Thursday 3 November 2022

What The F*** Is Retinol?!

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and is considered to be one of the key ingredients in the fight against ageing.

Retinol is actually a weaker form of tretinoin (aka retinoic acid); the acid form of vitamin A. Tretinoin is highly effective at treating acne and acute promyelocytic leukaemia. It has also been used as a powerful treatment for skin ageing. Tretinoin is so powerful that it is only available on prescription. However, its excellent skin benefits lead scientist to create retinol, a lighter, less aggressive form of tretinoin that can be used in over-the-counter beauty products.

Retinol has since become a highly sought-after beauty ingredient as it has been proven to stimulate cell renewal and cell turnover in the stratum corneum (top layer of skin), boost collagen production, unclog pores, and help to reduce pigmentation.

Retinol, and of course tretinoin, works well because skin cells contain retinoid receptors that help regulate how the cells functions. Ageing causes these skin cells to behave more erratically and it is the continual use of retinol or tretinoin that helps to normalise them.

However, as fabulous as retinol is, it can cause side effects which include:
  • Dry skin
  • Redness
  • Flaky skin
  • Irritation
  • Skin peeling

It is important to note that these side effects, if they do occur, are often only temporary. However if you would rather not risk it, try using products that contain natural retinol alternatives, like the Clarins Super Restorative Day Cream (£77 Boots). This nourishing and soothing cream features harungana, a natural ingredient that is able to mimic the same benefits as retinol without causing irritation. It treats dryness, skin slackening, loss of density, deep-set wrinkles, and an uneven skin tone.

Anyway, back to retinol. There are a number of great products on the market formulated with this powerful ingredient. Here are a few of my favourites...

Oskia Retinoid Sleep Serum Level 1

Oskia Retinoid Sleep Serum Level 1 is a great option for those wanting to enter the world of retinols. Contains just 0.2% hydroxypinacolone retinoate, a fourth-generation retinoid, that is one of the more gentle retinols on the market. It maintains a firm, plump, youthful, and healthy-looking complexion without causing irritation.

In addition to containing retinol, the Sleep Serum is formulated with pro-vitamin D3 to support skin health, vitamin C to visibly firm and brighten, turmeric to boost skin radiance and tone, and Defiensil™, rich in Omega 3, to soothe and calm. Alaria Esculenta and Rosamox™ firm and hydrate, while co-enzyme Q10 and vitamin E provide anti-oxidant and anti-glycation protection.

The Oskia Retinoid Sleep Serum Level 1 costs £70 and is available from

Avon Anew Anti-Wrinkle Smoothing Serum

Another great option for retinol newbies is the Avon Anew Anti-Wrinkle Smoothing Serum.

Containing 0.1% pure retinol, this lightweight serum reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles without causing irritation. It stimulates collagen production and protects its fibres, increasing the skin’s firmness and elasticity. And what’s more, it reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation, contributing to a more even skin tone.

The Anew Anti-Wrinkle Smoothing Serum is dermatologist tested and suitable for all skin types. It costs £25 and is available from Avon.

PCA Skin Intensive Age Refining Treatment

For those looking for something a little stronger, I recommend the PCA Skin Intensive Age Refining Treatment. Containing a highly potent 0.5% pure retinol, it effectively increases collagen and elastin production and helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and refines skin to improve tone and texture.

Alongside reitnol, the treatment features vitamin E to fight free-radical damage and support new skin cell growth, niacinamide to improve barrier function and reduce redness, and orange stem cell extract to improve skin elasticity and firmness. Myristoyl nonapeptide-3 is also included to support skin-strengthening.

Impressively, this advanced retinol formula features a patented 10-hour time-release OmniSome delivery system that stabilises and carries a unique blend of ingredients deeper into the skin, achieving better results.

The PCA Skin Intensive Age Refining Treatment costs £101 and is available from

Indeed Labs Retinol Reface Eye Serum

When it comes to retinol eye creams, I love the Retinol Reface by Indeed Labs.

Gentle on the delicate eye contour, this skin-resurfacing, anti-wrinkle cream boasts retinol ester, a stabilised form of retinol that combines vitamins A and F to combat the appearance of crow’s feet, dark circles, and puffiness. Safe for use on even the most sensitive of skin types, Retinol Reface Eye Serum delivers powerful results without causing irritation!

The weightless hydrating formula features riboxyl to stimulate hyaluronic acid and collagen production, Carotany-Ca to decreases inflammation and irritation, and honey locust seeds extract to instantly minimise the appearance of wrinkles.

Retinol Reface Eye Serum cost £24.99 and is available from

Skingredients Skin Protein Anti-ageing Retinoid Serum

Containing vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, antioxidants, a pro-collagen peptide, and tea extracts, the Skingredients Skin Protein Anti-ageing Retinoid Serum is a skincare powerhouse.

Described as a 'go-to youth-preserving serum', this skin savoiur is gentle enough for daily use, but effective enough to deliver visable results. It is designed to treat a wide range of skin concerns, from dullness and fine lines to loss of elasticity, dark circles, blackheads, whiteheads, uneven texture, enlarged pores, and excessive oiliness.

The hero ingredient in this creamy, hydrating, and lightweight serum is retinyl palmitate, the fatty form of vitamin A that’s much gentler on the skin. A pro-collagen peptide is included to reduce the appearance of fine lines wrinkles, while vitamins C and E help to fight free radical damage. Rooibos tea and green tea extracts are also included to nourish and further protect the skin.

The Skingredients Skin Protein Anti-ageing Retinoid Serum costs £44 and is available from

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