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Retinol - A Magical Wand to All Skin Woes?

Published on Nov 11, 2022 and last reviewed on Nov 25, 2022   -  6 min read


Retinol gives a fresh and glowing appearance to the skin. To know more about how it works, its side effects, usage, and precautions read below.

What Is Retinol?

Retinol is a type of retinoid that belongs to the class of Vitamin A. The fat-soluble organic compound is the gold standard for its anti-aging and skin-cleaning benefits. It alters the behavior of the aged cells and makes them appear more youthful. Retinol is available in various forms like a liquid serum, gels, cream, and emollient, which can be applied topically on the skin. Retinoids may be available over the counter and with a prescription.

What Is Retinol Used to Treat?

Retinol is used to treat chronic skin conditions like

  • Acne - A condition in which the dead cells and oils from the glands block the hair follicles of the skin. It often leads to bacterial invasion resulting in inflammation. Blocked pores can also cause blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and cysts. Combining Retinol with an antimicrobial helps to improve the efficacy of acne treatment.

  • Anti-Aging - Retinol helps reduce and slow skin aging, which may occur due to external factors like ultraviolet light exposure, smoking, and pollution. It helps to reduce visible signs of aging skin, like dark spots, wrinkles, or fine lines. Retinol increases the production of collagen in the skin and helps to make the skin look plump.

  • Improves Skin Texture - Retinol improves skin texture and tone by reducing unevenness and brightening the skin. Retinol therapy improves pigmentation and clears the complexion in all skin types.

  • Treatment of Keratosis Pilaris - Retinol treats rough and bumpy skin caused by keratosis pilaris as it thickens the deeper skin layers and enhances the ability of the skin to retain water.

  • Protection of the Skin - Retinol also protects against skin damage from pollution. It minimizes scars and pores.

  • Minimizes Scars - Use of Retinol helps reduce scars from acne. Retinol is used in various beauty and skincare products.

How to Use Retinol?

It is recommended to use Retinol after age thirty as the natural production of collagen starts decreasing in our body. In addition, it may be prescribed to treat acne in teenagers.

Doing a patch test when using Retinol for the first time is advised to avoid adverse reactions. It is applied once a week after cleansing the face. It should be applied in small amounts of 0.25 milligrams to 0.5 milligrams with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides to keep the skin hydrated, preferably at night. It can take up to six months to show results and differences in conditions like acne. Retinol preparations should be stored at room temperature, away from light and moisture, and should not be exposed to heat. It is advised to be kept away from children and pets.

How Does Retinol Work?

  • Acne - Retinoids are made up of small molecules that go deep beneath the outer layer of the skin and stimulate the production of more collagen and elastin. It exfoliates the outermost layer, the epidermis, to remove dirt, dead skin, and oil from the pores. It will reduce acne and scarring over some time.

  • Wrinkles and Anti-Aging - Retinoids help in collagen production and soften wrinkles and fine lines. It stimulates new blood vessels, which helps to fade the age spots and smoothens the skin texture.

  • For Skin Texture - Retinol reduces fine lines and rough patches of skin by increasing collagen production and improving skin color by stimulating the blood vessels.

  • Overall Appearance - Retinol also helps to normalize the functions of oil glands and their follicles to give a youthful, glowing appearance.

When Will Retinol Start Working?

The average time to show the effect of Retinol may be up to ten weeks. However, it may take up to three months to show results when used once weekly. The time taken to see results depends on skin types, the product's dosage, and how much product is used. It should be taken as most prescribed and can lead to disastrous results.

What Is the Right Age to Start Using Retinol?

There are no set rules on when to start using Retinol. However, it is best to start by thirty for anti-aging purposes because collagen and elastin production slows down. It is recommended to avoid using Retinol at an early age since the skin is naturally metabolically active. In addition, introducing Retinol could cause overstimulation and inflammation.

The available over-the-counter Retinol is used for mild acne, but people with frequent breakouts may require a prescription. Prescription Retinoids like oral Isotretinoin and topical tretinoin are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - approved for ages 12 and above.

Can Retinol Be Used With Other Skin Care Products?

Not combining Retinol with other potentially irritating ingredients such as alpha or beta hydroxy acids or other over-the-counter exfoliators and scrubs is not recommended. Instead, it is best to use it with a good moisturizer that can hydrate the skin and reduce the risk of irritation from Retinol.

Side Effects Can Be Seen with Retinol:

Retinol may show some signs of irritation that include,

  • Dryness.

  • Redness.

  • Itchiness.

  • Hyperpigmentation in dark skin.

  • Peeling of skin.

  • Scaly patches.

Less common side effects include,

  • Eczema flare-ups (inflammation of the skin).

  • Skin discoloration.

  • Swelling.

  • Stinging.

  • Blistering of the skin.

Who Should Avoid Using Retinol?

  • Sensitive Skin - People with sensitive skin conditions like Rosacea should be cautious when using Retinol as it may cause redness and give a spider vein look.

  • Sunlight - Retinol makes our skin more sensitive to ultraviolet rays, and exposure to direct sunlight can decrease efficacy.

  • Pregnancy - Use of Retinol is contraindicated during pregnancy as it increases the risk of a condition called” fetal retinoid syndrome."It is advised to stop using Retinol one month before trying to get pregnant.

  • Breastfeeding Women - It is advised to limit the use of Retinol while breastfeeding as the medicine is absorbed in the bloodstream and passes into the breast milk.

  • Eczema and Rosacea -Retinol in people with active eczema or Rosacea (redness of skin associated with small, red, pus-filled bumps on the face) may further aggravate the condition and may be avoided.

What Medications Interact With Retinol?

The following care is taken if you take any of the following medications.

  • Tetracycline - Using Retinol with Tetracycline may increase the risk of developing pseudotumor cerebri (a condition in which the brain swells around the optic nerve).

  • Antacids - Retinoid products should not be used with antacids, such as those containing aluminum, calcium, or magnesium, as they may decrease the absorption and effectiveness of the drug.

  • Anticoagulants - Care must be taken while mixing anticoagulants such as Warfarin, Apixaban, or Dabigatran, as it may increase the risk of bleeding.

  • Cholesterol-Lowering Medications - Medicines such as Colestipol and Questram may reduce the body's ability to absorb vitamin A and lead to lower levels in the blood.

  • Doxorubicin - Vitamin A may enhance the action of Doxorubicin, is used to treat cancer, and should be given with caution.

  • Neomycin - Antibiotics such as Mycifradin may reduce the body's ability to absorb vitamin A, especially when taken in large doses.

  • Omeprazole - The medication used for heartburn may influence the absorption and effectiveness of beta-carotene supplements.

  • Other Retinoids like Acitretin, Bexarotene, and Tazarotene - Taking two retinoids together may increase side effects such as increased itching, flakiness, redness, or sensitivity of the skin.

  • Orlistat - The medicine is given for weight loss and can prevent the body from absorbing fat and calories. They may also prevent the body from absorbing enough vitamin A.

  • Topical Aminolevulinic Acid - The combination should be avoided as it increases toxicity of one another by pharmacodynamic synergism and causes an increased photosensitivity effect.

  • Topical Clascoterone - Combining Retinol with topical Clascoterone can cause excessive dryness and irritation to the skin.

To minimize skin irritation, it is advised to avoid using Retinol with other scrubs and exfoliators.


Retinols are known to have miraculous effects on aging and acne-prone skin and are the best choice for all skin types. However, they can be irritating initially and may take time to show visible results.

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Last reviewed at:
25 Nov 2022  -  6 min read




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