are quite a few drugs that come from vitamin A. These are all placed in a group called retinoids. Retinoids is an umbrella term that refers to all of those drugs. Retinol is a very specific type of retinoid. 

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How Is Retinol Made

Most of the retinol that you come across in skincare products is produced in a lab, according to this article. Although retinol is found in nature and is natural in Vitamin A,  that doesn’t necessarily mean we get it from nature. Scientists have discovered how to create synthetic retinol, which makes it possible for people who enjoy a vegan lifestyle to enjoy the benefits of retinol. 

How Does Retinol Work

Retinol can go deeper into the skin than most moisturizers that do not contain retinol. Once the skin has absorbed it, retinol binds to cells in the skin, helping to protect the skin from damage, including the effects of aging. This article goes in-depth regarding the research on retinoids and how exactly they prevent aging. 

Vitamin A is one of the few drugs approved by the FDA for use against aging. 

Retinol In Products

skincare cream

You’ll find some variations of retinol in many skincare products designed to prevent aging or treat acne. This is also a common ingredient in products that treat fine lines and wrinkles.

However, there are different names that you’ll see on the ingredient list, even if retinol is the ingredient. 

How Is Retinol Listed In Ingredients

It’s rather common for companies to list retinol as an ingredient simply. Other types of retinol might be the ingredient, so you may see names of ingredients that begin with “retinyl.” Common ingredients that are retinol are: 

  • Retinyl Acetate
  • Retinyl Palmitate
  • Vitamin A
  • Words with a prefix of retin, such as retinoic

Please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list. If you’re unsure of an ingredient in your skincare products, please look it up or consult your dermatologist. 

What Is Retinol Serum

Retinol serum is a serum that has retinol in it. Some products are advertised as retinol serums but are not typically serums that only contain retinol. It’s common for them to contain other ingredients to help combat aging or acne

Serums are an essential part of any skincare routine. These are typically very thin in texture to help them absorb quickly into the skin. 

What Is Retinol Cream

Retinol cream is a cream skincare product that has retinol in it. Typically, these are sold as a moisturizer or night cream.

It’s not expected to see retinol cream sold as a day cream because retinol can cause increased sensitivity to sunlight. Retinol creams can be less effective than serums because they are thicker and are not absorbed as easily into the skin. 

What Does Retinol Do For Your Skin

Retinol penetrates deep into the skin to help increase cell turnover, protect your skin, and prevent the signs of aging. Because of how retinol impacts the skin, it has several benefits. 

Retinol Benefits

Retinol Stimulates Collagen Production

As we age, our skin begins to produce less collagen. It begins to lose elasticity, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles. Collagen gives our skin a youthful look. Once your skin produces less collagen, you start to look older due to the sagging skin and wrinkles. Using a topical retinol cream or serum can help prevent that, according to this article. 

Improves Uneven Skin Tone

Because retinol increases cell turnover, it can slowly help your skin appear even. This is how it helps decrease the appearance of age spots. People who spend a significant time in the sun can experience sun spots that are not a result of aging or premature aging. Retinol can also help them slowly fade away.  A brightening effect is the result. 

Smooths Uneven Skin Texture

Because it increases collagen production, it can also help smooth your skin. You’ll likely see positive results if you have an uneven skin texture.

However, it’s important to note that results vary depending on the person. One person might have smooth, polished skin in two months, while another may only see minor improvement. Everyone is different, and other factors always come into play. 

Helps Protect The Skin

Environmental skin damage can lead to premature aging and other side effects. When you use retinol, it can lead to having thicker skin. This means it can protect your skin from damage like free radicals. 

Minimizes the Appearance Of Pores

Large pores are often the result of an underlying skin condition. For example, acne can make your pores appear more prominent. So can having oily skin. Retinol reduces the appearance of pores by addressing the underlying conditions that cause them. 

What Does Retinol Do For Acne

Retinol is commonly used to treat acne. According to this article, retinol can help unclog your pores when applied topically. It can also help reduce inflammation, which is known to go hand in hand with acne. 

What Does Retinol Do For Acne Scars

Because of the increased cell turnover that helps reduce the appearance of age spots, you’ll also notice that your scars slowly get lighter. Over time, the cell turnover helps to replace and repair dead skin cells, resulting in a more even texture. 

How To Use Retinol


Typically, retinol is sold over the counter in a cream, serum, or as an ingredient in skincare products. Make sure that you follow the directions on the bottle. Use it daily, even if you don’t see improvement. It can take a few weeks to see a difference. 

It’s Best To Apply Retinol At Night

Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure. Because of that, it’s best to apply retinol or products with it as an ingredient at night instead of during the day. 

Side Effects Of Retinol

As with anything, there can be side effects from using retinol. The most common side effect is usually dry skin. Some people experience irritated skin. It may go away after 2-3 weeks. If it doesn’t, you should stop using the product. 

You can also get itchy, red, or peeling skin. These may go away like dry skin, but they might not. Use your best judgment. If anything makes my skin peel, I use it less to see if it helps. If not, I don’t use it. 

If you’re pregnant and use retinol, it can cause complications. No studies confirm that you can use retinol when you are expecting. You shouldn’t use it if you’re pregnant to be on the safe side. 

The Possible Bad Side Of Retinol

Every product is packed with benefits and comes with its fair share of downsides. While no one can argue that retinol is the best to fight the effects of aging, it’s essential not to ignore the negative things about retinol either. 

It Could Thin Your Skin Barrier, Making It More Susceptible To Environmental Damage In The Long Run

When this first came to light, it resulted in many people swearing that retinol thins your skin. It does not thin your skin overall. 

However, it does thin what is called the skin barrier. This is the tiny protective barrier of the skin that helps prevent damage from environmental things, like pollution and secondhand smoke.  This article involves an interview with a dermatologist that confirms there can be a downside to retinol. 

There is a bit of controversy surrounding this theory. For every article available from one dermatologist saying that it does, there is someone else saying that it doesn’t. Studies like this one don’t even address skin barrier function for retinoids, although they do for other ingredients found in skincare. 

According to some dermatologists, retinol won’t harm your skin barrier if you use it correctly and use the correct dosage. You’ll have to speak with your dermatologist to determine what the correct dosage for you is. 

More Research Need To Be Done On Whether Retinol Causes Cancer

One study on mice reported that mice that used a cream containing retinol developed tumors sooner than those that used a cream that did not. However, there are not enough studies to confirm that it does or does not increase your risk of developing cancer. 

Watch Out For Retinol In Daytime Products

Some moisturizers, even ones with sunscreen intended for daytime use, have retinol. This makes you more likely to suffer from skin damage and damage from the sun. Ensure you check your daytime skincare products to avoid accidentally using retinol during the day. 

Should You Use Retinol?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. You need to read the information on retinol and then decide if it’s right for you. Some insist that short-term use is okay, while others insist that you avoid retinol altogether. The choice is up to you.

Learn more about the ingredients in skincare products here! 

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