Tips for Natural Beauty

Your Ultimate Guide to Retinol: the Anti-aging Superstar

 Weeks ago, I received two retinol moisturizers from two different companies in return for a review. I had a few questions in mind, and I needed to find out whether retinol works and how it could affect my skin.

Since I know little about anti-aging products, and because I do not rely on companies’ descriptions like the fancy words: magical, miracle, etc. I searched the web trying to find the answers on my own.

In a week, I read about 20 articles and two published studies about retinol. I took notes and spent the rest of the week writing this article. Finally found answers to my questions! And here it is, all you need to know about retinol, so let’s start from the beginning; what is retinol?

Your Ultimate Guide to Retinol Creams the Antiaging Superstar

What is Retinol?

Retinol, or vitamin A, is an antioxidant and an important cell-communicating ingredient. It promotes the production of new healthy skin cells. As it stimulates the cellular turnover from deep within the layers of your skin, it helps reduce wrinkles, cure acne, tighten pores, stimulate the production of collagen and fades age spots.

retinol for anti-aging, acne, large pores, and dry skin

There are two kinds of vitamin A in skincare products; over-the-counter retinol, and prescription retinol (retinoid). Retinol also can be broken into other forms called derivatives like retinyl palmitate, but retinol is still more effective than its derivatives.

Prescription retinol creams such as Renova and Retin-A are far more effective than those found in over-the-counter retinol, but it can cause more irritation and drying. You need to start slow and follow the instructions given by your doctor; otherwise, your skin will suffer from irritation. In addition to Renova and Retin-A, there are also:

  • Retin-A has a lightweight, creamy texture and often prescribed for acne.
  • Retin-A Micro has a gel texture with a matte finish that’s best for oily, acne-prone skin
  • Renova has an emollient texture, usually used for wrinkles and sun-damaged skin.
  • Tri-Luma contains tretinoin along with prescription-strength hydroquinone and is prescribed for discolorations and melasma.
  •  Atralin, Avita, Altinac, Refissa, and Tretin-X
  •  Tretinoin                                                                                                                      [ Source]

Prescription Retinol Cream OR Over-the-Counter Retinol Cream

While prescription retinol is stronger and works faster than over-the-counter forms of retinol (cosmetic retinol), cosmetic retinol cream will give the same results in the long run. It depends on how patient you are. Using a strong form of a retinol cream should be for a short period, you can then continue with an anti-aging cream like Stemuderm, which combines anti-aging and moisturizing ingredients in one product.

You can use such product during the day while you should only use prescription retinol at night since the latest increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.

Retinoids (prescription retinol) dries your skin more than retinol does. When I started using retinol, I used it in the morning and apply a moisturizer (with vitamin C) in the middle of the day. Sometimes, I also used shea butter when my skin felt extremely dry. By the end of the first week of application, my skin was much better and dried less frequently.

Retinol Creams and AHA’s

Retinol and AHA’s are not the same. AHA’s are natural exfoliation agents that help remove the upper layers of dead skin, to reveal new healthy glowing skin from underneath. AHA’s include lactic acid and glycolic acid (Read more about Lactic acid here)

On the other hand, some think that retinol is exfoliation agents, which is not true. They could cause your skin to peel, but their real job is to stimulate the production of new younger healthier cells.

If you ever were told NOT to use retinol and AHA at the same time, never listen because there is no research that AHA’s make retinol less active when used in the same beauty routine. [Source] Remember that if your skin gets irritated or suffer from redness when using both of them, it is because either retinol or AHA product is too strong for your skin. You always need to ask your dermatologist, and you need to start slowly to reduce irritation. Some can use a retinol cream 2-3 times a week without problems, and others can use it every day, it depends on your skin, and there is no one rule for all.

I have been using lactic acid for a few months now, and I can assure you that they are great in reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. In fact, I have achieved the fastest results when using lactic acid 50% (read more about my story here). Combining AHA’s peel with retinol can give you better results since the latest encourages the formation of new skin cells [Source]. Just keep in mind that it takes time, an average of 3 months (in the previous study) to get the desired results.

Therefore, if you have seen MAGICAL RETINOL products that are labeled MIRACLE or other fancy promises, you should remember that you will need to use them for a few months to fade those dark spots, considering that that product works!

Best Ingredients to Go with a Retinol Cream

The reason why I am talking about ingredients to go with retinol; is that retinol alone cannot solve all your skin problems, the same way eating only meat cannot give your body all the nutrition’s it needs. You need to eat healthy foods, and your skin needs several ingredients to stay healthy. These ingredients are essential whether you use a retinol cream or not. Using them together will give you much better results, so do not rely on one product for your skin care routine; because, in the real world, there is none!

Here are the three main ingredients that will give you the best results along with your retinol cream:

  • AHA’s as mentioned before; it is a complementary ingredient for what retinol does. AHA’s exfoliate your skin; removing all the dead skin while retinol works on deep layers of your skin to generate new healthy skin cells. When used together, they can give you better results, but be careful, and don’t overuse them or your skin will suffer from irritation.
  • Sunscreen: There is no doubt that sunscreen is essential for protecting your skin from harmful UV light. Applying a sunscreen over a moisturizer that contains vitamins A, E, and C can benefit your skin the most and give extra protection from UV’s. Unlike some may think, retinol does not cause the same sensitivity to daylight as tretinoin; the prescription-only form of retinol. Also, applying an antioxidant-rich moisturizer that includes vitamins A, E, and C under a sunscreen is still active in protecting your skin from UV’s. Remember that you can use a retinol cream (cosmetic retinol) during the daytime but only with sunscreen on top of it.
  • Vitamin C ( and vitamin E as well): Since vitamin C fights free radicals, vitamin C helps your retinol cream do its job in promoting the production of new cells and protecting those cells from free radicals. If you are using a retinol product, applying a vitamin C serum underneath it would be beneficial for giving your skin extra protection.

Things You Need to Know When Using a Retinol Cream

  • Retinol products may be applied underneath the eye, but not on the eyelids or under brow area.
  • All beauty products containing retinol, like all vitamin A derivatives, is NOT recommended for women who are pregnant, trying to be pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • When using a retinol cream during the day, you should never skip your sunscreen. I know I have said that before, I am saying it again just in case you missed the previous paragraph!
  • If it is your first time, start slow.
  • Apply a pea-size amount for the whole face. More is not better!
  • If you are using a retinoid, apply a moisturizer first (choose a moisturizer that does not contain anti-aging ingredients). This will help build a barrier between your skin and retinoid and cause less irritation.
  • Consistency and patience are so important when using skincare products. You need to use it consistently, and you will have to wait for weeks to see visible results do not listen to those who tell you that it works for the first weeks, because it does not!
  • Most dermatologists and articles I have read advice that you should start using retinol when you are 30+. Some mentioned that you could start since you are a teen. A 30 something woman needs retinol, but a teenager?! I believe a teenager will need sunscreen more than anything else, don’t you think so? A moisturizer with vitamin C would be a good idea, too.
  • Stay away from retinol creams containing irritating ingredients (like parabens, fragrance, or alcohol).

Final Thoughts

Whether it is acne, wrinkles, dark spots, or large pores, retinol is a great solution for most skin problems. Nevertheless, you should remember that no single ingredient could be your ultimate solution for all your skin needs. You should look for other ingredients to include in your skincare routine along with it. And to make the best use of it, and your money, make sure to buy retinol in opaque pumps (no jars or clear bottles, please!) to prevent them from oxidization due to repeatedly exposed to air and light.

I hope I answered all of your questions regarding retinol. If not, please leave your comment in the comment section below, and I will make sure to answer your question ASAP.

If you have enjoyed this blog and found any of the information helpful, please share this post! Add the hashtag #RetinolCreamGuide so that I can thank you 🙂

Copyright/Image 1: / 123RF Stock Photo

Copyright/Image 2: / 123RF Stock Photo

Comments

  1. Great article, Dima! So very informative. I’m off to read your post about lactic acid next!
    Allison recently posted…Kushyfoot Legwear & Ballet Flats: Cushy, Comfy, WarmMy Profile

  2. Gabrielle says

    Thanks for clearing up the confusion about Retinol and AHA. Nice to know that’s one less thing about which I have to worry.

  3. M.Clark says

    This is a very informative post. I did not know I could use my vitamin C serum and my retinol product at the same time, I usually use them in different days. I will give this a try. Thank you for sharing this post.

  4. You have provided some very good information here. I am in need of getting rid of dark spots. I have oily and sensitive skin. My hope is the retinol will not be too irritating but am happy it will dry my skin.

  5. Great info on combining retinol and AHAs. Thanks for that.

  6. Dana Rodriguez says

    I certainly learned a lot about retinol! I also loved that you added you should never skip your sunscreen.I feel that is so important.When I was a teen I wasn’t that concerned about it.Wish I knew then what I know now.Thanks!

  7. Michelle Castagne says

    Great information. I was alternating vit c cream with the retinol cream. Now I can use them at the same time. Thanks!

  8. Great info! I started using an over-the-counter retinol product and have seen some subtle results over the past few months so they can help!

  9. Thank you so much! This is the most informative, easy to read and most importantly easy to understand article about retinol that I have read. It really gives me what I need to know to feel good about trying it.

  10. Marnie G (Derrick Todd) says

    This was very informative. Thank you for clearly explaining the ins and outs of retinol creams. This was very helpfu.

  11. A Williams says

    Thank you very much for this concise, educational write-up. I have searched many sites and articles myself. Reading this has me feeling like the expert I was hoping to be for my skin’s sake.

  12. Retinol vs Retin A – I prefer retinol – but it must be gentle. I now use the Somaluxe Moisturizer which has the right level of balancing anti-aging with moisturizing. It has worked for removing my fine wrinkles and fixed some skin discoloration I had from previous sun damage. What i also like about the Somlauxe Moisturizer is that it has Hyaluronic Acid (WHICH IS A MUST IN A MOISTURIZER) which retains over a 1000 times its weight in water within the cells of skin, making it an excellent face plumper for like a fresh look.

    • Good for you, Trig!
      Yes, you are right about hyaluronic acid, it is a must for most, especially for those who started to notice fine lines or have dry skin.
      Thanks for sharing your experience.

  13. Campbell Mgloria says

    Hey, great share….

    I agree that Retinol is a great solution for most of the skin problems. I am almost 28 and recently discovered that fine lines have started appearing under my eyes. I was really anxious and started searching for eye creams on different websites and I found out that retinol eye creams are best.

    I wasn’t aware of the some of the advantages of retinol that you explained here. Thanks for sharing this informative post. Now I am sure that I have hopped on to a right product.

    Keep sharing more….
    Campbell Mgloria recently posted…SkinMedica TNS Eye Cream 3-PackMy Profile

  14. Christian Milano says

    This is great share..
    Retinol is a magical thing that can improve the appearance of fine lines and deep wrinkles.
    I personally is totally satisfied from Wrinkle Resurfacing cream as it renew the look of your skin without harming skin’s surface layers. Your skin will not only look younger and more vibrant, but will also feel dramatically smoother.
    🙂

  15. g. west says

    A few years ago Revlon had a facial moisturizer with both Alpha Hydroxy and Retinol. I believe the retinol was 5%, not sure. But it was the best facial cream I have ever found – it erased fine lines and helped the appearance of my skin tremendously. The texture of the cream was very good, it went on smoothly and had a silky feel to it. I loved it, but had a difficult time finding it and when I did I would buy several. After a couple of years Revlon just stopped making it. And I’ve not been able to find anything comparable, but after reading your article, I think I will try mixing my own.

  16. Joanna says

    Does all this information go for
    Retinol and AHA “serums” as well as creams?

    • Yes, it does. You should start slow and pick serums that contain hyaluronic acid; this will cause less dryness to your skin.
      Always start slow and make sure to apply a sunscreen.

  17. Maritza says

    Great article! I have done my own research and I know that your info is accurate! But this was put together nicely and will forward it to friends! Thanks!

  18. Joan Schuller says

    re article: #Retinol/Cream Guide
    Good info
    Do you know of a cream that contains both alpahydroxy and retinol
    Thanks!

    • I think such cream will me so drying to your skin.
      I prefer using two products to control the dosage I apply to my skin, if any causes irritation, I will then apply it less frequently.
      I am currently using I have also used

  19. Vanessa says

    Thank you so much for your article! Helped me out a lot on my new Retinol venture. 🙂

  20. Victoria says

    Isn’t salicylic a BHA, not an AHA?

  21. Glad you mentioned diet. When women ask me how I keep my skin so smooth, I say it’s a combination of the following:
    1. Genetics
    2. Diet
    3. Sunscreen & skincare
    4, Exercise

    Cell regeneration requires amino acids. The body synthesizes all of the required amino except nine. Those nine are referred to as essential amino acids as they must come from food.

    I’ve been going to dermatologists for more than 30 yrs. Only a couple talked about the importance of diet and good skin. The majority of people want a quick fix in a jar. Unfortunately both the medical and cosmetics industries are more than happy to sell us a myriad of supposedly miracle cures for wrinkles.

    Good skin doesn’t happen from a jar. Genetics and diet are major contributing factors.

  22. Ann Agalab says

    Is it okay to use retinol serum then top it off with retinol moiaturizer as well in the evening?

    • Too much retinol may irritate your skin and make it dry. If your skin can stand that much of retinol, it is fine. But if your skin became dry and irritated you should use retinol less often.

  23. Kristen says

    If you are using a retinol serum at night (I personally love Kypris, Moonlight Catalyst), can you use a retinal cream on top as well or is that too much? Or is it one or the other? Also, what are your personal favorite brands?

  24. I am a Nigerian lady with black skin and I bought Retin-A of 0.05 percent with the intention of using it on my face .I have two different moisturizer to use it with, but I don’t know which one to choose. I Have St Ives Naturally Indulgent moisturizer with coconut milk and orchard extract, and Jergens Original scent Cherry almond moisturizer. Which one of the two do you suggest I use with RetinA that make me reap the benefits of Retin A and will not darken my skin.

    • Hi Ayo,

      Do any of these moisturisers has an SPF? If not, I would suggest you purchase a sunscreen and use it daily to protect your skin from the formation os sunspots.
      You can also use either moisturiser that you have at night and the sunscreen in the morning. Retinol will make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so you should make sure you protect your skin properly.

  25. Sion Jesse says

    I actually did start using tretinoin at age 11 for rosacea and “adult acne” (which was my diagnosis despite my age, I guess the dermatologist could tell?). For some reason, the dermatologist was sure I needed it but prescribed me the cream! I started out with 0.05%. The cream formula is not great for acne and oily skin, as you mentioned in your piece.

    Now I’m 28 and I use retin-a micro gel 0.1% every day, for that same diagnosis of adult acne. I do still often have 1 or 2 deep cysts that would horrify most people to have on their face, but they heal within 3-7 days now and the rest of my skin is very clear and comfortable. In the past, it would take 3 weeks for each acne cyst to heal, so I would accumulate them all over every inch of skin on my face.

    Anyway! There is a reason for some teens to use it. I know they specifically market Epiduo to teens–it’s tretinoin and benzoyl peroxide in one product. But I agree that most teens primarily need sunscreen, maybe mattifying moisturizers and a zinc oxide and mica based powder for further oil control and sun protection. Just something I thought might be worth mentioning.

    That’s all!

    • Hi Sion,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to read my post and write an informative comment.

      Also, thank you for sharing your story!

      It is good to know that you sought help by visiting a dermatologist early enough, not all teens do that, and the results of ignoring the early signs of acne could be so bad.

  26. I actually did start using tretinoin at age 11 for rosacea and “adult acne” (which was my diagnosis despite my age, I guess the dermatologist could tell?). For some reason, the dermatologist was sure I needed it but prescribed me the cream! I started out with 0.05%. The cream formula is not great for acne and oily skin, as you mentioned in your piece.

    Now I’m 28 and I use retin-a micro gel 0.1% every day, for that same diagnosis of adult acne. I do still often have 1 or 2 deep cysts that would horrify most people to have on their face, but they heal within 3-7 days now and the rest of my skin is very clear and comfortable. In the past, it would take 3 weeks for each acne cyst to heal, so I would accumulate them all over every inch of skin on my face.

    Anyway! There is reason for some teens to use it. I know they specifically market Epiduo to teens–it’s tretinoin and benzoyl peroxide in one product. But I agree that most teens primarily need sunscreen, maybe mattifying moisturizers and a zinc oxide and mica based powder for further oil control and sun protection. Just something I thought might be worth mentioning.

  27. Jenny - Support Your Beauty says

    Hi Dima,

    Thanks for sharing this informative post. I buy skincare products with retinol for anti-aging because I read a lot of information that retinol is very effective. I am using natural and organic products for anti-aging but don’t have any retinol, so I guess that result takes a lot of time. I’ll come to visit again next time with your other posts.

  28. Savita Singh says

    Which retinal cream is best for 45 yr old.Can u please name it.And also day cream which contain vitamin C.Your article is really very informative regarding retinol.

    • There is no one brand that I can name for you; it depends on where you live and the choices you have in your local market.
      I would suggest that you visit the nearest pharmacy and ask for the options they have. Over-the-counter retinol creams that you could find in the supermarket are less effective, and mostly stuffed with chemicals and parabens, so please read the labels before you buy any.

  29. Hoimonti says

    Hi Dima,
    Not sure if my commwnt got posted. Sk poating again.
    Can you please name some retinol, vit c, aha, and lactic acid prducys available on amazon?
    I have never used any, and I don’t want ro burn my wallet trying expensive products ghat don’t do the work. Some recommendations will be really helpful. Ghanks!

  30. Frian Foster says

    Great post! Your idea is very helpful and very informative, it also explains everything clearly. Thanks for sharing your idea. I want to share my blogs too about anti-aging, just visit my profile to see my blogs.

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