retinol benefits, facts & myths debunked

Retinol is a skincare favorite that combats acne & stops aging in its tracks. Do you know how retinol can change everything you knew about skincare?

Introducing one of our favorite skincare ingredients—retinol. Often deemed as a “restorative,” “regenerative” and “revitalizing” treatment, retinol is a widely accepted favorite among skincare gurus and professionals alike.


Retinol, an ingredient derived from Vitamin A, encourages the production of collagen and promotes cellular turnover. These processes rid dead skin cells to reveal layers of firm, rejuvenated skin. Retinol actually changes the way cells operate, prompting them to shed and regenerate at a faster pace to unveil the youthful, resilient skin cells beneath.

Difference Between Retinols and Retinoids

You may have heard retinol referred to as ‘retinoids’ too. Simply put, a retinoid is the concentrated form of retinol. Retinoid is the chemical class that composes the less concentrated ingredient, retinol. Used as a broader term to encompass prescription-strength products and OTC (over the counter) products, retinoids are considerably potent and can be quite harsh on the skin.

Both retinol and retinoids are derived from vitamin A and transformed into retinoic acid. Compared to retinol, retinoids contain a higher concentration of retinoic acid, which is what makes retinoids the more intense treatment that often requires a prescription.

What is retinol used for?

If you’ve already integrated retinol into your skincare routine, it’s likely that you’re reveling in the near-magic effects retinol has on your skin. Known for its anti-aging, acne-fighting, skin-tone-evening powers, retinol is highly acclaimed for its ability to turn back the clock and reverse the signs of aging.

Retinol comes in an array of potent products, from natural retinol serums to gentle creams and moisturizers. In fact, retinol products have flooded the market lately as more and more benefits of retinol have come to light. Many people who swear by anti-aging face masks have hopped on the retinol bandwagon.

What is retinol cream?

Retinol cream is exactly what it sounds like — cream infused with concentrated amounts of retinol. These treatments are typically night creams with differing amounts of retinol to accommodate various skin sensitivities. (As sunlight deactivates retinoic acid, retinol creams are to be used at night to elicit the full effects of the ingredient.) These creams work to smoothen out fine lines and wrinkles, to reduce hyperpigmentationuneven texture and age spots, and to brighten the skin through cellular exfoliation.

Including retinol in your skincare routine can revive your skin to its most vibrant and luminous state.

What are the Retinol benefits?

When it comes to elevating the appearance and health of your skin, what does retinol do? The better question might be: what doesn’t retinol do for your skin?

  1. First and foremost, at the top of the retinol benefits list is its anti-aging effect. By penetrating through the dry, top layers of skin, retinol reaches the underlying cells and proteins responsible for skin elasticity—which is ultimately the ‘youthful’ appearance. This ingredient prompts the production of collagen, encouraging dead skin cells to shed and new skin cells to generate. This process (newer skin cells rising to the surface) is what creates hydrated, repaired skin. As dead skin cells shed and the underlying skin reveals itself, fine lines, wrinkles and similar signs of aging are reduced. With regular retinol treatments, sagging skin gradually tightens to firm skin, age spots diminish, uneven skin textures smoothen and hyperpigmentation balances itself out. Each of these perks contribute to the age-defying benefits of retinol.
  2.  Retinol effectively combats acne by removing dead skin cells that clog pores and cause acne. Retinol aids the skin in shedding its surface layer of clogged, dull skin cells that suppress the hydrated, brilliant layers of acne-free skin beneath. New skin cells originate in the deepest layer of the epidermis, journeying through each layer of skin to reach the topmost layer. As new skin cells reach the surface of the epidermis, they push the aged, dead skin cells out of the way. This is the process of cellular turnover. Younger people have a faster rate of cellular turnover. As we age, our process of shedding dead skin cells and regenerating new skin cells slows down to about half the speed it was during our childhood and young adulthood.
    People who struggle with acne don’t have a regulated cell turnover process. Their skin produces more dead cells than average, so these dead cells stick on the skin’s surface, unprompted to shed. An overproduction of dead skin cells then causes the pores to clog, which leads to acne. Retinol benefits the cell turnover process by promoting new skin cell generations to push out old skin cells, yielding a face of fresh skin cells.
  3. Incorporating retinol into your regimen boosts the amount of collagen in your skin. Collagen is the connective tissue that holds our bones, tissues, ligaments (and everything else) together. With an increase in collagen production, the skin is able to repair itself more easily and bounce back to its firm, juvenile state. Greater collagen production means a healthier skin condition and greater skin resilience. Damage on the skin caused by sunlight, harsh ingredients in products or natural aging often leaves the skin sagging, unevenly toned, hyperpigmented and unevenly textured. Retinol benefits the skin through its collagen-boosting abilities that help the skin to even out, recover from this damage and reverse these undesirable conditions.

Retinol works below the surface, altering the cell turnover process to heal the skin and restore its natural radiance on a cellular level. From uneven tone, to acne-ridden skin, to wrinkles and frown lines, retinol benefits are transformative. This ingredient is worthy of joining your nightly skincare routine.  


What are Retinol side effects?

As with many potent ingredients, retinol can cause some irritation on the skin. When you first begin experiencing retinol benefits, your skin may react with redness, dryness, flakiness, peeling or minor acne. It’s recommended that you incorporate retinol into your skincare routine as a gradual process to reduce the chance of side effects and allow your skin time to adjust.

If you use retinol too often or merge it into your skin regimen too quickly, the skin can become increasingly sensitive and may burn in the sun, flake, crack or peel more than normal. People with highly sensitive skin should be cautious of their retinol usage. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use retinol, as high concentrations of vitamin A have reportedly led to birth defects.

It’s important to consider how your skin is reacting to retinol to understand if this treatment is right for you. If you have an extreme reaction, or your skin starts to crack or break into sores, this could indicate an allergic reaction. In this case, you should stop using retinol immediately to prevent further irritation.

How to incorporate Retinol into your skincare routine

To bypass the few side effects of retinol, don’t use it every day or in heavy doses when you’re first starting out. Your skin is gentle, and it has gotten used to its natural composition. Adding an extra ingredient will inevitably spark a change in the way your skin cells behave and appear overall. Allow your skin to transition smoothly by introducing retinol little-by-little.

When you apply retinol topically, the skin becomes considerably sensitive. As you mix retinol with sunlight, this sensitivity increases. The new skin cells generating and rising to the surface are delicate. They require some extra TLC, especially from the sun’s intense UV rays. This sensitive reaction is why retinol should be used before you go to sleep, not before you bask in the sun.

Include retinol in your nightly skincare routine 2 nights a week when you begin your retinol regimen. Apply your retinol treatment before bed, allowing 20 to 30 minutes for your skin to absorb the ingredient. After a half hour, you can incorporate gentle products to keep your skin hydrated and properly moisturized. Any product you add must contain gentle ingredients to avoid any added stress on your skin.

You can remove other exfoliants and masks from your nightly routine, because retinol works as a natural exfoliant on its own. Doubling up on exfoliants can harm the cell turnover process and leave you with dry, raw skin.

After using retinol 2 nights a week, monitor your skin’s reaction and consider adding an extra night of usage. As your skin becomes tolerant of retinol, you can bump up your usage to every other night.

Everyone’s skin is different, so it’s imperative to listen to your skin. Determine the appropriate usage for you based on the side effects you’re experiencing. Some people are able to use retinol every night (over time), while others stick with 2 to 3 nights a week to preserve hydration.

Now, let’s bust a few myths about retinol benefits

Myth 1: Retinol is merely a skin exfoliant, which is why it works.

  • This is not the case. Retinol does exfoliate the face, but this isn’t why it works. Retinol benefits the skin on a much deeper level, changing the way your genes behave and express themselves. A simple skin exfoliant doesn’t work on a cellular level like this.

Myth 2: You’ll see results immediately, or at least within a month.

  • Not necessarily. Everyone’s skin is different, of course, but it takes an average of 12 weeks or about 3 months to see the visible benefits of retinol.

Myth 3: Stop taking retinol if your skin is irritated.

  • This is actually why a lot of people stop taking retinol, but if you want to reap the retinol benefits, you must persevere. Allow time for your skin to adjust; skin irritation is just a part of the process.

Retinol benefits the skin’s texture, tone, elasticity, complexion and brilliance. The retinol benefits for skin cells and their turnover process make it a truly effective treatment. If you’re wondering how to get glowing skin (like every other urban dweller out there), it might be time to adopt retinol into your nightly / skin regimen / .