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How does Retinol work?

Because Retinol really, really does work.

How does Retinol work?

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Retinol – it’s the world’s most talked about skincare ingredient – a hero skin treatment that dermatologists swear by, and arguably the beauty industry’s most successful over-the-counter anti-ageing solution.

And yet there are still so. many. questions:

  • How does Retinol work?

  • How often should you use Retinol?

  • What can you use Retinol with?

  • What is the best Retinol cream for my skin type?

Does Retinol actually work?

In a word: Yes. But we won’t stop there.

We put your FAQ to Consultant Dermatologist Dr Andrew C Markey MD FRCP. Here is everything (else) you need to know about Retinol:

How does Retinol work? An expert guide

What are Retinoids and what do they do?

Retinoids are all derivatives of vitamin A – the first (and best known) being a Retinoic Acid called Tretinoin (also known as Retin-A). Introduced as an anti-acne treatment, dermatologists noticed that Tretinoin not only made acne-prone skin clearer, but that patients’ complexions looked brighter and smoother too.

So, what is Retinol and how does it work? 

Retinol is the name given to the most popular over-the-counter Retinoid – proven to induce similar results as Retinoic Acid, albeit over a longer period. 

How? Once absorbed by skin, Retinol gradually converts into Retinoic Acid – the same hero ingredient that’s in prescription creams.

What is Retinol used for? 

Retinol is suitable for all skin types and can be used by almost everyone – if applied correctly – whether used ad hoc or within your evening skincare routine. 

Great news if you’ve ever wondered which Retinol is best for acne scars and wrinkles. Yes, this game-changing, dermatologist-approved ingredient reigns supreme as:

  1. Best for anti-ageing

    • Stimulates collagen production and improves skin elasticity

    • Smoothes fine lines and wrinkles 

    • Minimises new wrinkles

  2. Best for pigmentation/sun damaged skin

    • Encourages cell turnover

    • Evens out hyperpigmentation

    • Helps fade dark spots

  3. Best for acne, acne scars and acne-prone skin

    • Treats acne

    • Unclogs pores

    • Smooths skin texture

    • Evens out complexion

  4. Best for dull skin (see also: vitamin C – an ideal skincare sidekick)

    • Evens out skin tone

Can I apply Retinol after dermarolling?

"Most dermatologists recommend that patients stop retinoid creams one week before and restart one week after traumatic treatments to the skin (i.e. waxing, laser and medical microneedling where needles are used intentionally to cause pinpoint bleeding)," says Dr Markey. 

"If you are using very short needles, as part of a home regime, then do a test patch with the roller to check that your skin is okay with the combination and just be a little careful at first. Obviously, applying any product immediately after dermarolling may increase absorption which can be a good thing, or increase risk of irritation."

So - how long does it take to see results from Retinol? 

Depending on how much - and how often – scientific studies show Retinol can reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation after just 12 weeks of use.

**Don't use Retinols f you are pregnant, breastfeeding or are already using a prescription Keratolytic from your dermatologist. Speak to a dermatologist if you are worried about any side effects of using Retinol.**

Reviewed by Consultant Dermatologist Dr Andrew C Markey MD FRCP

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2 years ago

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