Tips & Advice

What is Retinol? A Dermatologist Explains

At SkinStore, we love to give our customers insights straight from the experts in beauty. Here’s our Q&A session with dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare, Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., F.A.A.D., a highly sought-after board-certified dermatologist in Miami with over 40 years of experience.

Question: What are the benefits of retinol?
Answer:

Retinol is a type of topical Vitamin A. It promotes skin collagen and elastin, treats photo-aging, exfoliates, helps minimizes the appearance of pores, and can be beneficial for acne. Retinol has been studied since the 1990’s. Of all skincare ingredients to date, topical retinoids have the most studies proving their effectiveness in treating skin photo-aging.  

Retinol is also a very effective skin exfoliator, so it helps shed dead cells at a healthier rate. It works both on surface skin, where shedding dead cells can slow down as we age, helping lessen the appearance of roughness and dullness in texture. And it also works within the pores, where slower dead cell shedding can lead to enlarged pore appearance and breakouts. 

Vitamin A is also one of the best vitamins for acne.  Retinol not only helps acne – it’s also beneficial for acne scarring and hyperpigmentation. 

Question: What are your top tips when using retinol?
Answer:

Apply SPF in the morning everydayAlways start with nighttime application of retinol.  If your skin tolerates it and you want to see more visible improvement, you may be able to go up to twice daily. Even if you only use retinol in the evening, be sure to apply sunscreen in the morning. Never apply retinol to skin that is pink/red, dry or irritated. Sometimes this means avoiding the bone around the eye as this skin can become sensitive earlier on than most other parts of the face. 

Question: Retinol and Sunscreen
Answer:

Remember, retinol needs to be used hand in hand with sunscreen for optimal results. Even if you just put on retinol the night before, always use SPF 30 or higher in the morning. Retinol makes skin more sensitive to light, so if you’re not using sunscreen in the AM, you may negate your skin’s progress. We love the Dr. Loretta Urban Antioxidant Sunscreen SPF 40, which provides truly full-spectrum protection — from UV rays and HEV blue light to pollution and irritants.

Question: What’s your advice for people who’ve heard retinol may irritate skin?
Answer:

Retinol is highly effective. It is considerably less irritating and better tolerated than the prescription retinoid, Retin A (aka Tretinoin). It’s still a potentially irritating ingredient that is typically not tolerated by people with dry, sensitive, rosacea, or post-procedure skin.  Just because it is less irritating than its prescription counterpart, Retin-A/retinoic acid, that does not mean that it is good for everyone.  

With high concentrations of retinol, there is some risk of redness, irritation, drying, and sun sensitizing. If you could not tolerate Retin A, start using Retinol just Monday, Wednesday, Friday at bedtime for first two weeks and then increase to nightly if well tolerated. 

If you are new to retinol, use it sparingly to start with the aim of building a tolerance to it.  

If your skin is sensitive, dry or rosacea prone, you might look for a more gentle version of retinol, called retinoic ester (used in the Dr. Loretta Concentrated Firming Moisturizer). Retinoic Ester is a great alternative for these skin types and is a key ingredient in the Dr. Loretta Concentrated Firming Moisturizer. It’s well tolerated by sensitive-skinned people and has been proven to support collagen, brighten skin and lessen pore appearance.  

Question: What makes the Dr. Loretta Concentrated Firming Serum (0.5% Retinol) so special?
Answer:

I worked on formulating the Concentrated Firming Serum for about 2 years until I achieved the perfect balance of retinol benefits, creating a product that’s clinically effective with minimal irritation. The result was a 0.5% retinol in unique very lipid rich base.

When retinol makes contact with skin, it depletes our skin’s natural supply of healthy lipids (moisturizing factors). I formulated the Concentrated Firming Serum with loads of lipids (both glycol- and phospholipids) to minimize irritation and dryness. So you can see the benefits of retinol, such as skin firming, lessening in appearance of lines and wrinkles, and fading of hyperpigmentation, combined with enough hydration so that there is minimal to no redness and peeling.

It’s a truly nourishing anti-aging, retinol experience with less likelihood for irritation/retinoid dermatitis. This is what makes this product so special! It’s also what makes it perfect for first-time users and veteran users alike.



Schané Flowers

Schané Flowers

Beauty Editor

A beauty enthusiast by heart and a plant lover, I'm always looking for the latest and greatest in skincare and beauty, especially clean and organic! I think everyone's entitled to high quality skincare at any budget, and I'm always on the lookout for what's new in the industry be it tips, tricks, or products!


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