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What Is Retinol and When Should You Start Using It?

You've probably heard about retinol in ads for skin care products, but just what is this term of which the commercial voice-over speaks? Retinol is essentially the antioxidant vitamin A in its purest form. Because it has a small molecular structure, it easily penetrates into the top layer of the skin, moving down into the elastin and collagen layers. This ingredient works to help stimulate collagen production, increase cellular rejuvenation, and decrease pore size, creating softer, smoother skin. For these reasons, you'll often find retinol in antiaging products like Equilibra Perlabella Anti-Aging Retinol Face Serum ($20), or RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily ($23).

Because of retinol's ability to get the cells a-moving, it's often used to treat acne because it can help loosen clogged pores. Also, due to its exfoliating nature, it is sometimes used in the treatment of keratosis pilaris. One more benefit? It can help even acne scarring and mottled skin tones.

If you protect your skin with sunscreen and an SPF in your 20s, you probably won't even consider using retinol until you're in your 30s. To find out if your skin might benefit from retinol, check with a dermatologist. Otherwise, start out using this vitamin in small doses to see how your skin reacts. And don't forget to wear a sunscreen, as retinol will make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure.


Join The Conversation
dsimon7645 dsimon7645 7 years
If you're interested in trying Retinol, Perlabella is offering a complimentary 9-Day sample of Retinol Face. You do pay $2.95 in shipping, fyi. You can order your sample at You can also view full product information at or follow Perlabella on facebook and twitter for future promtions and coupons. Enjoy!
Beauty Beauty 7 years
Elle67, you should definitely use moisturizer — go for a gentle one without glycolic acid or anything like that. (Your derm should be able to recommend one.) That will help with the redness and peeling. In the morning, you MUST use a moisturizer with SPF 30 — must must must. Be very gentle with your skin, and be patient. In a few months you should be past the peeling and into clearer skin.
erinmariebella erinmariebella 8 years
I'm a 27 year old who has been using Retin A Micro for the past 4 years. My skin looks fantastic and I ALWAYS get compliments on my complexion and i don't even use foundation. Not that 27 is old by ANY means but usually people think I'm in my late teens still. Also, I do not go in the sun except for the obvious walking to my car ;) - and btw this wasnt always the case, I had terrible skin when I was in junior high and has slight acne scarring. Retin A Micro did cause my skin to freak out for the first 2 weeks like it says and yes it got worse BUT I havent had any major issue since and it's been years...
spoiledshirl spoiledshirl 8 years
i'll give it a try
emma-noel emma-noel 8 years
im not even close to my 20s really and ive been meaning to buy it for months but I ALWAYS FORGET 2
actionandy actionandy 8 years
I'm considering RoC - I'm 25 and would like to get an early start, too. Do I use this product all over my face or just spot treat wrinkle-prone areas?
Kelliegrl Kelliegrl 8 years
I used to use Retin-A Micro in high school and it cleared up my skin beautifully. Now in my late 20's I'm using Tazorac gel .10% which is another retinoid and it works even better. There was a little irritation in the beginning when I first starting using it, but my skin adjusted to it and I'm very happy with the texture of my skin. My aunt used Retin-A most of her adult life to control acne/wrinkles, and I swear she doesn't look 60, more like 35.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
Not to answer for you, jennie, but allytta, she can probably just still use the same product! The idea that your skin develops some sort of immunity is untrue for 99.9% of people. Generally, people think their skin has developed an immunity to a product because they are no longer seeing improvement. Lack of improvement doesn't mean that the product is no longer helping with maintenance. Jennie (and others), I commend you for taking charge of your skincare routine so early on in life! It will pay off down the road! Oh, and on the KP front, the treatment from Dermadoctor works miracles! It's a scrub and a lotion. I'm not sure of what ingredients are in each, but the combination works.
Ladytron7000 Ladytron7000 8 years
Retinol is a miracle. It keeps my skin smooth, clear, and firm. Why wait? As for KP on the arms, retinol can get expensive. Try salicylic acid body wash (phisoderm) and a body lotion with serious alpha hydroxies. I like suave vitamin e. (except for the smell, yuck)
Allytta Allytta 8 years
Jenniegirl, what are going to do when you turn 50?
Jenniegirl Jenniegirl 8 years
I am 24 and just started using RoC deep wrinkle serum retinol treatment a month ago. Although I didn't have many wrinkles to start I had read several articles suggesting it's use in your twenties. Overall, in the last month, I have seen improvements in my skin tone and texture. My skin looks even, smooth and refreshed. I suggested everyone use it! I have had very little dryness and no irritation. :)
smaine07 smaine07 8 years
fishbulb- I am wondering the same thing.. I may need to go see a dermatologist and ask about this.. I have tried just about everything else for the KP..
fishbulb fishbulb 8 years
Can i use it on my arms to treat keratosis pilarsis?
Jabbadoo Jabbadoo 8 years
I use retin-a micro every other day (I'm 42) I love it and never had any redness or flaking, but I hear it's a common reaction. It's made my skin look better, and I had pretty good skin to begin with. My only caution for people is to be careful around your brow area, if you get waxed, as it thins the skin. Be SURE to tell your ethestician that you are using it, and they may ask you to hold off using it a few days before your waxing.
Ellenora Ellenora 8 years
I can only use teeny tiny doses of Retinol. I had the worst reaction to Retin-A Micro on file at the board-certified dermatologist I had to see. He had been practicing dermatology over 20 years and he had never seen as awful of a reaction like mine. He just handed me a tissue box the minute he saw me and said he would be crying too if he had a reaction like mine. I did remain acne free for over two years though from the incident.
laurenlanzaosias laurenlanzaosias 8 years
i seriously can't live without this stuff. i have suffered from acne since adolescence. i was put on retin-a by a derm and high school and i HATED it, i was puffy, red, and still had acne. I just recently started using a much, much lower dose, 25%, and i love it. my skin looks great. it peeled a bit a first, but you work your way up to using it every night. you just need a wee little bit and compared to expensive acne treatments and night creams, it is actually a cheaper option.
emalove emalove 8 years
Retinol irritates the crap out of my skin...can't use anything that has it as an ingredient.
Allytta Allytta 8 years
it would nice to hear how old the ladies are, who are using retinol products. i'm 22 and will consider using it only after i turn 30 or 35. my mum is 42 and she still isn't using it - she had like 0 sun exposure her whole life.
blondie829 blondie829 8 years
thanks girls :) i'll give it a shot!
fleurfairy fleurfairy 8 years
*never too early :)
fleurfairy fleurfairy 8 years
I use Roc. I'm only in my twenties, but it's very too early to start preventing wrinkles!
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
And remember a little goes a long way.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
blondie just use it once a week and see how your skin reacts to it.
michlny michlny 8 years
% of retinol definitely matters! I've been using tretinoin (generic of retin-A, Renova, et al) for a few years now and I always get complimented on my skin... I started b/c I met a woman in her 50's with GORGEOUS skin and I asked her secret and that's what she used! You need a prescription from a Derm.
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