How Retinol Works


In This Article:

There are dozens of remarkable "hero" skincare ingredients that have numerous benefits for skin, but retinol is a standout. Why? Established research shows it can transform the look of skin in numerous ways, including visibly minimizing loss of firmness plus the appearance of wrinkles, uneven skin tone, enlarged pores, bumpy skin, and much, much more.

You might be wondering how does this "sounds too good to be true" ingredient really work? Let’s start with what retinol is…
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What is Retinol?

Retinol is another name for vitamin A. There are many derivatives of vitamin A, but retinol is the name for the pure form. Vitamin A has a fascinating impact on skin’s surface because it can help restore a more youthful look and feel.

When skin is affected by environmental assault (and everyone’s skin is) or you have signs of aging, uneven skin tone, enlarged pores, and skin prone to bumps, retinol steps in and seems to intuitively know what your skin needs to minimize those concerns.

In short, lots of things about your skin’s appearance can improve when you add a product with stable retinol to your skincare routine.

How Retinol Functions in Skin

Once retinol has been applied to skin, it goes to work helping skin normalize skin’s look and feel, working in tandem with other ingredients proven to visibly diminish numerous skin concerns.

Retinol also helps promote a firmer look, healthier-looking skin, and naturally turns around concerns like dullness and rough texture. With retinol, you’ll see renewed, younger-looking radiance, a remarkably smoother appearance, and a noticeable feeling of firmness.

Products You Must Pair with Your Retinol Treatments

When you start using a product containing an appropriate amount of retinol for your skin type, along with daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater, you will love what starts happening to your skin! Sunscreen is always critical. Even the most effective, research-proven anti-aging ingredients like retinol won’t work as you want them to if you’re not diligent about daily sun protection.

It is also important to remember that even though vitamin A is a superstar antiaging ingredient for skin, one special ingredient is NEVER enough to take the best possible care of skin.

This fact is why all of our Paula’s Choice formulas contain other vitally important skincare ingredients to help rejuvenate and sustain skin’s smooth appearance such as antioxidants, skin-replenishing ingredients, and skin-restoring ingredients, of which retinol is one.

One more comment: When it comes to retinol products, packaging matters! Retinol is a potent yet delicate ingredient, and readily breaks down with routine exposure to light and air. For these reasons, avoid retinol products packaged in jars or clear containers.

For more on how to treat signs of aging and to understand what essential products and ingredients are necessary, see our article on the topic, "How to Help Renew Skin Aging and Environmental Assault."

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See Paula's Choice Retinol Treatments.

References for this information:
Clinical Interventions in Aging, December 2006, pages 327-348
Archives of Dermatology, December 2006, pages 606-612
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2008, pages 369-381
Cosmetic Science, July-August 2006, pages 261-277
Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, May 2012, pages 32-40
Molecules, February 2012, pages 2219–2230

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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