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Retinol 101: Everything you need to know

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

Retinol is one of the best-known skin care ingredients on the market. And there’s good reason for that. It’s a researched-backed, powerful skin-care ingredient that almost everyone can benefit from. It helps target a wide range of skincare concerns from signs of aging to acne.

If you have extremely sensitive skin, it’s best to talk to an aesthetician or dermatologist before using the product.

It should also be noted that you should avoid using Retinol before any sort of professional hair removal service, such as waxing or laser hair removal.

What Is Retinol and how does it work?

Retinol is a type of retinoid which comes from Vitamin A. Retinoids work by increasing collagen production and the rate of skin cell turnover.

Retinol usage

While retinol is an extremely effective product to have in your skin care regime, it’s also one you need to be educated about and careful with. For starters, it comes in a wide range of strengths. Over the counter retinol products range from .3 to 2%. Anything above 2% requires a prescription.

If you’ve never used retinol before, we recommend starting out with the lowest concentration (.3%) and a weekly schedule to see how your skin tolerates and responds to it. This will help minimize the chance of dryness and irritation.

Start out by using the product twice a week to start, and gradually increase the frequency to every other night, and finally once a night, as tolerated. Keep in mind, retinol is photosensitive and breaks down in UV light, so it should only be applied at night.

Retinol also makes skin sensitive to sunlight, so it’s extremely important to layer on that broad-spectrum sunscreen each and every morning, rain or shine.

What does retinol help with:

There are so many benefits which is why we say it can be helpful for almost anyone.

These include:

  • Acne

  • Fine lines

  • Wrinkles

  • Age (sun) spots, freckles, and other signs of sun damage, sometimes called photoaging

  • Uneven skin texture

  • Melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation

  • Large pores caused by acne, oily skin, or collagen loss

How long until I see results?

In order to see the full benefits of retinol, it can take up to 6 months. But, within the first couple weeks of use, you should that your skin will be exfoliated of dead skin cells and your pores will be unclogged. If you’re not seeing any benefit, we recommend consulting with an aesthetician about possibly increasing the strength you’re using or how often you’re using it.

Recommended retinol products

Retinol can be found as an ingredient in many serums or moisturizers and it can also be purchased as a separate product meaning it has a higher concentration. We recommend using a concentrated version to start out so you can experiment with the range of strengths and also measure the benefits your skin is seeing. If and when you start seeing the benefits, there are a number of other beneficial products that also have retinol and pair well with the concentrated version.

Almost any beauty brand has a retinol product but our faves are the night creams from SkinCeuticals. They’re always listed on the top list of retinol products by bloggers and beauty magazines.

SkinCeuticals is also a medical grade line of products which means the ingredients are more concentrated and the products can only be sold by medical professionals trained to evaluate the appropriate concentration for each client.

At our spa, we currently sell the .3%, 1% and 3% night cream and use them in a variety of our facials.


Was this everything you needed to know, or do you have more questions? Skin care is our passion, you might even say we’re a little obsessed! So if you have additional questions, send us a message on Facebook, DM us on Instagram or send an email to

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