What does retinol do for your skin?

Retinol has gained a lot of notoriety as a skin care ingredient in the past few years. This has led to a lot of confusion on how to use it and many misconceptions about its potential side effects and drawbacks. It has become one of the topics that our skin care trainers get asked the most about at our facial shops. We made this guide to include the answers to all the questions our facial members ask the most. We hope that it helps skin care enthusiasts find the answers to all their questions on the skin care use of retinol.


retinol basics

What is retinol?

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is derived from vitamin A. It is an antioxidant, which works to neutralize free radicals, increase cell turnover, boost elastin and collagen production, as well as regulate oil production. Retinol is often used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, enlarged pores and sun damage.

aging skin wrinkles
women applying retinol to face

How does retinol work?

The small molecules that make up retinol go deep into the dermis, which can become thinner as we age. Retinol thickens the dermis by increasing the production of collagen, giving the skin a plump appearance.

Retinol can also be used to treat acne and hyper-pigmentation, as it has an exfoliating effect on the skin’s surface. This results in improvement on skin texture and tone, a reversal of comedogenesis which reduces microcomedones (cause of blackheads, blemishes, and acne).

How to apply retinol?

Having a simple routine is important when starting retinol. If you have sensitive skin, try patch testing a small amount of retinol on a small area of your skin to see if you have any negative reactions before including it in your skincare routine. Here is a short guide on how to incorporate retinol into your routine:

  1. Cleanse with a gentle face cleanser
  2. Use a gentle toner to balance the pH of the skin in order to ensure the retinol is able to perform at its optimal level
  3. Apply a pea sized amount of retinol all over the face, while making sure to avoid the eye area
  4. Finish with a gentle moisturizer

You can use this routine every other night while your skin starts adjusting. We recommend using retinol only at night, as it can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. Always follow up with SPF during the day.

how to apply retinol
retinol skoah

How often should you use retinol?

We also recommend the ‘low and slow’ approach. Start incorporating retinol into your routine gradually by using once or twice a week and slowly building up to daily usage.

What is the retinol buffering technique?

Retinol is a powerful ingredient that can transform your skin, but it can also irritate the skin when overdone or used incorrectly. ‘Buffering’ can help you reap the benefits of retinol while reducing the risk of getting retinol burns. To buffer, combine a small amount of retinol with your moisturizer to dilute it while your skin adjusts and builds up a tolerance. The moisturizer is also going to provide the hydration to combat the potential dryness or flakiness that may come with overusing retinol.

retinol buffering technique
retinol afterwards

How long does it take retinol to work?

Retinol starts to work on your cells right on application, but it can take up to several weeks of continued use before you can see any improvements on your skin, so don’t expect your skin to transform overnight.

In the short term, retinol deeply exfoliates your skin, meaning that you can expect to see a clearer, smoother, and more even complexion. For long term usage, you can expect to see a reduction in wrinkles and fine lines, as retinol works to boost collagen production. This change can take up to months before it becomes noticeable, and it’s important to use retinol consistently in order to see the results.

Why skoah’s retinol?

Our +retinol concentrate was created based on our facial customers’ desire for a gentle yet powerful formulation. It features skoah’s premium retinol complex at 1.5%, as well as allantoin, vitamin C and vitamin E.

The retinol in our +retinol concentrate is a moderate strength retinoid that is intended to work on a variety of skin types. Allantoin is a calming agent that helps alleviate the side effects of retinol, which is what allows this product to be suitable for more skin types. Vitamins C and E give skin antioxidant ammunition to fight damage from free radicals. The vitamin C used in our formula also stabilizes the retinol, ensuring the product maintains its efficacy and doesn’t oxidize quickly.

If you’re looking for a retinol serum that can be the ACE of your routine, try our +retinol concentrate serum.

Does it work well with other ingredients?

Many of the retinol related questions we get asked about is the way it reacts with other popular skin care ingredients. There are a lot of myths out there on this topic, and we included our most asked about combinations to set the record straight.

niacinamide and retinol

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, commonly used as a gentle skin care ingredient that offers a variety of skin care benefits. Niacinamide works to help diminish signs of aging, discoloration, and blemishes. It also improves the appearance of enlarged pores, helps the skin retain moisture, and increases its immunity and resiliency.

Retinol is a great complement to niacinamide as it softens the side effects that retinol can cause, such as irritation, redness, and flaky skin. Niacinamide helps to both hydrate and calm skin, reducing the risk of irritation caused by retinol. Skoah’s own +niacinamide concentrate was formulated to work well with our other active ingredients. Combined with retinol, you can expect to see impressive results.

hyaluronic acid and retinol

Hyaluronic acid is a powerful ingredient that has gained a lot of buzz in recent years. It is a humectant, which is a category of skin care ingredients that draw moisture from their surroundings and binds to the skin to boost hydration.

Hyaluronic acid and retinol make a great duo. Not only do they individually provide powerful benefits to the skin, when used together, one helps to lessen the side effects of the other. Retinol can cause redness and dry skin. This is where hyaluronic acid comes in to relieve those side effects by providing a burst of hydration to soothe irritated skin.

If you’re looking to add a strong dose of hydration to your skin care routine, check out skoah’s own +hyaluronic acid concentrate.

salicylic acid and retinol

Salicylic Acid (BHA) is an oil-soluble, exfoliating ingredient that works to remove dead skin cells and excess oil. It is great for oil control and can help to reduce acne, blemishes, and redness.

There is a long-standing myth about how salicylic acid and retinol should not be used together because they are both exfoliators. Retinol and salicylic acid (as well as other BHAs) can actually work together effectively and provide transformative anti-aging benefits. While retinol boosts the cell turnover process, salicylic acid removes dead skin cells on the outer layers of the skin. For those with sensitive skin, we recommend using these ingredients at different times of the day, or even on alternate days.

Looking for an exfoliating cleanser? Our charcoal kleanser contains salicylic acid that will give your skin a deep cleanse and get rid of any impurities.

retinol and vitamin c

Vitamin C is a powerhouse antioxidant that offers the skin a variety of benefits under the right formulation. It works to reduce dark spots and hyper-pigmentation. Vitamin C also improves hydration, reduces redness and inflammation, and helps to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.

There is a lot of misinformation about the combination of retinol and vitamin C. Since both have contrasting pH levels, it was believed that combining them would make them less effective. However, recent research suggests using a combination of these ingredients actually increases their effectiveness.

With that said, it is not recommended to use them together in your morning routine. Retinol should be used during a night-time skin care routine, since it oxidizes when it is exposed to UV rays and becomes less effective. Vitamin C should be applied during a morning routine because it works to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.

If you’re looking for a high-quality vitamin C serum made with natural ingredients, check out our very own +vitamin c concentrate.

aha and retinol

AHAs, or alpha-hydroxy acids, are natural water-soluble ingredients that help generate healthy new skin cells by peeling away the surface layer of the skin. This exfoliating effect smoothens the skin and increases absorption of other skin care ingredients, making them more effective.

There is a common misconception that AHA and retinol should not be used together because they both exfoliate the skin. However, this combination can actually provide powerful results. AHAs help to shed the outer layers of the skin, while retinol works on the inner layer of the skin to increase cell regeneration. However, it is recommended to use these two active ingredients at different times of the day. Retinol should be used at night, while AHA should be incorporated into your morning routine. Most importantly, be sure to apply sunscreen in the morning as these ingredients can make your skin more vulnerable to sun damage.

If you’re looking to layer in an exfoliator, Check out skoah’s AHA mask, which was formulated to gently but effectively exfoliate dead skin cells.