Retinol Serum

by James Ragsdale

One of the Best Anti-aging Products, Explained

In a world that bombards us on a daily basis with health and beauty products, it can be hard to know which ones actually work, and what they do. One of the most popular – and most useful – of these products is retinol serum.

Retinol is one of the best tools available in any anti-aging regimen. First of all, it’s a naturally occurring substance, otherwise known as Vitamin A. The way it works is that it increases the rate of cellular turnover. As we age, our cells regenerate at a slower rate than they did when we were young, which slows down the skin’s ability to repair itself from day-to-day damage. Daily use of a retinol serum convinces your skin to behave as though it were younger and increase its rate of cellular turnover, improving fine lines and wrinkles, reducing discolorations, improving skin’s elasticity and repairing sun damage.

If that wasn’t enough, retinol is also useful for controlling oily skin. Not only does it reduce oil production, but it also helps shrink pores, which contributes to clearing them and to reducing breakouts, making it a boon for people dealing with acne.

The benefits of using retinol aren’t just hype. There’s been scientific research done and verified by dermatologists at the University of Michigan Medical School that support its effectiveness. U of M dermatologists did studies on elderly patients, using a lotion with a 0.4% concentration of retinol on one of their arms, and a lotion without retinol on the other. The study showed significant improvements in the arm that used the retinol lotion, with reductions in signs of apparent aging, including roughness and wrinkles.

Having said all that, there are other things to consider when thinking about using Retinol. The first, and arguably the most important, thing is that it’s not a magic wand. While it a very effective anti-aging tool, you have to use it for a while before results start to become apparent. It can take 12 weeks or longer to really start seeing results, so a little patience is required.

Another thing you should know about Retinol is that it breaks down in sunlight. All that really means is that it should be in opaque packaging that protects it from the sun, and that it’s most effective when you use it as a night treatment.

Finally, there are products out there with differing strengths of the active ingredients. The higher the concentration of retinol in a product, the faster the results may become apparent, however, starting at the highest concentrations isn’t necessarily the best idea. Because of its oil-reducing effects, retinol can produce some redness and skin irritation, especially at the higher concentrations. It’s generally a good idea to start with a product that’s milder, and only step when necessary. Even in the milder concentrations, retinol is still very effective, it just takes more time to do its work.

Products containing retinol are readily available over the counter, and at a wide variety of price points. You can get it in a prescription strength, called Retin A, but it’s also available in non-prescription creams and serums, which having a lower concentration of the nutrient, are also gentler to the skin.  

Because it’s become so popular, many cosmetics companies are putting it in everything from lipstick to facial cleansers to sunscreen, but these products should be avoided. Cleansers with retinol are pretty pointless, since the retinol they contain is being washed down the drain, not staying on your skin. The fact that sunlight breaks it down not only nullifies any benefit to using makeup or sunscreens that contain it, but retinol can actually make your skin more sensitive to the sun, meaning that retinol-laced cosmetics can actually have the opposite effect from what they’re advertising.

All the same, using retinol serums or creams as part of your nighttime skincare routine can be a highly effective way to slow down the signs of aging skin on your face, neck, hands, and other parts of our body.

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