What Is Retinol? Here’s Why You Should Be Using It

by Stephanie Montes

When marketing campaigns, TV commercials and beauty ads all claim to use the best ingredients, it’s no wonder that we all feel overwhelmed by the chemical words on product labels. Chances are that by now you’ve heard of retinol, but we bet you’re still not exactly sure what it does, right? To create this introductory guide, we tapped Dr. Howard Murad for all the information you need on the mystery ingredient.


The Retinol Rundown

"Retinol is a pure form of the Vitamin A your skin uses naturally in its regeneration and repair cycle. Its power to renew makes it the most dermatologist-recommended anti-aging ingredient. The benefits of retinol include a visible reduction in the appearance of wrinkles, and dramatic improvements in texture, tone and radiance."

"It's possible to use a face treatment, eye treatment and moisturizer with retinol all at the same time, if the level is such that skin is able to tolerate the layering. You also want to make sure that the formulas contain additional soothing and barrier-supporting ingredients to help mitigate flaking, redness and irritation. It’s important to not over-do it, and gradually increase use over time."

"Studies have shown that retinol can make skin more sensitive to the sun. I always recommend that my patients use a broad spectrum SPF, regardless of one’s skincare regimen."

"Retinol is great for people of any age—it’s an effective preventive measure for people in their 20s and 30s, and it can also be used to correct the signs of aging, if you're older. Women who are pregnant should consult their physicians before using retinol."

"Traditional forms of retinol can cause discomfort to the skin, including redness, irritation, dryness and flakiness. This can be one of the biggest drawbacks with traditional retinol. It can often take at least four weeks to see noticeable improvement. Prescription retinol treatments usually take more than four weeks to show any results."

"Retinol never hits a point of plateau—users can continue to reap the benefits of retinol when it's used regularly. Retinol is an excellent choice for preventing premature signs of aging, as well as treating what’s visible. Continued use will help keep skin firm and evenly toned, and it visibly reduce lines and wrinkles."

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