What is Retinol and What is All the Fuss About?
I’d be willing to bet you’ve seen more and more skincare products with retinol in them in the beauty aisle. Maybe you’ve even used it before. You may have heard it being called “the fountain of youth.” So what is retinol? Well, I’m going to tell you all about this superstar ingredient and its benefits for your skin.
There are many reasons why your skin wrinkles. Sun exposure, smoking, environmental factors, and dehydration can cause damage to your skin, which is visible in the form of wrinkles. Even facial expressions such as smiling, frowning, or squinting can cause wrinkles in your skin over time. Don’t stop smiling to prevent wrinkles, though. Laughter is a great tool for stress relief and you have a lot to smile about.
If you are looking for a good weapon to keep your skin looking youthful, look no further than retinol. Let’s dive into this anti-aging powerhouse.
What is Retinol? It’s a Type of Retinoid
Retinol is a retinoid that comes from vitamin A. It is commonly known as vitamin A1. While retinoids are referred to as vitamin A, they are actually byproducts of vitamin A. Retinoids have the same molecular structure and functional similarities as vitamin A and come in many different forms such as retinol, terminal, and retinyl esters.1 You can also get it in your diet. I’ll tell you how later.
Retinoids are quite common in cosmetics and dermatology medications due to their benefits for your skin. Retinol can come in a liquid serum, gel, or cream or as an ingredient in skincare products. Over-the-counter products, such as skin care products, contain up to 2% retinol.2
Retinol works by binding to retinoid receptors on your skin. In the middle layer of skin, it neutralizes free radicals to support the production of elastin and collagen.3 Besides supporting healthy hair, skin, and nails, collagen has several other benefits.
Your skin is a retinoid-responsive organ, which means it absorbs retinol when it’s applied to your skin.4
That’s how we can see all its anti-aging benefits. Let’s talk about some more benefits of retinol.
Benefits of Retinol
Retinol has a big reputation for being an anti-aging powerhouse, yet the benefits go well beyond supporting a youthful appearance to your skin. Here are some of the benefits of retinol.
Retinol Can Reduce Acne
Doctors and dermatologists have recommended retinoids since 1971 as treatment for skin conditions, particularly acne, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.5 Acne occurs when oil and dead skin cells clog your hair follicles. It causes blackheads or pimples, which is inflammation of your skin. Teenagers are more prone to have acne, however, it can happen in adults as well.
Hormone imbalance is the most common cause of adult acne, yet it can also be the result of excessively oily skin, pores becoming clogged by sticky skin cells, bacteria, or inflammation. Inflammation can also be a symptom of many conditions such as injury and autoimmune disease. If you are experiencing inflammation of any kind, it’s best to discuss your symptoms with your functional medicine doctor.
Retinol supports a healthy skin by facilitating a healthy inflammatory response, unclogging pores, and promoting skin cell rejuvenation.
Retinol Supports a Youthful Appearance
Remember, retinol supports collagen production. Collagen promotes a youthful appearance to your hair, skin, and nails. Collagen supports almost every part of your body, including your gut lining, bones, connective tissue, cartilage, and joints.
Your body’s natural collagen production begins to slow down in your 30s. By the time you’re 60, more than half of your body’s supply of collagen is depleted. Some factors including poor diet, genetics, and exposure to toxins can result in depletion even sooner. You can never get enough collagen in your diet, so it’s why I recommend everyone take a hydrolyzed collagen supplement.
Another way retinol supports a youthful appearance to your skin is that it promotes the production of new blood vessels, which facilitates blood flow to your skin.6
Retinol Facilitates Skin Cell Rejuvenation
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and it takes a lot of maintenance to stay healthy. It achieves this by skin cell turnover, also known as skin cell rejuvenation. Your body naturally produces retinol to support this process, however, the amount of retinol produced is not optimal to increase the production of new skin cells.
The skin cell turnover happens all over your body including your face, scalp, body, legs, and the bottom of your feet. This process takes 28 to 40 days, meaning that every 28 to 40 days, a new skin cell is born. As you age, this process slows down greatly and can take up to 2 months. This is why our skin wrinkles faster as we get older.
Remember what I said about retinol being a retinoid-responsive organ? When retinol is introduced to your skin, it is quickly absorbed and speeds up the cell turnover process, giving it a more youthful appearance.7
While retinol’s benefits are amazing, it also has a few drawbacks. If you have sensitive skin, retinol can cause irritation when you first start using it. I recommend starting slowly If you’ve never used retinol and use it every other day. If it doesn’t irritate your skin then you can use it every day. I use it twice a day, every day as part of my skincare routine.
The other drawback is that it can take up to six months to see results.8
Retinol may have almost miraculous benefits, but it’s no overnight success. By the way, did you know your body can naturally produce retinol? Let’s talk about how it does that.
Your Body’s Production of Retinol
As I mentioned, retinol is a byproduct of vitamin A. Guess what, your body creates retinol naturally in small amounts. When you eat foods that contain carotenoids, a free radical scavenger that your body turns into vitamin A. When you eat foods with carotenoids, your liver converts them into retinol.
Carotenoid-rich foods include:
- Bell peppers*
- Sweet potatoes
Bell peppers and tomatoes are nightshades and some people have sensitivities to them. A large group of people also have sensitivities to citrus fruits like oranges. To determine if you have a food sensitivity I recommend following a 30-day elimination diet and then reintroducing those foods and recording your symptoms.
Retinol made by the liver works a little differently than it does when applied topically. It’s also in smaller amounts. Rather than getting absorbed into your skin, the liver delivers this retinol through the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps transport white blood cells to fight free radicals.9
This is why I recommend adding a serum with retinol in it to your skincare routine to get the benefits for your skin. However, not all skincare products are created equal and many include toxic ingredients that get absorbed into your skin.
The Problem With Most Retinol Products
The skin care industry is not heavily regulated. An average of 7 new industrial chemicals that are used in skin care products get approval by the U.S. government every day, and 80% of these chemicals are approved in mere weeks with little or no safety testing performed on them.
The average American uses approximately 10-15 personal care products with a total of 126 different ingredients daily. When you add up multiple uses, that’s a lot of different ingredients we’re putting into our bodies.
Here’s a list of “the dirty dozen” that could be lurking in your skin care products:
- BHA & BHT
- Coal tar dyes
- Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
- Undisclosed fragrances
- PEG compounds
Another issue with most skincare products are that fragrances are considered a trade secret and not required to be disclosed on a label of skin care products. Even products labeled “fragrance-free” or “unscented” likely contain fragrance with a masking agent that keeps your brain from recognizing the smell. That’s why you should always check your labels and buy clean skincare products free of toxic ingredients.
The Best Retinol For Your Skin
I spent years looking for skincare products that didn’t contain toxic ingredients and fragrances, with very little luck. I knew there had to be a better way. That’s why I recently launched Amy Myers MD® Beauty – a complete hydration routine containing three physician-formulated skincare products that nourish and protect your skin from the signs of aging.
One of the skincare products I formulated was the Age-Defying Hyaluronic Acid Serum. I made sure to include optimal amounts of retinol in this rapidly-absorbing serum designed to plump, rejuvenate, and hydrate dry skin.
The best part, every single product in my line, including the Age-Defying Hyaluronic Acid Serum, is a high-performance, doctor-designed formula, free of toxins and includes the purest forms of bioactive botanical ingredients so you can experience healthy, youthful-looking skin without sacrificing results.
Featuring a potent concentration of hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin, as well as retinol to support skin cell rejuvenation, glycolic acid, vitamin E, and gotu kola extract, this advanced formula of Age-Defying Hyaluronic Acid Serum dives beneath the surface to help skin cells retain long-lasting hydration and skin that looks and feels bouncy, dewy and beautiful.
For a complete skincare routine, I designed the Essential Beauty Kit to include everything you need to nourish and protect your skin from the signs of aging.
We all want to look younger and have great-looking skin. Retinol is your skin’s anti-aging powerhouse. It’s an incredible vitamin A-derived active ingredient that gives your skin the fountain of youth.
- What to know about retinoids. Mary West. Medical News Today. 2021.
- How to prevent premature skin aging. American Academy of Dermotology. 2021.
- How Does Retinol Work on the Skin?. Kristeen Cherney. Healthline. 2022.
- The Benefits and Limits of Vitamin A for Your Skin. Corey Whelan. Healthline. 2019.
- Topical Retinoids. American Osteopathic Collage of Dermatology. 2022.
- Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Siddharth Mukherjee,. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2006.
- The Beginners Guide to Retinol. Medical Dermatology Associates of Chicago. 2021.
- 13 Facts to Know Before Adding Retinoids to Your Skin Care Routine. Healthline. 2019.
- The lymphatic system: Facts, functions & diseases. Kim Ann Zimmermann. Live Science. 2022.
Updated on: Published on: