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What is retinol? How does it help to improve your skin? How to add it in your skincare routine? Here’s everything that you need to know about retinol!

What is retinol?

Retinol is a form of Vitamin A. It is an ingredient that is used in skincare products (serums, creams) because of its superpower ability to speed up skin cell renewal and enhance collagen production.

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1. Retinol vs. Retinoids, what’s the difference?

Retinoids Retinol
A derivative of vitamin A;
Increase the turnover rate of skin cells
A derivative of vitamin A; Increase the turnover rate of skin cells
A catch-all term for vitamin A-based products A subtype of retinoids
Higher strengths of retinoic acid Mainly for acne treatments via prescriptionTypes of Retinoids: Adapalene, Tretinoin, Tazarotene, Trifarotene and Isotretinoin Lower strengths of retinoic acid Mainly for anti-ageing, hyperpigmentation, unclog pores and prevent breakout
Improve your acne in a short time Takes longer time to see the effect
Great for severe acne-prone skin A good start for dry skin / sensitive skin

2. How can retinol change your skin?

Well, it’s an anti-aging hero that can significantly improve the appearance of fine lines, sun damage, dark spots, and wrinkles. Not only is it said to reverse the signs of aging after daily use, but it can also act as a preventive measure too.

Studies have shown that using an over-the-counter product with 0.1% retinol (for prolonged, regular use) showed significant results in wrinkle repair, with visible improvement as early as one month.

Besides, retinol is a gentle formulation for milder acne. The benefits of retinol for acne-prone skin are to control oil production and unclog pores. So, it can decrease the pore size, prevent acne from forming and fade acne scars too.

3. What are the side effects of retinol or retinoids?

Since Retinoids help to boost the turnover rate of skin cells, so you may experience skin irritation, redness, dryness, peeling or itchiness.

The side effect of retinol will last for 2-4 weeks after your skin acclimatizes. They are more likely to happen when you just start to use or apply a higher concentration of the products. Besides, if you use too much amount of the products, it will also result in undesirable side effects

4. How to choose retinol products for your skin type?

You can choose your retinol products based on their textures: Creams are generally best for dry skin, lotions for normal to combination skin, and serums or gels for oily skin.

5. How to add retinol in your skincare routine?

The best way to introduce retinol into your skincare regime is to start with a low concentration until you build up your tolerance bit-by-bit. If you experience any redness or peeling from a higher dose, then limit your retinol usage or lower the concentration.

4 Ways to make your retinol work better by building a tolerance

4 Ways to make your retinol work better

Retinol Sandwich Method

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Apply sunscreen, always

Retinol can thin your skin and decrease its “protective capacity”. Therefore, although retinol itself is not sun-sensitizing, you should always take measures to protect your skin from sunlight, e.g. applying sunscreen daily.

Be patient and stick with it

Although there are examples that show improvements as early as a month, it can take up to 12 weeks for people to see significant changes in their skin.


Do not apply it daily from the beginning

Start slow and always monitor your skin’s reaction. There is a process for your skin to get adapted to retinol. In the beginning, there may be irritation and flaky skin, see how it is getting adjusted to the ingredient. Apply with a longer interval or switch to skincare products with a lower dosage if the signs of irritation prolong.

Do not overuse

Use retinol only once a day and apply only a thin layer to the affected area. Remember it takes time for your skin to adjust. Even though increased dosage and frequency can speed up the process of collagen production, but it may also lead to more redness and irritation. 


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