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What is retinol?

One of the most popular and powerful ingredients in topical skincare, retinol has a love-it-or-hate-it reputation. Retinol has been proven to help fight the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and other visible signs of aging and reduce the look of acne in some cases, but some people have trouble tolerating the active ingredient and can’t stick with it due to skin irritation issues. 

Derived from vitamin A, retinol is a type of retinoid that’s available over-the-counter (OTC). (Its sister ingredient retinoic acid is also a retinoid that’s available largely via prescription.) Retinol can be found in a wide variety of OTC products—however specific formulations make a difference in how well those products will work.1

Retinol supports the skin’s natural cell turnover (the pace at which the skin sheds dead cells, which slows down as we age and as we experience sun damage), while strengthening the skin’s natural protective function and helping the skin hold onto water (aka stay hydrated).2 It also supports the skin's natural ability to produce new blood vessels and collagen (a protein that makes your skin look glowing, young and plump).3

The benefits of using retinol include the following: 4,5
  • Reduces the look of large pores
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Promotes a more even skin tone
  • Helps smooth skin texture
  • Makes skin appear more hydrated
  • Helps to prevent clogged pores

Experts agree: Retinol isn’t a one-and-done magic bullet. You need to use it consistently for a few months to see its full potential. Also, some people tolerate the powerful ingredient better than others. Those whose skin is more on the sensitive side should start with a lower concentration of retinol—and perhaps use it every other day or a few times a week—before progressing to a more powerful formulation. That’s why ALASTIN offers Renewal Retinol in both a 0.25 and 0.5 strength.

Because the retinol molecule is highly unstable in the presence of UV light, dermatologists recommend using it only as part of your nighttime routine.6 Also, because retinol may make your skin more sensitive to the sun, it’s extra important to make sunscreen part of your daily routine when using retinol—but, of course, you should be doing that anyway!

Some people do experience side effects, and these may increase with the strength of retinol you use (e.g., prescription formulas may have more side effects than over-the-counter products).

Common side effects include: 7
  • Skin irritation
  • Dryness
  • Flaking
  • Redness
  • Burning/itching

Renewal Retinol was designed with just this issue in mind. Formulated with Oat Extract and Silver Mushroom that help calm and soothe skin with anti-irritants and antioxidants, Renewal Retinol is designed to deliver the all benefits of retinol, minus the side effects.

Yes, you can use retinol with other anti-aging skincare, including products formulated with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and TriHex Technology®. While other products you may choose to use twice a day, retinol should only be used at night. Apply retinol after your other serums (layered thinnest to thickest in consistency) and before moisturizer.

Some studies have shown that retinoids may not be safe for pregnant moms.8 If this is you, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider before incorporating it into your skincare routine.