Why Retinol is A Skincare Game Changer

Here’s a crash course on this buzzy ingredient: it's benefits, uses, and common questions
Reading time 5 minutes

You’ve heard it all around - retinol is a star ingredient in skincare. But if you’re left wondering why everyone is fawning over this wonder ingredient, look no further. Not just an ingredient for anti-ageing, retinol holds numerous benefits, from acne-fighting to skin-brightening, and we’re here to address it all. 

Previously, we touched on a plant-based alternative to retinol, Bakuchiol, which is a suitable alternative to retinol for those with sensitive skin. But if you are able to take the harshness of this chemical, it’s benefits certainly makes it a worthy ingredient to add into your skincare roster. 

Ahead, we list what it does, and how to use this ingredient properly to achieve the skin of your dreams.

What is it?

Retinol is a form of Vitamin A, an ingredient that is known for promoting skin renewal and enhances collagen production.  It comes in the form of both serums and cream moisturisers.

What does it do?

When retinol is applied onto skin, it is absorbed and broken down into retinoic acid, which is a compound that can impact cell structure- notably, stimulate collagen and the cell renewal process, which can take up to several applications. 

It lessens and prevents the formation of the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and reverses some of the side effects of sun damage.

Who is retinol best for? 

Retinol is best for those with anti-ageing skin concerns, such as for people around and above the age of 30. But, you can start using retinol at a younger age as a preventive anti-ageing measure, though you may not experience as much of its effects as with older skin.

But if you have dry, sensitive, or skin that is prone to redness, it's probably best to be extra careful when using retinol.

Image: content pixie by unsplash

How can we use it?

Given that it's a pretty potent ingredient, make sure to not overuse it as it can cause dryness and irritation. 

Always check the percentage of retinol in a given product. The best way to introduce retinol into your skincare routine is to start with a lower concentration, or working your way up bit by bit. You can start with a lower concentration product, using it every other night or until your skin adjusts.

 And if you experience any redness or peeling when switching to a higher dose, be sure to lower the concentration or limit your retinol usage. 

Also, retinol is best applied at night, as it is photosensitive, so sunlight might diminish its power. Otherwise, be sure to apply an SPF sunscreen as the last step of your skincare routine.

Can you apply retinol and Vitamin C at the same time?

Both are superpower skincare ingredients in their own right (seriously, you should check out Vitamin C’s skincare benefits if you haven’t already), so it may only seem natural to assume that combining both ingredients will give your skin the powerful boost it needs. But the answer is not as simple as that, and it is because of both the ingredient's pH and solubility. Here’s why:

  • Retinol has a higher pH, whilst Vitamin C has a lower pH. When combined together, this will lower the retinol’s pH and raise the Vitamin C’s pH, causing both to become less effective.

  • Given that retinol is oil-soluble, whilst Vitamin C is water-soluble, they don’t mix well, and will not be able to penetrate your skin as effectively.

So, how do we combine them? Try applying them at different times of the day: vitamin C in the morning, and retinol in the night, or on alternate nights, or even just 30 minutes apart - just remember to start with vitamin C first, as that has the lower pH of the two.

Ready to give it a go? Here are some recommended products...


Bio Retinoid Anti-Ageing Concentrate, $79

This formula contains a potent anti-ageing blend of 100% nature derived Vitamin A, Pro-Vitamin A and Retinoid Analogue to minimise wrinkles, combat blemishes and age spots, with the addition of Tocopherol (from Vitamin E) to fight free radicals, and omegas 3& 6 to repair and promote healthy cell renewal. Use it overnight to wake up to instantly refreshed skin.

The Ordinary

Retinol 1% in Squalene, $15.90

Coming in 1% retinol, this serum by The Ordinary packs quite a punch, so be sure to check out it’s other concentrations in 0.2% or 0.5% if you’re just starting out. Retinol here is mixed with squalene, an emollient which helps to moisturise skin while the retinol works its magic.

Sunday Riley

Luna Sleeping Night Oil, $83

This retinol rich face oil is packed with anti-inflammatory extracts to calm and soothe together with the anti-ageing benefits of retinol. Coming in a dark blue colour, thanks to its blue tansy extract, it slowly disappears as you massage into skin, also helping to soothe while balancing sebum production. Expect to wake up to smoother, glowing soft skin.

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