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Retinol is one of the most well-known heroes of the skincare world, but its many functions and benefits can be complicated and confusing to the uninitiated. Understanding how to apply retinol and the full potential of its results are essential to getting the most out of this vitamin A derivative.

Whether you use a retinol cream or prefer a serum formula, retinol’s benefits to the skin are powerful and diverse. From reducing the visible signs of ageing to preventing the formation of acne blemishes, retinol is a highly recommended addition to your regular skincare regime from your twenties onwards.

Skinceuticals pure retinol night cream in 0.3, 0.5 and 1.0 percentages of retinol

There tends to be some apprehension associated with commencing retinol for the first time due to the potential for dryness, irritation and flakiness. However, this risk can be avoided by adhering to recommended guidelines for correct and proper use. Read on to understand how this collagen-boosting ingredient works on a cellular level, as well as exactly how to integrate retinol into your routine while minimising potential irritation.



Retinol can be defined as a derivative of vitamin A. While the terms ‘retinol’ and ‘retinoids’ are sometimes confused for being synonymous, this is not the case. Retinoids are an umbrella category of vitamin A derivatives which also includes prescription only ingredients such as retinoic acid and isotretinoin. Pure retinol has less potential for side effects than the prescription only forms, making it ideal for use in skincare formulations.  

Retinol is sometimes confused for a chemical exfoliant because it increases the rate of skin cell turnover. However, retinol is classed as an antioxidant and has all the corresponding skincare benefits.


When asking ‘why use retinol?’, the first step to finding an answer is to understand how retinol functions in the skin at a biological level.

Perhaps the most well-known function of retinol is the ingredient’s ability to increase the speed of skin cell turnover. In simple terms, this means dead skin cells that might otherwise cause dullness or acne-prone skin are sloughed away and replaced before they’re able to cause problems. Unlike chemical exfoliants which work by dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells, retinol speeds up the process skin cell renewal.

In addition, retinol is also effective at boosting the collagen synthesis process and creating more collagen within the skin. This function compliments retinol’s antioxidant properties, which help to prevent collagen damage.

As a powerful antioxidant, retinol helps neutralise the damaging effects of the free radicals present in our environment. Not only can antioxidants such as retinol prevent damage by pairing with these unstable molecules, they can also help repair free radical damage after exposure.


Considering retinol’s many functions, the benefits of retinol for skin are profound and varied. Retinol is an especially valuable addition to your skincare routine due to its impressive dual benefits of targeting acne-prone skin as well as the visible signs of ageing. For this reason, retinol is a powerful and worthwhile ingredient with benefits for most skin types and ages.


Although retinol is most well known as an anti-ageing ingredient, it was first investigated for its benefits as part of a corrective regime for acne-prone skin. The process by which blemishes form relies on plugs blocking the pores. These plugs consist of excess sebaceous matter, dead skin cells, hairs and impurities from the environment. By increasing skin cell turnover, retinol helps prevent dead skin cells from sinking into the pores – thereby halting the blemish formation process before it begins.

The visible benefits of retinol for acne-prone skin include a decrease in the number, severity and duration of blemishes as well as a more even skin tone.


As the hero ingredient of many anti-ageing skincare products, retinol’s anti-ageing benefits are both preventative and corrective. As we age, the stratum corneum (the outermost epidermal layer) gradually declines in capacity to perform its usual protective function. Retinol is highly effective to help counteract the visible signs of ageing linked to this decline, including fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, uneven pigmentation and dark under-eye circles.

When used properly and consistently, retinol plumps and firms visibly aged skin and improves skin volume and tightness. Fine lines and wrinkles will appear minimised and the complexion will appear more youthful, even and refined.


If you’re wondering when to start using retinol, skincare benefits of this powerful ingredient are present from your twenties onwards. However, following optimal use protocol is essential for integrating this ingredient whilst minimising the risk of discomfort.

Due to the potential of flaking, it’s very important to introduce retinol into your routine using a gradual method. SkinCeuticals recommends starting with a lower strength retinol cream such as our Retinol 0.3 or Retinol 0.5 to allow the skin to work up to tolerating a higher strength product.

Always start by using a new retinol product once per week, before slowing increasing frequency of use as your skin tolerates the product. Once you’ve worked your way up to everyday use, consider switching to a higher strength retinol for enhanced benefits. If you choose to do so, be sure to introduce the new product gradually.

Retinol causes increased photosensitivity, so evening use is highly recommended. Apply your retinol product after cleansing and before moisturisers or other creams. Applying a high strength SPF sunscreen every morning is also essential for all retinol users.

We recommend working towards using higher concentrated retinol products on both the face and neck to achieve maximum results.


For experienced retinol users, SkinCeuticals recommends our highly concentrated pure Retinol 1.0 cream.  Formulated with concentration of 1.0% pure retinol and calming chamomile-derived bisabolol, this night cream utilises a specialised delivery system to release retinol for optimal benefits. Work towards applying a pea sized amount every evening as tolerated, avoiding the eye and lip area.


Our Tripeptide-R Neck Repair Cream brings the benefits of retinol to ageing neck skin in a powerful cream formulated with peptides. Work towards applying 1-2 pumps of this firming cream daily from the jawline down to the chest. You’ll notice decreased visible horizontal lines, firmer neck skin and visibly reduced crepiness. The slow-release formula is incredibly effective at fortifying the fragile skin of the neck through the anti-ageing power of retinol.

As you plan how to incorporate retinol into your skincare routine, read our guide on How to Apply Retinol and Vitamin C Together to avoid unwanted ingredient interactions.





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