Basics of glow: Retinol

by Virgina F. March 25, 2018 6 Comments

Basics of glow: Retinol

Drumroll please! Silence! Curtain up, lights on! On the stage we see our star of the evening, the unmistakable unbelievable one and only Retinol. The star ingredient of anti-ageing sways in applause from the audience.

Enough enough, back to reality. As you may have read on your mother’s night cream jar and wrinkle treatment, both of them contain Retinol. You are young and probably far away from acquiring your own anti-ageing ointments, because why would you? Well, there’s multiple reasons. To start this post with Azraelle’s everlasting wise words: ‘Prevention is key.’

Untwining this mess; what exactly is this Retinol?

Retinol is a vitamin, better known as Vitamin A. Another member of the vitamin A group you may know is Beta-Carotene. We gotta be a lil cautious here, because Retinol and Beta-Carotene may be both Vitamin A members but they aren’t exactly the same. Chemistry FTW! Besides being essential to keep your skin healthy and beautiful, Retinol also plays a crucial role in eyesight as well as proper development of bones and teeth. Vitamin A is an important part of your diet because I don’t think you want to end up with dry pale skin and nightblindness.
Talking of diet, vitamin A can be found in leafy veggies, darkly colored fruits, liver and some dairy products. And yeah, you can actually die from a vitamin a overdose. Fun times.
Now let me tell you a bit more about Beta-Carotene, it’s the kind of vitamin A that we get from veggies and fruit, and since it’s a provitamin, our body has to first convert it from it’s beta-inactive-state to an active form our body can then use.
Retinol is an active form of vitamin A, it doesn’t need any conversion by our body. Also, yeah, we as omnivores cannot produce it ourselves and have to digest it through our diet. Nature has failed us yet again.

Okay, okay. Enough chemistry talk for today, let’s move on to the fun part! What does it actually do to your skin?

By now we all know what miraculous things vitamins can do for our skin, and I can assure you, Retinol won’t fail you either.
There’s actually three derivatives of vitamin A used in skincare, which all vary in their strength and effectiveness. First, we have Retinoic Acid, commonly used to treat acne. It’s not available without a prescription tho. Which I think is a good thing, Retinoic Acid is one strooong ingredient and easily irritates the skin making you look like a flakey monster.
Retinol is somewhat a ‘step down’ from Retinoic Acid. Less harsh, but just as effective! And also available without prescription. There’s one downside tho, it’s not a very stable ingredient and sun rays deteriorate it, hence why it’s always stored in an opaque bottle.
The third, most commonly used derivative is Retinyl Palmitate. It’s the least harsh derivative of them all, and people with very sensitive skin may start themselves on this ingredient before moving up the vitamin A ladder.
But in the end, even Retinyl Palmitate is converted into Retinoic Acid by your skin. Retinyl Palmitate is like a twice wrapped Christmas present. Remember; The more conversions it takes to get to Retinoic Acid, the weaker it is! Holy cow, I went into full teacher mode.. I shall now finally let you glimpse into the wondrous benefits of vitamin A. Okay okay, I’m sorry. But a lil education here and there doesn’t do any harm, does it?

I’m a pro at making bullet lists, so here we go:

Vitamin A (Retinol) works for your skin in the following ways:

  • Improves Cell turnover (new baby skin cells are turning up faster and more efficiently)
  • Kicks stubborn cystic acne in the butt 
  • Reduces acne breakouts by preventing dead skin cells from clogging pores
  • Fires up the collagen production and also stimulating new blood vessels in your skin (More vessels=more nutrients, oxygen,hydration etc.)
  • Fades hyperpigmentation
  • Can reduce some sun damage
  • Evens out small wrinkles and fine lines
  • Reduces big pores
Like with all skin care ingredients, vitamin A also asks for persistent use and it is surely not an overnight one-time wonder! Also, vitamin A may very well irritate the hell out of your skin if you first start using it. It may lead to dryness, redness, peeling and even more acne breakouts (contradictionary I know, b u t don’t stop reading just yet!).. The list goes on.
Key is, to understand your skin and slowly introduce it to this new ingredient. Actually, if you are really worried it might upset your skin too much, opt for a product with Retinyl Palmitate and slowly work your way up to Retinol.

There’s also some myths I’d like to clarify. While we are at it, I’ll make another one of those nice bullet lists. Don’t judge me, k. It gives me a false sense of stability in my life.

  • Retinol and sun exposure will give you sunburns.

Nope, not the case. The only thing that will happen is that Retinol will deteriorate as it comes in contact with sunlight, rendering it ineffective. Hence, always apply at night and keep your product away from sunlight. But as it does enhance skin cell turnover, please always wear sunscreen! New cells are more prone to getting burned.

  • Retinol exfoliates your skin.

Not true. Peeling red skin does not mean it’s exfoliating. It’s irritated. You can and you really should use an exfoliator with retinol. (Don’t forget a hecking good moisturizer!)

  • Retinol should not be used daily.

This heavily depends on your skin! If your skin is comfortable with wearing Retinol every day, go for it! But keep in mind that slow acclimatisation to the ingredient is key to avoid major irritation. Maybe start off by using it 1-3 times a week, and increase its use slowly.

  • Retinol takes up to 6 weeks to show significant changes

Sadly, this is true. Not rarely, it takes even longer to show impacting results on your skin. As I said before, persistence is key with this ingredient!

  • You should stop using Retinol when irritation flares up

Nope! Push through it! It may contradict all you’ve ever read about skin care, but I mean what I say. Usually the irritations only last for 2-3 weeks until your skin cells get used to vitamin A. Even though it's not fun the results will pay off. Of course, if the irritation gets unbearable, reduce the amount of application times and switch to a product with a less potent derivative.

Also if you have acneic skin, it may worsen your acne temporarily. This is, however no reason to stop using it. Push through it and you will be rewarded with unclogged pores and smooth skin. What did we learn? Patience, patience and a good dash of persistence make Retinol a superb ingredient to fight ageing and blemishes.

One product I like to use that contains a small percentage of Retinol is MISSHAs Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule. As it contains a very low percentage of Retinol, it’s perfect for starting using vitamin A's in your skin care routine.
If your product contains 1% of retinol, it’s for skin that’s already very used to Retinol.
A percentage of 0.6% is kind of a middle step, or for some even the highest percentage they can tolerate. Products containing anywhere from 0.1-0.3% are good for starting out.
You might even need less, this is where the MISSHA Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule comes into play as it contains just about 0.1% of Retinol. The MISSHA Ampoule also contains two other fruitful anti-ageing agents such as vitamin C and Niacinamide. The ampoule never broke me out and cleared my skin significantly.

But as I am only 22, the effect of anti-ageing didn’t show as much on my skin as it did with my mother. You gotta know somethings about my mom. She’s very stubborn when it comes to changing something she’s used to. She’s used the same moisturizer for the entire duration of my lifetime. The moisturizer she used isn’t a bad one, but as she’s hitting 50 this year, just not nutritious enough for her skins needs anymore. So as soon as Azraelle told me about the MISSHA Time Revolution Night Repair, I ran to my mom and told her all about the miracles this ampoule might do for her skin. My mothers skin wasn’t in a bad condition to start with, it was just dull, ashy and basically a desert. Well okay, it was in a bad condition. But now, after months of using it daily, her skin has improved miles upon miles. It’s much more even, brighter and it has lost all of it’s ashy dullness.
What do we learn? Sometimes daughters know what’s best too. ;)

In conclusion, I’d like to once again reinforce what I’ve said before: Don’t use vitamin A in a headless manner! If you do it correctly, your skin will thank you forever. This is by no means meant to scare you, I just don’t want you to damage your precious rosy skin.

Any further questions? Ask your Prof. Dr. Virginia. :D

Virgina F.
Virgina F.


6 Responses


April 03, 2018

Hello everyone and thank you for your lovely comments! ♡

@selisa1333: So far, we only carry the Missha Night Repair Borabit Ampoule which contains retinol. :)

@Hajnalka K.: There might be some true in this. Also, retinol is a very potent ingredient and as Virginia mentioned above, sometimes even 0.5% is the highest percentage some skin types can tolerate.

Hajnalka K.
Hajnalka K.

April 03, 2018

I feel like Kbeauty products don’t really focus on high concentrations of retinol in general but rather on increasing the collagen production to keep the skin plump and transparent looking as retinol tends to thicken the skin.


March 30, 2018

Are there other products besides the MISSHA time revolution night repair ampoule in this shop, which has Retinol?


March 27, 2018

I switched from estee lauder night repair to missha because it costs much less. It helped reduce my fine lines and the size of my pores.

Charly A.
Charly A.

March 26, 2018

I can totally relate to this because in our house it’s me who gives skin care advice to my mom and she uses my stuff. She’s already hooked on my Hana cream. Think I will drop her a hint about that Missha ampoule. Thanks!


March 26, 2018

I am literally drooling over these pictures!

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