Retinol: The Tried-and-True Way to Put Off Botox

Retinol has long been considered to be the gold standard anti-aging molecule. However, there’s definitely an intimidation factor here as you may have heard of irritation, intense shedding, and sun sensitivity. Have no fear! Let’s go through this potent molecule’s resume so everyone can capitalize on this bad boy.

How is retinol anti-aging?

So what can retinol do for you? In a nutshell, retinol increases skin cell proliferation. It's a proven active that can increase epidermal thickness ... goodbye fine lines and wrinkles! As an added bonus, retinol also effectively treats hyperpigmentation and even acne. A proven skincare superstar indeed!

So how do I find a good retinol product?

Like other actives ingredients, choosing the right concentration is key. Retinol is effective 0.1% to 1%, and finding that sweet spot of just enough efficacy without going into full molting mode is the name of the game. If you're new to retinol or are more prone to sensitivity, start on the lower end of this range and only use a few times a week. Allow your skin ample time to adjust before moving up in concentration.

Retinol degrades when exposed to light and oxygen. A good retinol formula should come packed with other antioxidants like vitamin E that help protect the retinol. Support ingredients alone isn't going to cut it. Responsible packaging is also important. The best packaging for retinol products will come in opaque metal tubes or airless pumps that minimize light and air exposure.

By choosing this type of gold standard of packaging and being conscious about how you store it (think vampire friendly cool, dark place), you can make sure your retinol products remain effective throughout their use.

I heard sun exposure is bad when you're using retinol

It’s true that retinols will make you more sensitive to the sun. You definitely wouldn’t want to sabotage all of retinol’s collagen boosting powers by frying these defenseless new baby skin in the sun fryer. Good news! With good sunblock habits, going out in the sun is totally fine. Remember to wear at least a broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen and reapply every two hours. Adding a good, fashionable hat doesn’t hurt either.

Sold! How do I add retinol to my routine?

We recommend using retinol only at night. You will find these retinol day products, like Neutrogena Retinol SPF 30. It’s debated whether or not retinol is safe for day use. But we think this debate really doesn’t need to exist at all since retinol is perfectly effective when used once a day. So we recommend just keeping it in your night routine and save yourself the trouble. We also wouldn’t recommend layering acids with retinol. Not only are the optimal use pH different (acids needs pH under 3.5 while retinol is best between 5, 6), and you also risk putting your cell turnover on steroids. Hello irritation!


The retinoids (vitamin A) category overall takes a little patience and experimentation but for your wrinkle and pigmentation needs, retinol is definitely worth a shot.
  • Retinol fights wrinkles and brightens skin, but comes with a solid history of skin irritation. It is effective from 0.1% to 1%, choose one on the lower end of the spectrum to start if you’re a newbie!
  • Retinol is sensitive to oxygen and light and requires smarter packaging.
  • Retinol makes you sensitive to the sun and requires good sun protection habits.
“But wait! What about other retinoids?” — we read your mind, retinoids post coming up next! It’s totally understandable that retinol is confusing. If we didn’t answer all your questions here, let us know below.

Sources and further reading an amusing study on butt skin, great overview on all the mechanisms of action neutrogena study showing that retinol effective as low as 0.1% old study comparing retinol to tretinoin


what do you all think about the Skinbetter Alpharet…retinoid-aha hybrid?!?

ness December 21, 2020

Many products dont say how much retinol they have. Are there certain products you recommend that are OTC? Or would you recommend getting prescription retinol?

Sofia December 21, 2020

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