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Considered a gold-star skin care ingredient among Dermatologists and Estheticians alike, Retinol can aid in treating a variety of skin concerns—from acne and discoloration to premature signs of aging. For this reason, many experts agree it's worth incorporating into your skin care routine. But how, exactly, does it work? Here's the lowdown on this hero ingredient, including how to use Retinol, when to start using Retinol, and how it can help transform your skin.


What Is Retinol?

According to Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified Dermatologist based in New York City, "Retinol is a vitamin A derivative or type of Retinoid that works by getting converted to Retinoic Acid, also known as Tretinoin." Since Retinol needs to convert to Retinoic Acid to work its magic, it can take longer to see its benefits. But the good news is that it's often less irritating on the skin than prescription alternatives.

Retinol takes less time to convert to Retinoic Acid compared to other Retinoids, such as Retinyl Palmitate or Retinyl Acetate. It's also more stable, so it remains safe and effective on your shelf for longer.

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What Does Retinol Do for Your Skin?

Retinol is generally highly regarded and often recommended by experts because it treats many skin concerns—including acne, discoloration, fine lines and wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and dullness. "Retinol helps to regulate skin cell turnover, prevent clogged pores, and improve skin tone," says Dr. Garshick. "It also works to boost collagen production to improve the appearance of skin texture, pores, fine lines, and wrinkles."


When Should You Start Using Retinol?

It's largely up to you when to start using Retinol. You typically start losing collagen in your mid-20s, so this can be an ideal time to implement it into your routine. Retinol can also be helpful for teens with acne and hyperpigmentation.


How to Use Retinol in Your Routine

How you use Retinol in your skin care routine ultimately depends on your skin type and unique skin goals. Experts typically recommend starting off slow—such as two nights per week—to ensure your skin can tolerate it. "It is best to start with a low concentration, making sure to only apply a pea-sized amount to the whole face and slowly increase the frequency as tolerated," says Dr. Garshick. "Retinol can be used by all skin tones and skin types; however, those with sensitive skin should be cautious when starting out."

If used incorrectly (i.e., too much too quickly), Retinol can cause redness and peeling since it speeds up skin cell turnover. So, listen to your skin and don't rush it.


Sunscreen's Role

Retinol increases your skin's susceptibility to burning—and, in turn, skin damage—so remember to use sunscreen if you're using Retinol. Additionally, avoid using Retinol at the same time as exfoliating acids, like Glycolic Acid. This combination can increase your risk of irritation, redness, and dryness due to over-exfoliation. If you want to include both types of ingredients in your skin care regimen, alternate nights to ensure your skin stays calm and healthy.


Types of Retinol

Retinol formulas come in a variety of strengths and formulations. For example, PCA SKIN offers multiple types of Retinol, including Intensive Age Refining Treatment®: 0.5% Pure Retinol, which targets fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of firmness. If you have a sensitive, reactive, or irritation-prone complexion, PCA SKIN has you covered with its Retinol Treatment for Sensitive Skin. This formula also contains Niacinamide, a multifunctional antioxidant that helps brighten skin and calm redness.


Ramping Up Your Routine with Retinol

All this to say: Retinol is a powerful, research-backed ingredient lauded by skin care experts across the board. So, you may want to consider adding it to your skin care routine if you're looking to treat and prevent signs of aging. Shop PCA SKIN's targeted Retinols to see the results for yourself.


Author Bio:

Kaleigh Fasanella
Kaleigh Fasanella is a New Jersey-based beauty and wellness reporter with over a decade of experience writing for both digital outlets and brands. She previously worked at magazines like Allure and Teen Vogue before going freelance to write for a variety of publications. While she loves all aspects of beauty, she's especially passionate about skin care and helping others learn about and care for their skin.