Retinol for Anti-Aging


In This Article:

Research clearly shows that retinol has numerous benefits for skin. To make sure you’re getting the best of what this superstar ingredient has to offer, here’s what you need to know…

Recommended Products with Retinol

Retinol's Anti-Aging Benefits for Skin

Simply put, retinol is another name for vitamin A. It is an extremely effective cell-communicating ingredient that has the ability to connect to almost any skin cell receptor site and tell it to behave like a healthy, younger skin cell.[1, 2, 3, 4] That in itself has tremendous impact for improving skin, but it gets better…

Retinol also functions an antioxidant that can interrupt the free-radical damage process that causes wrinkling and other signs of aging. Moreover, it has been shown to increase collagen production, help fade discolorations from sun damage, and there is emerging research pointing to its potential for building elastin.[1, 2, 3, 4]

For the skeptics out there, we know all of that may sound too good to be true, but that’s why it’s so exciting that there is an overwhelming amount of research to back up retinol’s anti-aging prowess!

(Want to know more about how this superstar ingredient works? Delve into our article How Retinol Works.)

What Can Retinol Do for Acne and Large Pores?

Along with retinol's proven anti-aging benefits, it also shows promise for helping mitigate acne. In fact, because retinol breaks down into all-trans retinoic acid once it is absorbed into the skin, some researchers say it functions identically to prescription version retinoids (think Renova or Retin-A), which have a proven track record as anti-acne treatments.[1, 5]

The major advantage to non-prescription retinol is that it’s delivered in a way that’s better tolerated by skin than prescription retinoids, which tend to bear more significantly irritating side effects.[6]

In terms of enlarged pores, let us clarify that retinol cannot change the pore size you have due to genetics, but it can reduce the size of pores that have enlarged due to clogging or sun damage.

Here's how: The follicular keratin cells that are part of the pore lining can become sluggish and build up, causing the pore wall to stretch. Due to its cell-communicating abilities, retinol can step in and "tell" these lazy-acting cells to get back to work, doing what they should be doing (and likely were doing, before sun damage caused them to malfunction). The result can be improved pore function, which, in time, will help enlarged pores return to their normal size!

What You Need to Know Before Buying and Using Retinol

  • Only buy a retinol treatment if it is packaged in an opaque container that minimizes air exposure (no jars!) because all forms of vitamin A break down and deteriorate when repeatedly exposed to air and light.
  • If you are just starting to use a retinol treatment, start slowly. Instead of daily application, apply your retinol product every other day and/or mix it with your usual moisturizer or facial oil to buffer the irritation (redness, flaking, etc.). This lets your skin gradually acclimate to the more potent level of retinol.
  • Make sure the rest of your skincare routine is soothing and irritant-free. Use a gentle cleanser, soothing toner, and well-formulated moisturizers/serums to help your skin better tolerate retinol treatments. Don’t know where to start? Check out the Paula's Choice Skincare Calm Redness Relief Collection.
  • If persistent irritation occurs, stop using your retinol treatment. You may just be one of the unlucky people whose skin is overly sensitive to retinol or you may need a milder potency treatment, like the Resist 1% Retinol Booster, which allows you to control the strength by the number of drops you add to moisturizer or serum.
  • If you apply retinol during the day, be sure to follow up with SPF! If you aren’t diligent about sun protection, even the most effective, anti-aging ingredients won’t be able to deliver the results you’re looking for + unprotected exposure to sunlight compromises retinol’s stability.[7]

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.

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References Cited

  1. Mukherjee S, et al. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical effica-cy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. 2006;1(4):327–348.
  2. Reza Kafi MD, et al. Improvement of Naturally Aged Skin with Vitamin A (Retinol). Arch Dermatol. 2006 Dec;143:606–612.
  3. Rossetti D, et al. A novel anti-ageing mechanism for retinol: induction of dermal elastin synthesis and elastin fibre formation. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2011;33(1):62-69.
  4. Thomas J, Dixon T, Bhattacharyya T. Effects of Topicals on the Aging Skin Process. Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am. 2013;21(1):55-60.
  5. Thielitz A, Gollnick H. Topical Retinoids in Acne Vulgaris. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2008;9(6):369–381.
  6. Kang S, et al. Application of retinol to human skin in vivo induces epidermal hyperplasia and cellular retinoid binding proteins characteristic of retinoic acid but without measura-ble retinoic acid levels or irritation. J Invest Dermatol. 1995 Oct;5(4):549–556.
  7. Baumann L. Skin ageing and its treatment. J Pathol. 2007;211(2):241-251.

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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