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What is Retinol?

Retinol is a type of retinoid, a class of ingredient derived from vitamin A. Retinol is gentler than prescription retinoids, such as tretinoin, because it must be converted to retinoic acid by the skin before being used. Retinol has the same effects as prescription retinoids, but works more slowly. Retinol has a variety of benefits, including:

  • Preventing and fighting wrinkles
  • Reducing hyperpigmentation
  • Evening out skin tone
  • Brightening skin
  • Reducing the appearance of rosacea
  • Fighting acne
  • Tightening skin

Retinol is commonly found in over-the-counter topical anti-aging products.

When skin ages the cell turnover rate slows. This means that dead skin cells are on the skin's surface longer, causing a dull, tired appearance. Skin also loses collagen with age, causing the skin to wrinkle, sag, and become thinner. When retinol is applied to the skin it is converted to retinoic acid. Retinoic acid causes the cell turnover rate of your skin to increase and stimulates collagen production. This leads to tighter, plumper, more youthful skin.

Side-Effects of Retinol

Common side effects of retinol include:

  • Redness
  • Dry skin
  • Flakey skin
  • Uncomfortable skin tightness
  • Itchiness

Retinol side-effects generally only last for a short period of time while your skin builds a tolerance for it. Experiencing severe side effects or blistering may be signs of an allergic reaction. If this occurs, discontinue use of retinol and consult a physician.

How to Use Retinol For Skin Tightening

Retinol products should be applied at night because they increase the skin's sensitivity to sunlight. When using a retinol product:

Wash your face

Use a gentle cleanser for this step. Avoid face washes that contain salicylic acid, as it can cause irritation when combined with retinol.

Apply a moisturizer

Applying moisturizer before retinol prevents moisture loss and reduces irritation. Moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid pair well with retinol.

Apply retinol

After your skin has dried, apply a pea-sized amount of retinol to areas prone to
sagging and wrinkling. Applying more retinol than necessary may irritate the skin. Do not apply retinol around the eyes unless the product is specifically formulated for use in that area.

Retinol Tips

Wearing sunscreen daily is especially important when using a retinol, as retinol increases the skin's sensitivity to sunlight.

Skin Damage


  • Avoid waxing any area you apply retinol to, as it could result in skin damage or loss
  • Apply retinol every other night, rather than every night, can reduce the prevalence of side effects during the first couple months of use.

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