The 101 on Retinol: What’s the Deal With This Skincare Must-Have?

The 101 on Retinol: What's the Deal With This Skincare Must-Have?

When it comes to new-fangled treatments, hot trends, and must-know products that are dominating the market as the latest fad, retinol is never going to be that brand new product taking the world by storm.

Why? Because retinol is a skincare staple. In other words, a product that’s never going out of style for very good reason. 

What exactly is that reason? 

It’s inarguably the holy grail of skincare. 

If you’re an esthetician or a skin-enthusiast, it’s likely that the term retinol isn’t brand new to you. 

But ask yourself, do you know everything there is to know about retinol? 

Do you know why this well-loved skincare ingredient is never going to disappear from the list of every esthetician, dermatologist, and skincare enthusiast out there? 

And further, do you know why this product is such a staple for all skincare experts no matter what they’re aiming to treat? 

If not, consider this the perfect starting point. 

In this blog, we’re going to break down retinol to give you the solid, educational foundation you need to fully understand this skincare and beauty product that’s never going out of style.

What Exactly is Retinol?

The term retinol can be a bit confusing simply because it’s often used as an umbrella term for a variety of forms of vitamin A. We’re here to break down some of that confusion, so we’ll start with some basic definitions.

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is a type of drug, product, or topical treatment that’s derived from vitamin A. Retinoids, the broader term for retinol, can include both over-the-counter treatments and stronger treatments that require a prescription. 

You’re probably wondering what exactly retinol can do (and why it’s earned such a pedestal in the skincare world). Technically, retinol promotes cell turnover and prevents the breakdown of collagen (the protein that helps to keep skin firm, elastic, and healthy). 

How does it do this? By converting into retinoic acid in the body and penetrating the stratum corneum and the dermis layers of your skin and turning cells over at their source.

The result? Smoother skin, fewer lines, firmer texture, less frequent breakouts, and overall healthier skin. 

Retinol can be used to:

  • Treat mild to severe acne 
  • Prevent wrinkles, aging, and fine lines
  • Improve the appearance of skin
  • Protect the skin from external factors 
  • Minimize scars and pores
  • Treat keratosis pilaris

And more!

Retinol Versus Retinoid—What’s the Difference?

In that definition above, we threw out two distinct words, retinol and retinoid. 

You’re probably wondering, what exactly is the difference? Let’s lay that out ASAP to quell any confusion. 

Here’s the basic breakdown. 

Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that are stronger, more powerful, and require a prescription to get your hands on. Why? Because this hits you with a power-packed punch of active ingredients that, though effective and helpful, can cause severe irritation, dryness, itching, redness, and even something called “retinization” of the skin where you peel and experience painful irritation (this is sometimes coined the “retinol uglies” phase). 

Retinols are the OTC, less-powerful type of retinoid that’s found in a lot of over-the-counter ingredients. Retinol is incredibly effective but is different than retinoids on a molecular level. Technically, retinols are less intense than a prescription retinoid and likely won’t cause the same degree of irritation, peeling, and side effects. Overall, retinols are a derivative of vitamin A that’s gentler and in its ester forms—this simply means that this type of derivative takes more steps to be converted to retinoic acid, making it a weaker product.

The Top 5 Things to Know About Retinol

Retinol is a useful skin care ingredient to keep in your repertoire, but there are some things you should know about it before you add it to your own routine or suggest it to your clients.

  • Retinoids are powerful and must be used carefully and gradually. Irritation is a very common problem with prescription retinoids and even with some OTC retinols. You’ll need to add these vitamin A derivatives to your routines slowly, gradually, and with plenty of moisturizers to protect your skin barrier. 
  • Some people are not able to use retinols or retinoids. This list includes people with incredibly sensitive or dry skin, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and those with skin conditions like rosacea (unless otherwise indicated by a doctor or dermatologist). 
  • Sunscreen is non-negotiable with retinols. Because retinol works to replace old, damaged skin with new cells, you’re dealing with very sensitive layers. These layers are far more prone to sunburn and sun damage, so you’ll absolutely need to prioritize sun protection when using retinols. (Though, to be honest, sunscreen should be a part of your daily routine anyway). 
  • The “retinol uglies” are a temporary—but totally possible—stage. Unfortunately, with the use of prescription retinoids comes the possibility of the retinization phase, where your skin, during its adaptation of the retinoid treatment, not only purges all the bacteria and under-the-skin pimples that have been waiting to surface, but also peels, itches, and stings. The important thing to remember about this stage is that it’s not permanent. It will likely get worse before it gets better.
  • Retinols are not a short-term solution—you’ll need to invest in them to see results. Often, it can take anywhere from 3-6 months to see real results, but once you see them, you’ll understand the hype surrounding retinol. 

Spa De Soleil—Your Must-Have Skincare Resource

Whether you’re seeking knowledge on some of the most popular ingredients and products in the skincare realm, you’re hoping to drop your own private label, or you’re on the hunt for top-notch, high-quality products you can’t get anywhere else, Spa De Soleil is proud to provide you with the resources and products you need for your skin to succeed. 

From comprehensive knowledge to guide your skincare journey to leading services in research, manufacturing, and end-to-end beauty and wellness product creation, Spa De Soleil has your back—no matter what you might need.

Still have questions? Reach out to our dedicated team of professionals here to get the full scoop on what we can offer you—we’re happy to be a helpful skin resource in any and every way we can. 

Don’t forget to keep up with our regularly updated blog, too, for more information, helpful skin resources, and new product lineups. 

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