Whether you’re a skincare guru or a total newcomer, you’ve likely heard of retinol — but what exactly is it, and how does it work? We’re breaking down what you need to know about this powerhouse product, and helping you to get your best skin ever.

What exactly is Retinol?

Well, that’s a bit complicated: Retinol is both a prescription and a non-prescription ingredient.

Prescription formulas contain the magic ingredient, retinoic acid (also known as Retin-A):

“The main function of retinol is cell turnover and growth, resulting in many benefits ranging from a more even and clear tone to the skin to diminish fine lines and wrinkles” explains our very own Joie Tavernise in an article she’s featured in for Who What Wear

Non-prescription formulas, on the other hand, contain retinol, which is a derivative of Vitamin A. Both ‘Rs’ are considered to be effective formulas, but Retin-A will yield quicker results (biochemically speaking they do the same thing). 

Other “R-based” ingredients such as retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate, however, may be gentler on the skin, but they’re also weaker. 

“Retinol infused skincare is an accessible option for all, with many different variations that work for different skin types and ages. Prescription formulas are very helpful to some, but I think that overall the market is filled with very effective products ranging from mass to luxury with something for everyone.” Joie clarifies.

When you’re shopping for a product, it’s important to know the differences. 

How does it work?

Joie continues to share her knowledge: “When retinol is applied topically, it breaks down into retinoic acid. This acid directly impacts the cell structure in the skin, which stimulates collagen production. In turn, increased collagen reduces the appearance of wrinkles, helps fade dark spots, and evens out tone and texture.”

When should I start using Retinol?

For early prevention, it’s smart to start using a Retinol product when the first signs of aging begin: typically in your 20s. 

However, don’t panic if you didn’t get the memo, “if you didn’t start in your 20s, it’s never too late to find the right retinol product for your individual skin.”

What can I expect from use?

It can take a steady and consistent retinol routine up to 12 weeks for the full effects to show. Keep in mind that if you’re using a weaker retinoid it may not be as effective. However, often times a retinoid for sensitive skin can be used to help a patient work up to stronger retinol once the skin cells have adapted. It can take up to three weeks to push past adverse effects: 

“The most common effect we see from the use of retinol is dry skin. This can be managed by using a hydrating moisturizer to balance out any dehydration and restore a healthy equilibrium to the skin.”

So what now?

As you venture into new products and seek to treat your skin, it’s important to focus on the right regimen and products for you.

Joie goes on to advise the best way to round out your regimen, “[Look for] a vitamin C serum with antioxidants, [and an] SPF applied in the morning to repair the skin while also helping correct past signs of aging.” 

On the Upper East Side, we use SkinMedica. One of our favorite products (that we sell at the JTAV office) is the Skin Medica Retinol Complex, which boasts all the above attributes, including minimizing the appearance of age spots and wrinkles and also improving elasticity to reduce acne scars.

Book your appointment today for a customized skin routine and start your journey to glowing skin. Give us a call: (212) 755-1155.