Retinol Can Turn Back Time

Retinol Can Turn Back Time

You may be already experiencing it… Fine lines, wrinkles, breakouts, oily skin, or uneven texture.

As time goes on, these problems are becoming more frustrating and difficult to treat.

No matter what skincare you use, you are just not getting the results you want.

But the reality is, you can’t wait forever to get results; all you really need is something that works.

So, what should you do?

Well, the first thing you need to do is adjust your approach to your products. Stop looking for the next “holy grail” skincare cream and turn your attention to ingredients instead.  You see, when it comes to many skin frustrations, from acne to ageing, retinoids are that wondrous thing.

Retinol, a chemical compound related to Vitamin A, is deserving of taking centre stage in your skincare kit – especially if you have been battling with any of the following concerns:

  • acne
  • pigmentation
  • skin firmness
  • rough texture
  • excessive oiliness
  • inflamed breakouts
  • fine lines and wrinkles
  • skin roughness and dullness
  • pigmentation from age spots

With such a long list of conditions that benefit from this treatment, it sounds like an A-list product for the celebrities, but whilst you’ve no doubt heard of it, using Retinol can be another story. So, for this article, we’re going to cut the confusion and impart our Retinol wisdom to you and answer all of your questions, free of charge.

Why is it the ‘holy grail’ of the skincare world?

Great question! We’re glad you asked. Retinol, a topical derivative of Vitamin A, is certainly the most researched anti-ageing ingredient globally. To understand how it works, we first need to get a little technical and understand collagen, the major structural protein in our body. We liken it to internal scaffolding – without collagen, there would be nothing to hold the cells together.

When we are young, collagen is naturally produced by the body, but as we age, collagen synthesis slows down. Environmental factors such as UV exposure, diet, stress, and smoking break down the collagen fibres, and the skin starts looking rough, uneven, saggy, and wrinkly.

For Retinol to become active, it must first be converted to Tretinoin. Enzymes do this in the skin, where they can work in several ways to improve skin health:

  1. First, it increases the amount of collagen in your skin by inactivating Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs), the proteins in the skin that actually break down collagen. These are also made more active by UV rays.
  2. Next, it increases cellular turnover – that is, it increases the rate at which new skin cells replace old ones.
  3. Finally, Retinol is also an antioxidant; it blocks reactive free radicals generated by UV exposure or toxins in the environment, which wreak havoc in your skin.

Don’t confuse your retinols

But be warned, don’t confuse Retinol with its fast-acting cousin that requires a prescription. That one is pure Retinoic Acid — Retin-A or Renova, to name a few brands. Retinoic Acid is Retinol’s older sister, which works much more effectively, but it’s not without its side effects, such as flaky skin and inflammation.

Retinyl palmitate

This is an ester form of Vitamin A that has been considered a milder, though still very active, form of Vitamin A that is easily tolerated by your skin.

Retinyl palmitate is converted to Retinol and Retinoic acid once it has entered the cell, which accounts for most of its effects. The molecule’s palmitate moiety seems to play a vital role; it’s a high-energy molecule that is extremely desirable to cells, which absorb it from the interstitial fluid into the intracellular compartment.

The energy from palmitate is used to convert Vitamin A into the various isomers of Retinoic acid. More than 80% of the Vitamin A normally found in the skin is in Retinyl Palmitate. Our anti-ageing moisturiser, Immortelle, is formulated with this type of Vitamin A.

Retinyl acetate

This form of Vitamin A is more active than Retinyl Palmitate – about as active as Retinoic Acid (Retin-A). It is actually the form in which the liver stores Vitamin A.

Effects of retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate

Cell walls are not easy to penetrate; mechanisms have to exist to facilitate the transfer of chemicals from outside the cell wall, through the membrane, and into the cell itself. We have discovered that there are secret little passageways through the cell wall for various chemicals – only those with a required ‘password’, or shape, may enter any particular passageway.

It has been discovered that there are places on a keratinocyte cell wall where Vitamin A, in the form of Retinyl Palmitate, Acetate, or Retinoic Acid, can enter into the cell. These are called retinoid surface receptors.

How retinol works on your skin

This is the most popular form of non-prescription Vitamin A. Retinol is converted into potent Retinoic Acid inside the keratinocytes, the cells responsible for a strong physical barrier on the skin. Retinol is less irritating to the skin than Retinoic Acid but is more irritating than Retinyl Acetate or Palmitate.

It is found naturally in shallow doses within our tissues, and when higher doses are given to the cells, the cell membranes may become damaged. This may explain why Retinol often causes mild peeling of the skin when first used. As the surfaces of the cell walls develop more retinoid receptors, the irritation disappears. Retinol is otherwise just another form of Vitamin A and will produce the same results if used in the same dosage as Retinyl Palmitate or Acetate.

Retinol is two metabolic steps away from being Retinoic Acid – this is one of the falsities that has deceived many formulators and clinicians into believing that it will deliver Retinoic Acid more efficiently than Retinyl Palmitate. What seems to be ignored is that Retinol is only one metabolic step away from Retinyl Palmitate, and that is actually the preferred metabolic route for Retinol that is applied to the skin – this is why we use Retinyl Palmitate in the Naked Chemist formulations.

Topically-applied Retinol is almost completely converted into Retinyl Palmitate, and only a tiny fraction remains as Retinol that can be metabolised to Retinaldehyde and then to Retinoic Acid. Why use Retinol at all, if it is just going to be converted into Retinyl Palmitate? One reasoning is that various isomers of Vitamin A are essential to impart the full effects. By supplying it in its various forms, you can increase the chances of getting widespread Retinoic Acid isomers. The skin cells make different shapes of Retinoic Acid naturally.

Retinoic acid

This is Retinol’s ‘big sister’, referred to as Tretinoin, Retin-A, Renova, and others. It is thought to be the most potent form of Vitamin A, working on the cell’s nucleus’ DNA. A doctor’s prescription is required for this ingredient; however, it’s coupled with more potential side-effects such as flaky skin or redness.


This is an intermediate form of Vitamin A, one step away from Retinoic acid. Retinol is oxidised into Retinaldehyde, which is then oxidised one step further into Retinoic acid.

Why is retinol more effective than Vitamin C or salicylic acid?

These ingredients bring wonderful things to the skin, but Retinol has a lot more research behind it. It works deep below the surface in the dermis to encourage cellular turnover and reveal youthful, bright skin unlike Vitamin C and Salicylic Acid — which slough of dead cells that build up over time — retinol promotes cellular repair on a deeper, microscopic scale. It is also a true multi-tasker that has amazing skin benefits, as discussed above.

How do I get started?

Using Retinol at night is the best option, and then build up slowly — start with a couple of nights a week. It’s important to build up to whatever works best for your skin. Some can tolerate it every night; those with more sensitive skin may only be able to tolerate it every other night, or even less.

To maximise results, long-term use is best. It takes about six to eight weeks for your skin to turn over because although Retinol will speed up the process, it is still going to take several weeks to see results.

Begin by introducing our A+ Retinol Complex into your evening routine. At 1.0%, you should start seeing great results within a matter of weeks; initially use intermittently, incorporating your product into your routine slowly. Vitamin A products are cosmeceuticals and can be active, especially if your skin is not used to it, which is why we recommend building this formula into your routine over time. We have specifically formulated our A+ Retinol Complex to be gentle on the skin.

The naked truth

So, how do you avoid the “uglies” and other potential side effects?

To mitigate the side effects that may build-up, use Retinol slowly as this will give your skin time to acclimate. Always wear sunscreen, as Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Retinyl palmitate is the most gentle form of Vitamin A; it helps those with sensitivity to Retinol build up a tolerance.

Use at the opposite end of the day to your Vitamin C. I’m not a fan of using too many actives on the skin at once — keep your routine simple. Generally, I feel it is best not to layer too many products, whether using a Retinoid. It can reduce how well the products work and may also cause chemical burns. Therefore, it is important to avoid chemical peels while using retinol, especially if you have sensitive, delicate skin.

Bottom line? If in doubt, stop immediately, and then re-introduce slowly. Don’t overstimulate your skin with too many actives like Vitamin C, Niacinamide, or Alpha/Beta Hydroxy acids — this is about really listening to your skin and treating it with respect.


So, we have established that Retinol is a topical derivative of Vitamin A and is the most researched anti-ageing ingredient globally.

It increases the amount of collagen in your skin by inactivating matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), the enzymes in the skin, which actually break down collagen. It increases cellular turnover and is a potent antioxidant, blocking the free radicals generated by UV exposure or toxins in the environment, leading to premature ageing.

There are lots of derivatives of Vitamin A. Still, the one with a real affinity with your skin is Retinyl palmitate, a mild, yet still, the very active form that is easily tolerated by your skin. It is a high-energy molecule that is extremely desirable to cells, and more than 80% of the Vitamin A normally found in the skin is in the form of Retinyl Palmitate.

Retinoic acid goes by Tretinoin, Retin-A, Renova, and is only available by prescription. Yes, its role on the skin is powerful, but it also has some bad side-effects, so use with caution.

Retinol is the form of Retinyl Palmitate is the number one ingredient for warding off premature ageing, with more research around it than any other ingredient. Working deep in the dermis to reveal youthful, bright skin, promoting cellular repair on a deeper microscopic level, it is also a wonderful multi-tasker that brings many benefits to the skin.

2 thoughts on “Retinol Can Turn Back Time

  1. Ana says:

    What is your opinion about natural alternatives to retinol? (For example, Eminence product such as Bamboo firming fluid.) I have sensitive eczema-prone skin but at 57 I’m definitely needing something more.

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Hi Ana
      I don’t use these products so can not recommend them. retinol is the most researched ingredient there re4ally is no comparison. if you have sensitive skin that is fine just use low strength and build up over time as your skin re densifies. Samantha

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