what is retinol? the science explained

There is no doubt that you have heard of Retinol and all its praise in magazines and the internet! It is one of the best-known skincare ingredients on the market and loved by millions all around the world – but why?


It is the one thing that almost all dermatologists, cosmetic chemists and Skin Therapists can agree on: Retinols really do work. The main question is how? We are here debunk skincare myths and help you understand the science behind this ever-popular ingredient. 

Curious if the superstar ingredient has a place in your skincare regimen? Read on to find out everything you need to know! 

what is retinol & what are retinoids?

When it comes to the skincare world, the terms retinoid and retinol get thrown around a lot. They sound the same, but what’s the difference? Do they do the same thing? Is one better than the other? Retinol is a synthetic derivative of Vitamin A but as mentioned previously, falls under a broader category of retinoids. 

In short, retinoids and retinol are both forms of Vitamin A. They provide similar anti-ageing results, but in different time frames. 

In general, retinoids are stronger than retinol. They contain a higher concentration of the product, and the molecular structure of Vitamin A in this form allows it to turn over skin cells at a faster rate than retinol. Retinol does offer similar results, except it has a lower concentration, and the molecular structure causes it to take longer to provide same results. However, it is still a very effective products – you just have to be willing to wait to see the results. 

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Discover what the ingredients found in your skincare regime are and what they can actually offer your skin, helping you debunk skincare myths and false promises.

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why should i use retinol? 


Retinol can clear your acne 

By unclogging pores, retinol helps to clear sin and prevents further outbreaks from occurring . Naturally, less acne will result in fewer acne scars. In addition to that, retinoids can amplify the effects of other medicated creams and gels, allowing you to get the maximum benefits of you treatment. Vitamin A derivatives further help to reduce acne as they aid in regulating skin cell turnover. Unlike other ingredients such Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide, the retonoic acid seeps into the cell and binds to nuclear receptors, which oversee big-picture function like cellular metabolism, proliferation, inflammation and cell death. 

Retinol combats signs of ageing

Retinol works as anti-ageing treatment in three major ways. Its incredible formula reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helps with sun damage, and gets rid of dark spots. 

Collagen is a protein made by our body that keeps our skin looking smooth. As we get older, wrinkles and fine lines are caused by a decrease in collagen production. Retinol works to reduce the appearance of these fine lines by boosting blood flow to the skin, which in turn increases the production of collagen. 

As mentioned previously, Retinol can help with sun damage and dark spots by encouraging skin cell turnover, allowing you to shed discoloured skin cells. But Retinol also makes you more susceptible to sun damage. This is why retinol products should only be used at night, alongside a broad-spectrum sunscreen each morning. It is important to look after your skin and protect it every day. 

Retinol brightens dull skin

Dull skin, in general, can be caused by several things including pregnancy, stress, sun damage and poor lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking alcohol, or environmental triggers such as pollution. The ever-popular ingredient works by calming down the skin cells that produce a dark pigment called melanin. These cells are responsible for skin conditions such as Melasma, which leads to discolouration of the skin. Retinol causes the skin cells to turn over, allowing the skin to become healthier and look brighter. 

That being said, you can never be too careful as all skin types are different and unique, At VieDerma, we understand that everyone has individual goals and desires so book a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Skin Specialists to learn how you can integrate Niacinamide in your skincare.



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If you are already using a prescription Retinoid, it is considered to be overkill to add Retinol into your routine. It is also important to not combine Retinols with regular AHA application. If in doubt, it is always best to consult with one of our Skin Therapists to ensure none of the skincare ingredients clash with one another. 


It is often recommended that its best to introduce a retinoid slowly but surely. Redness, dryness and flaking can be minimised or avoided by gradually building your skin’s tolerance, so it is wise to limit your initial use to once or twice a week, gradually increasing the frequency as your skin acclimatises. 

It is often encouraged that retinol is only applied at night-time, applying a pea-sized amount to clean and dry skin, avoiding the eye area. For optimal results, let the product sink in your skin before applying other skincare products. 

If you are using a retinoid, you can skip other exfoliators like AHAs & BHAs as you will have already done the work. Doubling up can compromise the skin, as combining acids and retinol can cause skin irritation. So it is important to stick to one or the other. When combining serums, you need to ensure that they are complementary and address the same skin concern, thus we recommend a skin consultation or phone call with one of our Skin Therapists so you can be sure that you are getting the most out of your skincare products. 


If you are using retinoids, it is extremely important that you are vigilant with your SPF use. Retinoids can increase cell turnover, so they can make your skin temporarily thinner and more sensitive. They are prone to increasing photosensitivity within the skin; due to this, always use  a high, broad spectrum sunscreen the next morning when using this product. 

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As with all skincare and beauty products, they do not work equally well on everyone and every skin type. If you suffer from exczema, psoriasis or rosacea, it is probably best to avoid retinol since it can be too powerful on such skin that requires a gentle touch – it can increase inflammation, dryness and sensitivity in already delicate complexions. It is easy to overdose on applying retinol – when you do that, your skin might start peeling and flaking, or feel irritated and look red. It is often forgotten that just because a product description states that a product should be used every day and every night doesn’t mean that you should. Listen to what your skin handle 


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