Does Retinol Work? Learn the Facts

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No doubt, the term “retinol” is one of the most searched terms on Google right now. But does retinol work? What is it that makes it so special? I’ve put together a detailed report that answers this question and many more.

Retinol does work. It is a form of vitamin A, but it’s not the same as the one that you get from leafy greens or carrots. It is an ingredient that can be found in various skincare products, such as moisturizers, serums, and night creams.

Retinol works by penetrating deep into the epidermal layer of your skin where collagen is produced, enhancing its formation and stimulating cellular turnover. It also increases the production of glycosaminoglycans, which help support healthy connective tissue and elastin fibers.

“The retinol molecule has a double-bond, so it can bind to both the upper layer of the stratum corneum and the deeper layer of the epidermis,” explains Dr. Brendan Camp, MD, a board-certified dermatologist.

This property is what allows retinol to work on hyperpigmentation, acne, fine lines, and wrinkles. You can apply retinol topically by using creams, serums, or gels, but it is also available in oral forms such as tablets and capsules.

Does Retinol Work for Acne?

Studies have found retinol to be an effective acne treatment, particularly in the reduction of inflammatory lesions. It is most effective when used as a part of a skincare regimen that contains other acne treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Retinol can help to reduce the formation of acne. It does this by speeding up cell turnover rates, which helps to get rid of dead skin cells more quickly. This will reduce the number of bacteria on your skin which can cause breakouts, as well as reduce oil production.

“With acne, you want to use a product with retinol that has a concentration of between 0.15 and 1.5% retinol,” explains Dr. Camp. But if you have sensitive skin, it is advisable to start with a lower dose and build your way up.

Does Retinol Work on Stretch Marks?

Retinol is one of the most effective ingredients for fading stretch marks. Regular use of retinol can help to reduce the appearance of stretch marks over time by helping the skin heal more quickly and evening out skin tone.

Retinol works on stretch marks in two ways to reduce their appearance. It encourages natural exfoliation through regular cell turnover. Retinol also helps to stimulate the production of collagen in the skin.

In Dr. Camp’s words, “collagen is a type of protein that gives skin its strength and elasticity. Because scar tissue has less collagen than normal skin, retinol can reduce stretch marks by encouraging healthy levels of collagen formation in the skin.”

Does Retinol Work on Dark Spots?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), “Retinol is a form of vitamin A that has been proven to be effective in fading dark spots and other skin conditions”. Retinol works by speeding up the growth of skin cells, which helps to replace dead skin cells with new ones.

The increased cell turnover will help slough off pigment-containing cells while simultaneously producing new, healthy skin that is less prone to pigmentation. This process can take some time, but retinol usually works within months depending on your skin type.

Retinol also has benefits for other skin discolorations like melasma, brown spots caused by sun damage, and acne lesions. It can even help fade freckles and some other types of birthmarks.

Does Retinol Work on Acne Scars?

“The mechanism of action for retinol on acne scars is not entirely understood. However, it is known that acne scars are a result of inflammation caused by acne blemishes, which leads to the breakdown of pore walls,” explains Dr. Camp.

Retinol reduces this inflammation by increasing blood flow to the area, which promotes healing. It also helps by increasing cell turnover on the surface of the skin. This helps to break down old skin cells and remove them from the surface of the skin.

When treating acne scars, you must use retinol over time. That is because visible results are not apparent until several months after retinol treatment has begun.

The first signs of improvement will appear around 4 weeks after starting retinol use and will continue improving for about 6 months or more.

Does Retinol Work for Wrinkles?

Studies show retinol can help improve the appearance of skin over time because it stimulates cell turnover, which helps to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. It does so by encouraging your skin cells to use collagen more effectively for healthy-looking skin.

“Retinol also increases collagen production to help repair damaged or aging skin. This helps reduce fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and acne scars,” explains Dr. Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist.

Furthermore, retinol has exfoliating properties that help to get rid of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. The result of this is healthier-looking skin with fewer signs of aging.

Does Retinol Work With Vitamin C?

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that helps to exfoliate the skin, fight off acne and reduce wrinkles. However, retinol works best when used with Vitamin C. They both work together to give you significant results when it comes to skin exfoliation and renewal.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that prevents the damage caused by free radicals on your skin cells. It also promotes collagen production and helps in reducing signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. When combined, these two vitamins can greatly prevent and even reverse signs of aging.

Does Retinol Work for Everyone?

Retinol is considered the gold standard in anti-aging skincare. Studies have proved it to decrease wrinkles, fine lines, and other issues related to aging. While it’s great for most people, some people should not use retinol at all.

According to dermatologists at the Cleveland Clinic, “retinol can cause redness, burning, and peeling if you have very sensitive skin. It also makes the skin more prone to sunburn and increases your chances of developing sun damage”.

Studies have also shown that retinol should not be used during pregnancy. It’s not just ineffective, but potentially dangerous for your baby. Retinol use can cause the eyes of an unborn baby to develop improperly, potentially leading to vision problems later on in life.

You should also stay away from retinol if you spend a lot of time in the sun. You need to wear SPF 30 or higher sunscreen every day to prevent the photosensitivity caused by this ingredient. For best results, you should only use retinol at night or stay away from it altogether.

How to Tell if Retinol Is Working

If you want to know if your retinol product is working for you, look out for these things:

Smooth skin texture

Retinol works by increasing the cell turnover rate in the skin. This helps smooth out fine lines and wrinkles while also making your skin appear brighter.

Reduced pore size

Retinol helps to reduce pore size by stimulating collagen production in the skin. This helps to plump up your skin cells hence reducing the appearance of your pores and leaving your complexion looking visibly smoother.

Reduced acne

Retinol helps to slough off dead skin cells more quickly than normal. It also helps to reduce oil production and opens up pores to release debris that can clog your pores and causes acne.

Increased hydration

Retinol helps hydrate the skin by stimulating the production of collagen in your skin, which strengthens the connective tissues in your dermis and epidermis. Collagen also helps keep your skin elastic and flexible, so it retains moisture better.

Side Effects of Retinol


Retinol is drying to the skin because it sloughs away dead skin cells from the epidermis, which causes the skin pores to lose sebum (oil). To avoid this drying effect, it’s best to use retinol at night or with a moisturizer to seal in moisture.

Irritated skin

Retinol can irritate the skin and cause itching because of its exfoliating properties. To avoid this, it’s best to use it in small doses for a short period of time so your skin can get accustomed to it.

Skin peeling

Retinol can cause your skin to peel as it tries to remove dead and damaged skin while allowing healthy new skin to emerge from underneath. Although this process typically takes months or years rather than overnight you will likely notice this effect with time.

Sun sensitivity

Retinol is photosensitive, which means it can increase skin sensitivity to the sun. For this reason, it’s best to use it at night before bedtime. It is also important to apply sunscreen every day, even when it’s cloudy or cold outside.

How to Use Retinol

  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser in order to remove any makeup or dirt that might be on your skin.
  • Dry your face with a gentle dry towel.
  • Apply a small amount of retinoid cream or serum onto your clean fingers.
  • Carefully apply the product by dabbing it on your face until it has been fully covered.
  • Wait for about 10 minutes for the retinol to fully absorb into your skin.
  • Apply a moisturizer to lock in moisture on your skin.
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF15 or higher during the day to prevent sun damage.


Can you use expired retinol products?

No, you can’t. Expired products that contain retinol lose their efficacy over time because of oxidation.

This oxidation causes retinol to form a new compound called “retinyl ester” which is less potent than its predecessor. Expired retinol can also get contaminated by bacteria from the air or your fingers, causing an infection or even worse.

Can retinol make your skin glow?

Yes, it can. Retinol is a versatile product that can be used for a variety of purposes, from lightening dark spots to reducing the appearance of fine lines.

When applied topically or taken orally, retinol helps to decrease the effects of aging by removing dead skin cells and increasing collagen production. The result is smoother and more radiant-looking skin.

Can retinol make you look younger?

Yes, it can. Aging is inevitable, but using retinol can help you treat acne, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, or other skin conditions that can make you look older.

Applying retinol topically or orally also helps to increase skin elasticity by boosting collagen production. This makes your skin firmer, thicker, and even younger-looking.

Can you use retinol on sensitive skin?

No, you can’t. It is best to steer clear of retinol and its derivatives if you have sensitive or broken skin.

Retinol is a potent ingredient that can eliminate wrinkles and brighten the skin. However, it’s also very powerful, which means that it can be harmful to sensitive or broken skin and cause side effects ranging from mild to severe.


Retinol is a form of Vitamin A that’s available in over-the-counter products, and it’s been shown to reduce signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and rough skin.

As you age, your cells naturally die off at a slower rate. Retinol works by speeding this process up, thereby removing the dead skin cells that clog pores and cause skin discolorations and acne.

In addition to removing dead skin cells from your skin, retinol also increases collagen production. The more collagen you have in your skin, the stronger and healthier your skin will be and the less likely it is for you to develop wrinkles, age spots, and rough skin.

You can apply retinol topically or take it orally, it works either way. But for the best results, use retinol at night because it can make your skin sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Thanks for reading.

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