How Does Retinol Work on the Skin?

Retinol is one of the best-known skin care ingredients on the market. An over-the-counter (OTC) version of retinoids, retinol is derived (made from) vitamin A and is primarily used to treat mature-looking skin concerns as well as acne.

That said, retinols are not the same products as prescription retinoids, which are more powerful. However, retinol is still the strongest OTC version available, compared with OTC retinoids such as retinaldehyde and retinyl palmate.

Retinol has many potential skin care benefits, but there are side effects to consider, too.

Curious about whether retinol could be a beneficial addition to your skin care routine? Learn more about this key ingredient below.

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is made from vitamin A. It does not remove dead skin cells, as many other products for mature skin do. Instead, the small molecules that make up retinol go deep beneath the epidermis (outer layer of skin) to your dermis.

Once in this middle layer of skin, retinol helps neutralize free radicals. This helps boost the production of elastin and collagen, which creates a “plumping” effect that can reduce the appearance of:

While retinol is also sometimes used to help treat acne as well as related scarring, severe acne is usually treated via a prescription retinoid along with other medications that help target inflammation and bacteria.

Finally, retinol has an exfoliating effect on the skin’s surface that can help improve texture and tone.

Retinol is primarily used to treat the following skin conditions:

  • fine lines
  • wrinkles
  • sun spots and other signs of sun damage, sometimes called photoaging
  • uneven skin texture
  • melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation

To achieve the best results from your retinol-containing skin care product, try using it every day. It may take several weeks until you see significant improvements.

While retinol is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this doesn’t mean it’s free from side effects.

People who use retinols commonly experience dry and irritated skin, especially after using a new product. Other side effects may include:

  • redness
  • itchiness
  • peeling skin

To lessen these side effects, try using your retinol every other night or every third night, and work your way up to using it nightly.

If you continue to experience skin irritation, you may want to talk with a dermatologist. Or better yet, talk with a dermatologist before you start using a retinol product to see if it’s a good idea for your skin.

Less than 10 percent of individuals who use retinols may experience more severe side effects, including:

  • an acne flair up
  • an eczema flare up
  • discoloration of the skin
  • photosensitivity to UV light
  • blistering
  • stinging
  • swelling

Applying retinol 30 minutes after washing your face may also reduce skin irritation.

Your risk for side effects may be greater if you use more than one retinol-containing product at the same time. Read product labels carefully — especially if you’re using a combination of products labeled as “anti-aging” or for acne, which are more likely to contain retinol.

Due to the risk of sun sensitivity, retinols are best applied at night.

Source Health Line. 

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