An Amateur’s Guide to Retinol and Retinoids

While a few basic skincare ingredients have become iconic, one is constantly part of conversations in the beauty industry, and it’s retinol. We’ve all heard of it, but after discussions both in and outside the med spa, it’s clear that many of us still aren't exactly sure about what it is, or how it works. When it comes to defense against fine lines and maintaining a healthy glow, there's no ingredient in skincare more renowned than retinol. The irony? Even though the revolutionary youth-enhancing skincare staple is a mainstay of drugstores, department store counters, and dermatologist offices alike, it’s easily misused or underutilized.

What Is Retinol, Anyway?

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A that brags a long list of proven benefits, and has been called the holy grail of skincare ingredients. Retinol is naturally produced by your body and aids in boosting cell turnover, boosting collagen production and reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol products are a less intense version of retinoids, and is a more skin-friendly type of vitamin A that’s typically used in widely available beauty products. With results that include improved skin texture, increase of collagen production and vanishing of dark spots, it’s easy to see why beauty gurus worldwide swear by this skincare powerhouse. 

The Incredible Benefits of Retinol

Retinol helps unclog pores, exfoliate and smooth skin, reduces the appearance of pigmentation, improves skin hydration, treats acne and reduces fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol can also thicken the dermis (the layer below the surface of the skin) over time, which makes skin appear healthier and more youthful.


Any skin type can use retinol, but fair or sensitive skin types should be extra carful as it may be harder for them to adjust to the powerful ingredient. Retinol is not recommended for people who have skin that’s been over-exfoliated, or for anyone that has sun damage. Pregnant women are also advised not to use retinol products.

Are There Any Negatives to Using Retinol?

The cons of retinol and other Vitamin A derivatives like Retinoids and Retin-A are that over using them can cause dry and irritable skin. Some people with sensitive skin conditions like rosacea  and eczema may not be able to tolerate any of these products. They also make you more sensitive to the sun, and may lead to sunburning more easily. Still, patients with sensitive conditions may still be able to use a retinoid, but they need to gradually introduce it into their skincare regimen.

When Is Too Young?

It is never too young to start using retinol, and most women start using the skincare staple in their early to mid twenties. Most dermatologists will recommend retinol for people in their late twenties, when skin cell turnover starts to slow down. If someone has sensitive, easily irritated skin, retinol is a good ingredient to prevent the look of aging whereas a prescription retinoid could be too irritating. With continued use, retinol works to fade hyper-pigmentation and give the look of smoother skin in a gentler, non-drying way than a prescription form.

Incorporating Retinol Into Your Skincare Regimen

Start with a small pea sized amount and apply it on your face and neck at night, then wait a few days to see if your skin has a reaction. If you don’t get a reaction, try applying it again. If the product makes your skin red and flaky, mix your retinol with your moisturizer. Use retinol once or twice a week to begin with to see if your skin reacts, and gradually work up to every other day or three times a week. Another key tip for using retinol is to incorporate it into your night skincare routine only, as it makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight. When using retinol, it is important to wear an SPF of over 50. 

Choosing a Retinol Product

With an endless plethora of options to choose from, figuring out which retinol product is best for you can be challenging. If you’re new to using this ingredient, start off with a low dose of around 0.025%. If your skin has no bad reactions, you can slowly move up to a higher percentage. The highest dose of retinol sold is 1% - this is only recommended to use if your skin has been used to retinol, not if you’re just starting out. Encapsulated retinol products -which are in a cream or serum- tend to be more stable and leave the skin feeling supple and hydrated.

What If Retinol Doesn’t Eradicate My Skincare Problems?

If you find retinol products just aren’t cutting it for your fine lines and wrinkles, it’s always a great idea to get an in-office treatment such as filler or laser resurfacing. At Sculpt CosMedics, we are proud to provide a wide range of services for the face and body, including dermal fillers, body contouring, vein treatment, facials, chemical peels & more. We are currently open for one-on-one appointments, and we are taking all precautions to make sure you stay safe and well taken care of during your visit. Don’t wait to get beautiful, flawless skin - book an appointment today!

Call today to book a private appointment at (718) 998-9898!

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