Retinol For Dummies

Retinol. Quite possibly the scariest of all skincare ingredients (at least for me). We’ve all heard the horror stories- red, peeling skin, irritation, dryness, etc. So despite this, what has made retinol such a popular powerhouse ingredient? Let's find out shall we? 

To begin with, what is retinol?
Retinoids, which is the umbrella term for all Vitamin A derivatives, like retinol, absorb into your skin and aid in faster cell turnover and collagen production- which gives you amazing benefits like smoothing wrinkles, clearing pores, fading acne scars, and preventing further breakouts. It's truly a magic ingredient. Retinols are basically a more skin-friendly version of stronger retinoids, and are used in mass-manufacturing capacity for over-the-counter products.

Incorporating Retinol into your routine 
Incorporating retinol into your routine requires patience- a lot of it. Because retinol can irritate your skin and cause flare ups if you don’t use it right, or if you use too much at once, start low and slow. Use the lowest concentration of retinol you can find (i.e. retinyl palmitate or retinol) and use it once a week for two weeks, twice a week for two weeks, thrice a week for three weeks, and son on, so you allow your skin to build up a tolerance to it. 

Retinol also makes your sun extra sensitive to UVA and UVB Rays, and sunlight diminishes the power of the product, so make sure you apply it only in your PM routine and always follow up with your SPF the next day (may we suggest FAE Skin’s SPF Juice here- it has SPF 50+ and is amazing, if we do say so ourselves 👀). 

You should also never use any exfoliant, chemical or physical, right before or after retinol- exfoliation is already meant to remove the dead cells from skin, so you don’t want to risk any more irritation with the retinol. 

The best age to start using low strength retinoids is the beginning of your 30s, but you can always start in your mid 20s to get ahead of the curve and for early anti-aging benefits. 

What do you pair it with?
The best products to pair with a retinol for the best results would be a super hydrating moisturiser to balance the effects of the retinol. You can even mix in your retinol with your moisturiser to dilute the product if it's not already in a cream form. And as stated before, always always use sunscreen the next day. You can also add in your Vitamin C products at this stage in your AM routine, once your skin has adjusted to the retinol.  

The products to avoid would be your AHAs and BHAs. So no glycolic acid, no lactic acid, and no mandelic acid should be paired with retinol, you would be at risk for irritation and a damaged skin barrier.

When should you use it

Retinol recommendations 
Now that you’ve (hopefully) read through this article, you might be ready to take the plunge and buy a retinol product for yourself. We’ve rounded up a few highly recommended products at different budgets for you to check out! 

  1. Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream:
  2. The Inkey List Retinol Serum:
  3. Paula’s Choice Resist 1% Retinol Booster
  4. The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid Serum 2% in Squalane
  5. Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol


Retinol might not work for everyone, and that’s okay! There are so many different products out there that you can try. If you have any doubts, you should always check with a dermatologist before trying anything new. 

And as always, retinol is not a must-have in your routine. Just do what makes you happy! You do you. 

Until next time, 

Stay Curious, Stay #freequal

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