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What is Retinol?

Taking care of your skin can be very rewarding, but it can also be tough. With so many products out there that work for a multitude of skin concerns and types it might be hard to know what exactly you should be using to help with your specific needs. Looking at the labels can leave you confused and turning to google to try and understand the benefits of certain ingredients and whether it would work for your skin.

Over the next few weeks, we will break down some of the most popular ingredients and products to equip you with the knowledge you need to make the right choice when adding to or changing up your skincare routine.

This week, we’re starting with one of our favorites: Retinol!

Let’s start with the basics – what is Retinol?

Touted as a gold standard for its ability to lessen the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone and blemishes you’ve most likely heard of retinol, but what exactly is it?

Retinol is part of the family of retinoids, which are compounds derived from vitamin A. When ingested, vitamin A is essential for protecting eyesight, maintaining a healthy immune system and plays a key role in the growth and development of cells. Retinol is an over-the-counter form of this powerful ingredient that converts to retinoic acid when applied to the skin.

You may have also heard of tretinoin (commonly referred to by the brand name Retin A) and wonder what the difference between these two are – basically, Retinol and tretinoin are both chemical compounds derived from vitamin A, but tretinoin is a form of retinoic acid only available by prescription. This form can be highly effective, but more commonly comes with harsher side effects.

The Benefits of Retinol

As we age, some processes in our bodies naturally begin to slow. We start to experience a natural decrease in cell turnover and collagen production which can cause visible signs of aging. A great way to fight this is by incorporating retinol into your regimen, as it promotes cell turnover in our skin as well as boosts collagen production. As a result of this increased cellular turnover it is also extremely affective in fighting acne.

Additionally, Retinol can:

  • Improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Brighten skin tone and improve skin texture
  • Improve the appearance of discoloration
  • Reduce breakouts and the appearance of pores

Fun fact: the first topical retinoids were formulated for the treatment of acne but when used by older patients, they noticed their skin becoming smoother and their pigmentation lighter! Thus, it became one of the most famous anti-aging ingredients on the market.

Who Should Use Retinol?

  • Those concerned with visible signs of aging, acne or discoloration
  • Retinol can be used with most skin-types, but those with dry or sensitive skin will want to take more care when incorporating (don’t overuse)
  • Though there’s no age limit, many start using this product in their mid-20’s to early 30’s to decrease the early signs of aging or minimize breakouts

Who should not use Retinol?

Those who have especially sensitive skin or struggle with conditions like rosacea or eczema may want to shy away from retinol as it could cause harsh side effects such as redness and burning. As a precaution, those who are pregnant should consult a physician before starting use.

How to Use Retinol

Retinol can be irritating if used too frequently or if the formulation is too strong for your skin, so when first incorporating into your routine, it is best to limit initial use to once or twice a week and to begin with a lower concentration of retinol in order to establish a tolerance. Then, gradually increase frequency to every other night, then every night. Once skin can comfortably tolerate the concentration of retinol every day, you can increase to a higher percentage formulation.

Retinol should always be applied with your nightly routine as it can break down in sunlight and may increase photosensitivity (don’t forget your broad-spectrum SPF every day!). You will want to apply after you cleanse and tone and allow to absorb fully before applying other products in order to achieve maximum benefits. However, if you’re having trouble with irritation, it may help to apply a moisturizer directly after the retinol, or to mix the retinol and moisturizer together.

You should be using about the size of a pea for your entire face when dispensing the product – in this particular instance, more is not better so even though it can be tempting to think twice the amount will have twice the benefit, too much of the product may actually increase irritation.

What to Expect

Patience is key with retinol. Though it can seem like a magical ingredient, it will still take time to see the full benefits. In some cases it can be up to 8-12 weeks before you see maximum benefits – but hang in there, the results are worth it!

You may also notice certain side effects, such as mild irritation, tightness and dryness – these side effects are completely normal and will usually subside after two to four weeks as the skin acclimates. However, if you are noticing harsher side effects, such as intense flaking, redness and burning, you may want to stop use and consult a skin care professional to determine if a retinol is right for you.


Recommended Products

RETINOL O.3,0.5 + 1.0

SkinCeuticals retinol is special due to the formulation they use. Each of their night creams has a high concentration of pure retinol, which increases the efficacy due to its easier conversion to retinoic acid, as well as a blend derived from the chamomile plant and frankincense that provides soothing benefits to help comfort the skin and minimize irritation. Plus, with three strengths, there’s bound to be a perfect match for you


An amazing product in its own right, Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 has also been proven to help shorten and improve the skin’s retinol adjustment period.

Woodside is partnering with SkinCeuticals to provide our members with all of your favorite SkinCeuticals products shipped directly to your home. To order, follow the custom link below and use the auto-generated promo-code when you checkout to receive your products delivered directly to your door. It is an easy and convenient way for you to keep your skin healthy and happy during this challenging time. Shop here.

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