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Retinol is a form of Vitamin A. SkinCeuticals offers a highly concentrated pure retinol cream formulation to help diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, blemishes, and skin discolouration. This targeted formulation is designed with enhanced stabilisation and delivery technologies to ensure maximum efficacy while minimising irritation.

Learn more about retinol

ingredient spotlight: retinol

One of the most widely researched and proven skincare ingredients available today, retinol is shown to help improve the visible effects of ageing. This potent ingredient helps promote cell turnover to diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and blemishes. Formulated with pure retinol and bisabolol (derived from chamomile), SkinCeuticals retinol creams are designed to ensure maximum efficacy while minimising irritation commonly associated with the use of retinol creams.


retinol (vitamin a) EXPLAINED

What is retinol?

Retinol is a pure form of vitamin a and a type of retinoid. Retinoids are needed for a large number of processes in the body. Retinol stimulates collagen production and cell renewal and has been clinically proven to improve the appearance wrinkles, skin discolouration and blemishes. When applied to the skin, retinol converts to retinal (retinoic acid). Retinoids can cause irritation; whereas retinol has been found to produce results with less irritation and is often considered a more tolerable form of vitamin A.

What does retinol do for skin?

Topical retinol creams help promote turnover of surface cells, which means dead skin cells are sloughed away faster, revealing visibly healthier and brighter skin. Similarly, retinol’s exfoliation mechanism helps improve the appearance of blemishes by preventing dead skin cells from clogging pores. How exactly does retinol work? Retinol stimulates fibroblasts to synthesize collagen fibres which assists in epidermal thickening, and also promotes keratinocyte proliferation which leads to cell renewal. With age, skin’s natural cell turnover decreases resulting in dull, uneven skin tone and rough skin texture. Retinol creams have been shown to reduce the appearance of fines lines and produce smoother, thicker skin.*

[*Kong, R., Cui, Y., Fisher, G. J., Wang, X., Chen, Y., Schneider, L. M., & Majmudar, G. (2016). A comparative study of the effects of retinol and retinoic acid on histological, molecular, and clinical properties of human skin. J Cosmet Dermatol, 15, 49– 57.]

Is retinol the same as tretinoin?

Retinol and tretinoin are both chemical compounds derived from vitamin A. Tretinoin is a pharmaceutical form of retinoic acid available only by prescription. It is frequently prescribed for acne, but also helps improve fine lines, wrinkles, and skin discolouration. Though highly effective, this topical treatment can cause unwanted side effects including redness, peeling, and dryness.1Topical retinol, on the other hand, is available for purchase without a prescription. While it functions similarly to tretinoin, research has shown that it exhibits notably less irritation potential.²

For the appropriate recommendation on which form of vitamin A product is best suited to your specific skin needs, please consult a  skincare professional.

Can you wear retinol in the sun?

Extra sun care protection and precautions should be taken when using retinol. Retinol makes skin more sensitive to sun and more prone to UV damage and sunburn due to the skin renewing mechanism within pure retinol. UV rays and sunlight also degenerate the efficacy of retinol. It is therefore recommended to use the following guidelines for retinol and the sun:

1) Apply retinol in the evening
2) Always wear a high broad spectrum sunscreen, reapply regularly and use sun protection such as a hat during the day.


How to use retinol?

1. Add retinol cream to your skin routine slowly. Slowly increase the frequency and percentage of retinol. Start by using retinol once or twice a week and gradually increase frequency to each night as tolerated.

2. Use retinol cream in the evening after cleansing and toning. 

3. Apply retinol to dry skin. It's also a good idea to apply retinol after you've cleaned your teeth to prevent any water coming into contact with the retinol cream.

4. Apply a pea-sized amount to the tips of your fingers. (Applying too much can irritate the skin)

5. Dab the product onto your face, avoiding the eye area and massage firmly into skin. 

6. Always follow retinol cream application with a moisturiser.

7. Use retinol cream only at night to limit photosensitivity and irritation. This is due to the high concentration of pure retinol. 

8. Always wear a broad spectrum sunscreen during the day when using retinol cream.

Due to the high concentration of pure retinol, use a retinol cream only at night to limit photosensitivity and irritation. Always apply a broad spectrum sunscreen when using this product.

video retinol

Is retinol safe?

Yes. Over the counter retinol can be safely used every day. However because of the high concentration of pure retinol you should gradually introduce retinol into you skincare routine, and precautions should be taken. Due to its exfoliating mechanism, topical retinol creams may increase skin sensitivity and potential for irritation, especially when used with certain medications, or treatments such as chemical peels. To safely use retinol its advisable to begin with a  retinol cream that has a low percentage of retinol and only apply it once or twice a week and then gradually build up.

The side effects of using the ingredient retinol can include: skin dryness, tightness, peeling, flaking, and redness. By introducing retinol slowly and allowing your skin to acclimatise to the increased cell renewal, skin irritation can be reduced.

Retinol creams can increase photosensitivity, therefore extensive periods of sun exposure are not encouraged. It is especially important to apply a broad spectrum sunscreen while using this product.

The side effects of retinol can also be mitigated by using a retinol product that has ingredients added to decrease irritation. SkinCetucials' pure retinol creams 0.3, 0.5, and 1.0 each contain 'Bisabolo' which is derived from the chamomile plant, and helps calm and soothe skin.

Studies have found the retinol cream produces less skin irritation side effects than prescription retonic acids.

Vitamin A products like tretinoin and retinol should not be used during pregnancy or when lactating. Please consult a  doctor  to determine whether the use of a retinol cream is appropriate.

Can retinol help with acne?

Retinol works to unblock clogged pores. Acne formation is triggered by skin’s pores’ producing excess sebum and becoming clogged. The skin’s pores contain sebaceous glands (oil glands) which produce oil to lubricate the skin and hair, but they can be overactive at times, resulting in excess sebum production. The combination of excess oil and dead skin cells can cause pores to become clogged, creating the perfect condition for P.acnes bacteria – a bacteria that can contribute to the formation of acne – to become trapped and multiply.

Topical retinol creams unclog pores which cause acne by increasing cell turnover in skin and reducing the build-up of dead skin cells. Retinol creams can assist in reducing the frequency and severity of blemishes and breakouts. It is important that retinol and any other blemish-fighting products are applied as recommended by your skincare professional.

Topical retinol formulations increase cell turnover in skin, ultimately reducing the buildup of dead skin cells. With fewer dead skin cells present on the surface of the skin, it becomes more difficult for pores to clog. Retinol creams work via chemical exfoliation, which may be less abrasive than mechanical exfoliation that involves the use of scrubs.

However, as with any topical skincare products targeting acne, results may take time. It is important that retinol and any other blemish-fighting products are applied as recommended by your skincare professional. It is also essential that a  broad spectrum sunscreen  is applied daily when using a retinol. Look for non comedogenic, oil free sunscreen formulations that deliver high UVA/UVB protection without clogging pores.

How long does it take to get used to retinol?

The length of time it will take your skin to get used to a retinol cream will vary from person-to-person, based on your skin type, current regimen, and the strength of retinol you are using. It’s normal when beginning retinol to have a “retinisation” period which can last about two weeks and can include mild redness, flaking, peeling, and slight discomfort. For this reason, it is recommended to limit use to once or twice a week and gradually increase the frequency until your skin can tolerate it nightly. We recommend to build up tolerance before moving on to a higher concentration of retinol. SkinCeuticals retinol creams are formulated in 3 different concentrations to minimise skin irritation while maximising the benefits of pure retinol. When used in conjunction with  Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, skin's adjustment period to retinol may be shortened by one week and tolerability improved. Always apply a  broad spectrum sunscreen  while using retinol products.

Can I use retinol with AHA and BHA?

Applying both retinol and alpha hydroxy acids and or beta hydroxy acids at the same time may cause irritation to the skin.  Retinol creams increase skin cell renewal and Aha's and BHA's are exfoliating acids which slough dead cells and build up from the skin and pores; combining together could cause the skin to react.  The value of using a different exfoliating acid in your skincare routine would depend your skin concerns and goals. Some people may benefit from using an AHA or BHA on an alternative day or week in their skincare routine. It is important to always consult with your  skin care professional  for personalised advice before starting a retinol regimen.

What retinol should I start with?

Start using a retinol cream with a low percentage of retinol eg 0.3% to avoid irritation and enable your skin's tolerance to gradually build up. If you have dry or sensitive skin it also particularly important to begin using a low concentration of retinol.

SkinCeuticals has 3 different strength retinol creams. Retinol 0.3 is a low strength retinol cream and is recommended for first-time retinol users. Once you skin has acclimatised with Retinol 0.3, gradually increase the percentage of retinol you are using. SkinCeuticals retinol 0.5 is ideal for skin preconditioned with Retinol 0.3. Once your skin's tolerance for retinol has increased, you can use the highest strength retinol cream such as SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0.

Purity is essential for retinol efficacy in skin, as pure retinol most easily converts to retinoic acid in skin. Always look for high concentration of pure retinol vs. retinol derivatives such as retinyl palmitate. SkinCeuticals uses pure, high concentrations of retinol enhanced with stabilisation to ensure maximum conversion and efficacy.

Retinol vs Retinoid

Retinoid: is the overall term which describes a large class of compounds of derivatives of vitamin a. Retinol is a pure vitamin a and a form of retinoid and is over an counter product which when apply to skin is converted to retinoic acid in the body.

The following are common names within the retinoid family:

  • Retinol: is a pure vitamin a form of retinoid.
  • Adapalene: Is a form of retinoid and is the active ingredient in a prescription retinoid medication. Adapalene is sold under many different brand names including Differin.
  • Tretinoin: is a form of retinoid and is the active ingredient in prescription retinoid medication. Tretinoin is sold under many different brand names including Retin A.
  • Retin A: is a form of retinoid, and is a trading brand name for the drug Tretinoin.

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