Ingredient Focus: Retinol
Plumper, firmer skin with less fine lines and diminished pores? Yes, this sounds like the skin of
everyone’s dreams, but I’m talking about retinol.
Retinol has become a major skincare buzzword in recent years, and still one that still seems
misunderstood and confusing.
To really improve your skin, you need to get down to the ingredients- and especially get to know
ones like retinol. Ingredients are what gets results.
If you’re concerned about wrinkles, uneven skin tone, texture and pores, then this one’s for you.
Which, I think, covers almost all of us.
However, retinol is not one to be messed with. Amazing for so many skin treatments, but use it
incorrectly and you could cause damage.
I spoke to Judy Hill, skin specialist and owner of Posh Beauty to put together the ultimate
cheat-sheet. She really knows her stuff, so take note.
What is retinol:
Retinol is a retinoid, which are products derived from Vitamin A. Vitamin A occurs naturally in
our skin and builds proteins like collagen and elastin.
What does retinol do?
“The main function of retinol is to speed up cell turnover.” Judy says.
“It’s got lots and lots of benefits. It increases collagen production, helps to exfoliate the skin,
give a much smoother appearance, improve uneven skin tone, uneven texture and address
Retinoids can help treat acne, blackheads and clogged pores by exfoliating the outermost layer
of skin, the epidermis, which unclogs those pores.
“Retinol speeds up the cell reproduction. So it stimulates fibroblast cells which make collagen
and elastin, which are responsible for skin cell turnover and the skin’s hydration.”
“So, to speed that up, will somewhat restore a youthful appearance to the skin.”
There’s no surprise it’s most commonly referred to as the golden ingredient for anti-ageing, as it
can lessen the appearance of lines, visibly plump the skin, promote skin renewal and reverse
the effects of sun damage.
What age should you start using retinol?
“You can use retinol at any age, it’s never too late to start and it’s really good to start early.”
Judy starts to explain.
Believe it or not, starting around 25, we begin to lose 1% of our collagen a year. So what are we
“With the main function of retinol being cell turnover, that doesn’t really slow down until your
mid-twenties, early thirties.”
“Having said that, retinols and retinoids can be prescribed for those suffering with acne, so you
might start a bit younger if that’s the reason.”
Is retinol suitable for all skin types?
“Absolutely yes it is.” Judy says immediately. “Dry, breakout prone, oily, ageing- everyone can
use retinol and see a benefit.”
And of course, the obvious recommendation for maturing skin and those with
“Even a sensitive skin can use retinol. You do need to introduce it gradually, make sure you're
using a lower dosage and that the skin is really moisturised when you use it.”
“You wouldn’t apply retinol to a sensitised skin, so a skin that has a compromised barrier. If you
were seeing a skin therapist or esthetician, they could start you on a regime of reinforcing your
skin’s natural barrier and making sure your skin is as robust as it can before introducing retinol.”
How to use retinol in your routine
“In your routine it’s really important you should only ever use a retinoid at night.” Judy explains.
This is because retinol can make your skin more sensitive to sun damage- which can have a
lasting impact. We all know SPF is a daily essential anyway, but it’s an absolute must when
“You should use it after cleansing and before other products and moisturising. Don’t use it
around the eyes and you absolutely must use sun protection during the day.”
One thing you might not have known, is that to really get the most out of your retinol is to use it
alongside a Vitamin C.
“Think of it like retinol is a factory owner, getting the production to speed up those lovely new,
youthful cells and Vitamin C as the ingredients the skin needs to create them.”
“A skin with retinol without Vitamin C is like that factory working 24/7 but without the materials it
needs to make sure it keeps up with the extra production.”
If you’re new to retinol, start with the lowest cosmetic strength (0.25) and use it at night once a
week. Then 2 non-consecutive nights a week and build your tolerance up to alternative
Slow this down if you find redness or dryness. Using too much can even cause breakouts.
Also, Judy suggests dropping your retinol percentage during warmer months.
The best retinol products: