retinol 101

retinol 101

Retinol is a retinoid – a form of Vitamin A – its hands down the industry’s gold standard ingredient for reversing the signs of skin aging. It has the power to help accelerate skin renewal and is most recommended for ageing skins to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and age spots for firmer, smoother and more even-toned skin. Retinol can also help reduce the appearance of acne by helping prevent dead skin cells from clogging pores.

why is retinol used?

Skin aging occurs for several reasons – research suggests up to 50% of visible signs of skin aging come from our exposome. Your exposome includes factors such as climate, UV exposure, pollution, sleep, diet and stress. These factors can be healthy or unhealthy but a chronically unhealthy exposome can accelerate skin aging beyond what our DNA alone would dictate. In addition to this, as skin ages, cell turnover and collagen production slow down. Visible signs of skin aging (dark spots, fine lines, wrinkles, etc.) appear because our skin’s natural defense mechanisms weaken due to slower cell renewal and skin recovery. Retinol is an excellent treatment choice for premature skin aging with its ability to accelerate skin renewal.

how does retinol work on skin?

Retinol encourages skin cell turnover and renewal. This gives skin a smoother, more even-toned appearance. To tolerate retinol, skin often has to build up what are called ‘retinoid receptors’ first. These receptors are proteins that are naturally found in skin, and they help retinol do its work. Skin can build retinoid receptors through controlled exposure, which is why it’s often recommended to start slowly with retinol products and build up to higher concentrations.

benefits of retinoids

  • Increases cell turnover and accelerates skin renewal
  • Effectively evens out discoloration
  • Smoothing damage that occurs during skin aging
  • Help to decrease the amount of collagen breakdown from sun exposure
  • Stimulate the production of new collagen

types of retinol

Retinol is a retinoid, which is an umbrella term for the entire family of Vitamin A derivatives – ranging from relatively gentle over-the-counter products to potent prescription treatments. Retinoids come in many forms; retinol, retinaldehyde, and retinoic acid, to name a few.

Regardless of which one you use, it’s important to note that enzymes in the skin convert all retinoids into retinoic acid. The more closely related a retinoid is to retinoic acid, the more quickly your skin will utilize it. At Dermalogica we formulate with either retinol esters or retinol to reduce the risk of skin irritation and maintain optimum skin health.

retinoic acid

Retinoic acid is a type of retinoid that is available through a prescription in forms such as isotretinoin but has the most potential for skin irritation.


Retinol is the strongest retinoid available without a prescription. While still highly effective, retinol is about 20% weaker than retinoic acid and is slowly converted into retinoic acid by the skin. This also means there is less skin irritation than with retinoic acid.

retinyl esters

Retinyl esters like retinyl palmitate and retinyl propionate are the mildest retinoids. They take longer to convert to retinoic acid and carry a minimal risk of skin irritation. Learn more about our Retinol Clearing Oil - our comprehensive breakout treatment for an ageing skin with retinol and salicylic acid in one soothing oil for clearer, more vibrant skin overnight.

microencapsulated retinol

Dermalogica formulates with microencapsulated retinol, which helps stabilize the retinol to ensure maximum potency. Microencapsulated retinol also creates an invisible shield on the skin’s surface to help reduce moisture loss, which is critical for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Try Age Reversal Eye Complex to target the eye area.

how to use retinol

  • Begin using retinol gradually: slowly building up your skin’s tolerance helps avoid and reduce irritation. Start by using it once every week, then every other day, then ultimately every day
  • Apply retinol at night to avoid irritation from sun exposure
  • During the day, always use sunscreen to help protect your skin against sun exposure
  • Avoid other exfoliants unless they are designed to be used with retinol in the same product and your skin therapist/doctor says it’s okay
  • Dynamic Skin Retinol Serum is a high-dose retinol serum that features a 3.5% Retinoid Complex + soothing Squalane to minimize the appearance of pores, smooth texture for softer skin, even tone, and reverse the look of wrinkles.

Make sure you’re choosing the right product by speaking to a Dermalogica Expert today, to understand how your lifestyle choices may be affecting your skin. In addition, try our Face Mapping feature for a professional skin analysis.

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