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Retinol: Setting the story straight

Much like Emma Stone in ‘Easy A’, retinol has a bit of a scarlet letter vibe surrounding it, and it’s all thanks to the rumour mill. There are a lot of people who think they know what's up, but all the whispers might not be painting an accurate picture. 

Despite some of the rather mixed messages floating around out there, we want to make it clear: we really rate retinol and all the goodness it packs for your skin. And since sharing is caring, and we care about you (awww), we want to share a few reasons why you cannot possibly pass up the chance to add this skincare superstar to your routine ASAP, especially if you're trying to combat some common skin issues.

Read on to learn a bit more about retinol, what it can help you with and how you can seamlessly add it to your day-to-day self-care routine.

First things first...what is retinol and what does retinol do?

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A that can do wonders for your skin. It's what's known as a retinoid, which more or less just means it comes from Vitamin A. But when it comes to retinol versus retinoid, there's a key difference. The term retinoid is generally used to describe prescription-strength products that contain retinoic acid, the most potent form of Vitamin A. Retinol products are gentler and generally don’t require a prescription, but are still potent enough to tackle most skin concerns. This is why retinol has become a key ingredient in many cosmeceutical skincare products that straddle that line between cosmetic grade and pharmaceutical grade.  

Retinol products penetrate the top layer of your skin and travel down into the middle layers of your skin to promote the creation of collagen and elastin – two keys to plumper, firmer skin. 

But that's just one of its amazing powers. Retinol also helps with skin cell turnover, which means it encourages your body to replace older, dead skin cells with fresh new ones. This can help keep your pores clearer by preventing build-up in them. That makes many retinol products quite the triple threat, don't ya think?

Gotcha. So what can retinol help me with?

Retinol can have numerous skincare benefits, but there are two skin concerns it is well-known for helping.


Listen, let's just get it out there that dealing with acne sucks big time. But using retinol for acne can help you tackle those pesky spots in a couple of different ways. For one, it gets rid of dead skin cells and start generating new healthy ones. Through this process, it can improve the appearance of acne scars and pigmentation. What’s more, it can clear out your pores, reducing active acne and leaving your skin ready to drink in other amazing acne and scarring products that can do wonders for your complexion.

Try applying Aspect Retinol Brulee Night Serum before you flick off the light and see if you spot (no pun intended) any differences in your complexion. It's a prime example of why retinol is good for acne, as it helps shuffle along old skin cells to make room for healthy new ones. And, best of all, it keeps working while you get some valuable shut-eye (which is also important for taking care of your skin!)


Retinol is also here to give you a little pep talk when you look in the mirror and get a little too focused on fine lines and wrinkles. It's always ready to calm you down and help you embrace and care for your maturing skin. As mentioned above, one of retinol's superpowers is pumping up the collagen, which can plump up your skin and keep those lines from deepening. That's why retinol has become a go-to ingredient used in fine lines and wrinkles products for anti-ageing. 

One place retinol really shines is in eye care, which, as everybody knows, is a key battleground for lines and wrinkles. Retinol eye creams and retinol serums – like  Medik8 Retinol Eye TR Serum and Murad Retinol Youth Renewal 360 Eye Serum – help breathe new life into the delicate skin under and around the eyes by promoting the natural skin rejuvenation cycle.

Teamwork makes the dream work 

It's not just a kitschy office saying anymore! Retinol is a great team player, willing to combine with other key products and ingredients to great effect. Here are a couple of cosmeceutical combos to consider, and a couple of others you might want to avoid.

BFFs that LOVE to hang:

  • Retinol and hyaluronic acid, which can provide key moisture to balance out some of the drying that can come in the early days of retinol use.
  • Retinol and SPF is another excellent combo, as some analysts say the former can make your skin a bit more sensitive to the sun.
  • Retinol and niacinamide have similar properties, with the latter sometimes able to prep your skin to better accept retinol.

Frenemies that are great on their own but not together:

  • Retinol and Vitamin C can cause skin irritation when layered together. We suggest using Vitamin C in the mornings and retinol in the evenings if you want the benefits of both ingredients without the angry skin. 
  • Retinol and AHAs or BHAs is a similar story. If you want to incorporate retinol and salicylic acid or another exfoliating acid into your skincare routine, it is recommended that you use them on alternate nights.

A few more things to remember…

Now, remember how we said retinol straddles that line between pharmacy grade and cosmetic grade? It's pretty high-octane stuff. And while it's certainly not scary, there are some things to keep in mind when you get started.

One is that you should start slowly. Incorporate it 1-2 nights a week alongside other products you know and trust (such as its teammates we spoke about above!), and gradually build up to more frequent use. A great way to ease your skin into retinol is to mix a drop of it with your moisturiser rather than applying it directly to your face. Hydration is key, so load up on hyaluronic acid, moisturiser and facial oil to avoid the dry, flaky skin that may be experienced when starting out with retinol.

Another side effect of retinol that you may experience is retinol purging in the form of clogged pores and breakouts as your skin gets used to increased cell turnover. Think of this as short-term pain for long-term gain. Purging generally only lasts for 4-6 weeks, but pull back on your retinol usage or consult a dermatologist if you are concerned about the extent of purging or you are experiencing severe irritation. 

Given that retinol works by accelerating the production of new skin cells, your skin is naturally going to be more sensitive and prone to sun damage while using it. Sun damage can also break down the structure of retinol and reduce its effectiveness, so wearing SPF every day is a no brainer, even if you are only using retinol at night. 

And, last but not least, we know that landing on that perfect pregnancy skincare routine can be a bit tricky. Just remember that retinol is a no-no for pregnant women

If you are not sure whether retinol is right for you, we recommend having a quick chat with your dermatologist or GP before introducing it to your skincare routine. 

Now that you have the scoop, check out Oz Hair & Beauty today to amp up your retinol arsenal!

posted by

Annaliese Evans on June 04, 2021



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