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Everything you need to know about Retinol

What is Retinol?

Retinol is one of the most powerful anti-aging ingredients to help re-texturize skin and dramatically reduce wrinkles. Retinol belongs to a group of chemicals called retinoids, a type of compound that’s derived from vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for supporting your vision, skin, healthy bone growth and your immune system. As an antioxidant vitamin A helps skin to repair, stay moist, and produce the enzymes that stabilise the production of collagen.

Despite the overwhelming consensus amongst dermatologists that retinol is possibly the most effective solution for visibly reversing the signs of aging, many still don’t know about this transformative ingredient. There are very few skincare ingredients that are supported with such convincing scientific research as retinol. Decades of research prove its remarkable ability to strengthen the structure of skin and visibly reduce lines and wrinkles. Since the 1960’s when the skincare benefits of retinol were first recognised, scientists have worked to incorporate it into products targeted to treat signs of aging and acne.

Introducing the Vitamin A family

Retinoids is the umbrella name for a class of compounds that encompasses retinol, retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR) and a host of others, that are derivatives of vitamin A. A detailed description is set out below

Retinoic Acid (also known as tretinoin)

is the “biologically active” form Vitamin A. When applied to the skin, the body can utilise the retinoic acid immediately without having to first metabolise vitamin A, and for this reason it’s classified as a drug and a prescription is required. Its often used in the treatment of acne. These work as an irritant, resulting in rapid turnover of skin cells. They work on fine lines and wrinkles because they stimulate collagen. However, the common side effects include dryness, redness, irritation, and skin peeling as well as making skin more sensitive to the sun.


In an attempt to tame the wildness of retinoic acid, researchers revisited its milder parent molecule, Retinol, an effective alternative. Retinol is one of the most widely researched and proven skincare ingredients available today. Retinol goes on in an inert form and is only activated by your own skin. Your cells receive the retinol, hang on to it until they’re ready, and then convert only what they need into retinoic acid. This reduces the negative effects of retinoic acid such as peeling, sun sensitivity, redness. Retinol provides the same fundamental results, it just takes a little longer to get there. Topically it boosts collagen, increases skin thickness (which in turn lessens the look of wrinkles) combats acne, and can also reduce sun damage. The trouble with Retinol, is that it is a highly unstable ingredient. At Ausceuticals, we use advanced microencapsulation technology in our Retinol Serum to stabilise Retinol and ensure its maximum potency. This approach protects the Retinol from degrading as soon as it is exposed. When microencapsulated Retinol is applied to skin, its multi-layer liquid crystalline microsphere time-releases the active Retinol, which penetrates deep into the skin to deliver superior results.

Retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate

The most common and mildest form of vitamin A, these work primarily as antioxidants and convert to retinol. They are more stable in light and are less irritating than retinol, but not as effective.

Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR)

HPR is an ester of retinoic acid and works in a similar way to tretinoin (retin–A) minus the irritation profile. Because HPR is an ester of Retinoic Acid – the active form of Retinol, instead of an ester of Retinol, it doesn’t have to go through the same conversion process to be used directly by skin. You can find HPR in Beauty Sleep

How retinol works

Retinol is an extremely effective cell-communicating ingredient, which means it can literally connect to almost any skin cell and tell it to behave like a healthy, younger skin cell.

As an Antioxidant, Retinol can interrupt the free-radical damage process that causes skin to look and act older. This action helps prevent wrinkling and increases collagen production.

Retinol is effective at managing acne, as well as improving discolorations and wrinkles from sun damage. This ingredient is proven to visibly reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles while strengthening the health of skin.

What will Retinol do for your skin?

  • Improve skin tone and reduce dullness:

As we age, the body naturally slows down its production of new skin cells. The result? This build-up of dead skin contributes toward a dull, uneven complexion. When applied topically, retinol encourages the shedding of dead skin while stimulating the production of new cells – both essential for maintaining a fresh, youthful complexion.

  • Brighten dark circles and age spots:

The occurrence of dark under-eye circles also increases with age. What’s to blame? First, the skin beneath the eyes is very thin, revealing broken capillaries and dark, oxygen-poor blood that pools beneath the eyes due to poor circulation. When applied under the eyes, retinol improves circulation to strengthen these vessels and improve the flow of fresh, oxygen-rich blood to this area, making the skin brighter and circles less noticeable. ​​

  • Increase cell turnover:

Since the skin relies on blood to supply cells with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly, eliminate waste and generate new skin, retinol encourages the delicate skin around the eyes to thicken, which also helps conceal dark circles. Elsewhere on the face, increased cell turnover helps to both prevent and brighten dark spots, or hyperpigmentation, caused by the sun.

  • Prevent deep wrinkles:

By encouraging new cell growth, some studies have shown that retinol can actually cause the deepest layers of the skin to thicken. Since the breakdown of these layers is to blame for deep lines and wrinkles, applying a retinol product can help prevent and treat these aging issues.

  • Helps clear clogged pores​ and improve pore structure

Enlarged pores are created by an accumulation of sebum, which accentuates the pore. Sun damage also affects the pore structure. Retinoids increase skin cell turnover and collagen production, which makes it harder for oil to block pores. And all of that means pores stay clear and appear smaller and breakouts diminish.

  • Smoother, tighter skin:

Retinol’s ability to reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles and saggy skin is one of its most popular benefits. How does this happen? As we age, the body produces less collagen – which are skin-strengthening fibers that keep our complexion tight and supple. Retinol counteracts this decline. By boosting blood flow and cell turnover, retinol also encourages the skin to produce more collagen.

Retinol advice by skin type

  • Oily skin: Look for Retinol products formulated for oily skin.

  • Acneic skin: For mild to moderate adult acne, retinol can diminish blemishes while also tackling the signs of aging.

  • Dry skin: Although Retinol can have a drying effect, those with dry skin don’t have to skip retinol altogether. Most dry complexions can tolerate retinol products formulated with hydrating ingredients. Look for a Retinol product that combines it with moisturising humectants. If your dryness is seasonal, consider beginning retinol formulas or increasing retinol doses during warmer weather months.

  • Sensitive skin: Retinol is essential for all skin types, including sensitive skin. To gradually build up your skin’s tolerance to this ingredient, start with small concentrations, and to apply only small amounts every other night. Look for products formulated for sensitive skin (these often contain soothing ingredients like green tea or vitamin E to calm irritation)

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use Retinol.


  • Retinoids thin the skin. This is not the case at all. In fact, the opposite is true. Retinoids boost collagen production, which leads to thicker and firmer skin over time.

  • Retinol exfoliates skin. Retinol is an antioxidant, and an important skin-restoring ingredient. While retinol can cause a flaking reaction, this is often just a temporary side effect shouldn’t be mistaken for exfoliation. Retinoids work at a much more profound level by affecting gene expression and causing enhanced collagen production, skin smoothing, and an evening of pigmentation.

  • You should stop applying retinoid if your skin gets irritated. This is the one time we will say just push through it. Irritation that flares up after adding vitamin A to your regimen is part of the process. We've seen clinically that after two or three weeks the skin cells adapt to the retinoic acid and begin to tolerate the ingredient. by this the skin may be reasonably flushed, drier-than-usual, lightly peeling skin. If the discomfort is prolonged or unbearable, try buffering it by mixing into a moisturiser or use it once a week. You can also moisturise first, then apply your retinol. Sensitive skin may prefer a microencapsulated form of Retinol or a formulat that includes Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR)

Tips for using Retinol

  • Use only a small amount of the product. Overdoing it could trigger flaking, dryness or redness. Start small and gradually increasing usage of retinol over time.

  • It’s normal for skin to react a little when first using retinol, so don’t be alarmed by mild redness or dryness. To help skin stay healthy, don’t apply retinol every day at first. Skip a day or two between uses, and gradually build up to daily applications, if needed.

  • If you struggle with skin that’s especially dry or sensitive during the cold weather months, consider starting a retinol treatment during the summer.

  • If you have dry skin or notice that retinol has a drying effect on your complexion, follow up your treatment with an intense moisturiser such as a night cream to restore hydration.

  • Retinol treatments take time to work, so don’t expect immediate results. Retinol-based acne products require at least a month before results are noticeable, while anti-aging treatments may take three months to deliver visible effects. Everyone's skin is doifferent, so while some may see results in a few weeks, others may notice it over a longer period.

  • Retinol encourages the skin to shed and replace dead cells. Although this fresh layer of skin will appear brighter and more balanced, it’s also more sensitive to the sun. Always combine your retinol with an SPF lotion the next morning, following use.

  • In addition to making skin more photosensitive, retinol is also prone to breaking down in sunlight. To optimize the efficacy of your retinol treatments, apply them at night.

  • Combining actives – for a power-packed punch, combine Retinol with Niacinamide (B3). Besides decreasing drying or irritating side effects, this combo produces superior anti-aging benefits. Mix them together in the palm of your hand before applying. They will not inactivate each other.

  • For best results, any form of vitamin Retinol should be used in conjunction with other anti-aging products containing rejuvenating ingredients such as antioxidants, skin-repairing ingredients, and different cell-communicating ingredients.

  • Mixing Retinol with acidic products, is a recipe for redness and irritation. Don’t mix acidic products (products with a pH below 3.5) with Retinol. Mixing acids such as BHA (i.e. salicylic acid) or AHA (i.e. glycolic acid/lactic acid) or L ascorbic acid with Retinol neutralises the activity of retinol rendering it far less effective. We recommend using acids (L-ascorbic and AHA’s) in the morning and Retinol (Vitamin A) in the evening.

  • Mixing Retinols and Benzoyl Peroxide. Using retinol and benzoyl peroxide at once can lead to all sorts of problems, from extreme peeling, dryness and redness to blistering and scarring. It's just too much stimulation for skin to handle.

  • Don't apply Retinol just before waxing, and for at least a day or two after waxing.

  • If you plan on having a professional chemical peel, dont use Retinol for at least a few days before and after your peel.

  • Dont expect immediate results. It takes an average of 12 weeks for retinoic acid to produce noticeable changes in the skin. So stick with it for at least that long to see the benefits​.

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