Retinol: Vitamin A as a natural anti-aging agent

What exactly does retinol do?

By Anaïs Eleni

For the longest time, hyaluronic acid was probably the most popular anti-aging substance for radiant and supple skin, but now retinol is taking the lead and attracting the attention of beauty lovers all over, which brings us to the question: What exactly does retinol do? How does it work? And how do I best incorporate it into my skincare routine?

"Retinol stimulates
collagen synthesis,
reducing the
appearance of wrinkles!"

What is retinol?
Retinol is a fat-soluble form of vitamin A essential for healthy skin - it is central to the growth and regeneration processes of cells. Retinol is the central retinoid substance that activates the regenerative properties of skin and so is known as an anti-aging miracle agent. The effects of the vitamin have been under research since the 1970s and time and again have been proven to reduce wrinkles, maintain the structure of our skin as well as protect it from the assaults of free radicals. 

Here's how retinol works
Collagen is known as an important component of skin - an essential, endogenous protein responsible for skin's elasticity. But as we age, collagen production drops – the result is loose skin and wrinkles. This is where retinol comes in: it stimulates collagen synthesis, reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Within a short time of using retinol, the skin plumps up and becomes more elastic. In addition, you’ll notice a rejuvenating effect on your complexion. This is because skin regeneration, i.e., the process of epidermis renewal, also slows down with age. So while skin regenerates quickly when we’re young, this process slows down with age. Retinol stimulates natural skin renewal, which makes the skin look not only dewier, but also protects it from acne, blemishes and wrinkles. While both phenomena are worsened by free radicals - molecules that attack healthy skin cells - retinol has proved to be an effective antioxidant. The vitamin acts as a free-radical scavenger which, in turn, protects the integrity of the skin. 

Incorporating retinol into your own skincare routine
As with other chemical substances, the dosage and concentration of retinol are important. Before choosing a skincare product, you should read the package insert or consult your dermatologist or cosmetician to determine the ideal product for your skin type. The usual retinol concentration found in skincare products is between 0.1 and 0.5, and rarely more than one percent. To avoid skin irritations or sensitivity, start with a small amount of low concentration twice a week and work up to daily use (depending on the reaction of the skin) to maximize retinol’s effect. Products containing retinol should be integrated into the evening routine, as vitamin A makes the skin somewhat more sensitive to light. Monitor the effect of the anti-aging agent over several weeks. Regular and extended period of application will provide the best results, though improvements can usually be detected after about four weeks.

"Retinol is a
fat-soluble form
of vitamin A
essential for
healthy skin"