What Is Retinol Serum Good For – Is It Worth the Hype?

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Retinol is an over-the-counter vitamin A derivative that is touted to be one of the best skincare ingredients on the market. Retinol belongs to the category of retinoids—which are vitamin A derivatives used to treat different skin concerns. So what is retinol serum good for? 

Retinol serum is good for treating skin concerns such as aging, acne, hyperpigmentation, discoloration, sun spots, and so on. It works actively as an exfoliant to remove old skin cells and aid in the development of new ones. 

Retinol serum has several benefits for the skin, but it also has side effects. This article contains a list of what retinol does for the skin and how to use it correctly in your skincare routine. Read along to learn more information about the product.

What Does Retinol Serum Do for the Skin?

Retinol as an ingredient amends the aged cells in the skin to help them appear and behave in a younger manner. When you start using retinol serum on your skin, it will help to reduce the uneven texture and tone of the skin. 

From curbing breakouts to treating sun damage, the product can help to address several skin concerns. Using retinol serum in your skincare routine can help to clear your pores. It does this by reducing the buildup of dead skin cells and oil on the surface of the skin.

This buildup can attract bacteria and that can cause acne inflammation. Retinol serum can help to prevent that from happening. The product can help to reduce and prevent acne breakouts. 

The skin naturally turns over its old cells for the generation of new ones. However, again reduces the rate at which the skin cells turn over and that can lead to the skin looking dull. 

The decrease in skin cell turnover also means a decrease in collagen production. When this happens, the skin loses its vital protein and becomes saggy. This results in the appearance of aging signs such as wrinkles, fine lines, and so on.

Using retinol serum will speed up the turnover rate and stimulate collagen production in the skin. That will help to reduce the appearance of aging signs as the skin regains its elasticity. 

Exposing the skin to the sun for a long time can also cause premature aging and hyperpigmentation. The increase in skin turnover rate can help to improve the skin’s complexion. 

Retinol serum can help to protect the skin from further damage. However, retinol can cause the skin’s top layer to thin out and this causes sensitivity to the sun. Therefore, ensure that you always wear your SPF 30 for sun protection. 

What does the research say?

A couple of research studies have found that retinol is truly effective in treating certain skin concerns. 

A review concluded that using topical retinoids like retinol serum is a safe and effective treatment for acne. Researchers discovered that retinol helps in the stimulation of cell regeneration and collagen production.

Another study reveals that retinol was effective in reducing the appearance of wrinkles after 8 weeks of using it. 

Research also confirms that you can use lower concentrations of retinol to treat hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. Researchers suggest that using 0.3 and 0.5 retinol serums can help to reduce dark spots, patches, and discoloration on the skin.

How to Use Retinol Serum on the Skin

As a first-time retinol user, keep in mind that you have to start small and upgrade later. This has to do with the percentage of retinol in the serum and how often you use it on your skin. 

Start with a low percentage between 0.2 to 0.3 and begin by doing a patch test to check for allergic reactions. If your skin is not allergic, you can proceed to start using retinol on your skin once or twice a week. This will help to reduce the risk of experiencing severe side effects. 

After the first month of using retinol serum on your skin, you can upgrade to a higher percentage of your skin that can tolerate it. Do not use more than 0.5 percent retinol on sensitive skin. Doing so can cause retinol burn and other severe reactions like peeling and redness. 

You can also upgrade your usage frequency after one month of using you. Increase your usage by one more day every two weeks. You may not be able to achieve frequent use if you have sensitive skin. 

To avoid putting your skin at risk of sunburn and other sun damage, it is best to use the serum at night. This is because retinol thins out the skin and that results in an increase in the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. 

Even as you use retinol at night, you still have to use sunscreen every morning to prevent sun damage. Additionally, be sure to always moisturize your skin after using retinol as this will help to keep your skin from getting dry. 

Your method of application determines the result you get, which is why the proper application of the serum is very important. Follow the process below to apply retinol serum to your skincare routine.

Cleanse your skin

It is important to wash the skin before the application of any skincare product. Applying retinol serum on dirty skin will do no good but reduce the efficiency of the product.

Wash your face with a gentle hypoallergenic cleanser or body wash. After washing, use a clean towel to remove excess water from the skin.

Apply an eye cream

The skin covering the eye area is thin and can get irritated easily. Using retinol on it can cause side effects and reactions to occur. Apply eye cream around the eyes before applying retinol serum. This will help to prevent the serum from irritating the skin. 

Apply your retinol serum

Wait for your skin to be completely dry before applying your retinol serum.

How to do it:

  • Squeeze out a drop of retinol serum on your palm
  • Rub your palms together to activate the serum
  • Apply the serum on your skin in circular motions
  • Cover all areas of your face 

Moisturize your skin

Apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer that does not contain harsh ingredients that can irritate the skin. Wait 15 minutes after using the serum before you apply the moisturizer. 

Can You Use B3 and Retinol Serum Together?

B3 refers to niacinamide, which is a gentle ingredient that works to reduce the appearance of aging signs and blemishes on the skin. It works similarly to retinol and you can use your B3 serum with it.

You can use b3 and retinol serum together in your skincare routine without experiencing side effects. Since niacinamide helps to hydrate the skin, it can help to reduce the risk of retinol side effects. 

To use them together, you can look for a product that contains both ingredients or you can use separate products. A study showed that using a moisturizer that contains niacinamide before using retinol can help to reduce the side effects. 

During this research, researchers found that participants who applied a moisturizer with niacinamide to half their face didn’t experience irritations after their retinoid treatment. 

Another study found that a product containing retinol, niacinamide, hexylresorcinol helped to improve fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. This means that using retinol serum and B3 is good for the improvement of the skin.

Can You Use Retinol Serum Every Night?

You can use retinol serum every night, but this depends on your skin type, the percentage of retinol in the serum, and how you use it.  

Start building your skin’s tolerance by upgrading your usage frequency every 2 weeks. After using retinol for a while, you should be about to use it every night. However, this is only possible if your akin agrees to it. 

Retinol can be very drying on the skin, especially for sensitive skin. Therefore, only go with an option that your skin can tolerate.

Is Retinol Serum Good for Dry Skin?

Retinol serum is good for dry skin, but you have to be careful when using it. Although it comes with plenty of benefits, it also has side effects too. 

You may experience side effects such as redness, more dryness on the skin, and flatness. However, this will reduce after a few weeks of using the serum and with your moisturizer, you will be fine. 

To use retinol serum on dry skin, choose one that contains a low percentage of retinol. This will help to reduce the chances of getting your skin irritated. Start with a 0.2 retinol and after a while, you can move your way up to higher concentrations. 

When applying it to your skincare routine, use the sandwich method to escape side effects. Moisturize after using the serum on your skin. This will definitely help to strengthen your skin barrier and prevent dryness. 

Does Retinol Serum Dry Out the Skin?

Retinol serum can cause the skin to become very dry. This is because, according to a study, retinol breaks down the skin’s acid mantles and that can increase dryness. 

Retinol also reduces oil production in the skin and when this happens in already dry skin, you may experience extreme dryness and flatness. This is a very common retinol side effect.

Frequently Asked Question

Is retinol serum good for acne?

Yes, it is. Retinol serum is good for acne as it helps to unblock pores. It will help to reduce and prevent acne breakouts.

Breakouts can happen when dead skin cells, oil, and dirt clog the pores. Retinol will help to open up the pores to dissolve and remove the dead skin cells.

Is retinol serum good for hyperpigmentation?

Yes, it is. Using retinol serum can help to lighten dark spots and patches on the skin. Therefore, retinol serum is good for reducing hyperpigmentation.

You should notice an improvement in the appearance of hyperpigmentation after 4 to 6 months of using the serum correctly on your skin. 

Is retinol serum good for stretch marks?

Yes, it is. Retinol serum is good for reducing the appearance of stretch marks on the skin. 

Stretch marks happen when the skin loses its elasticity. Since retinol can help to stimulate collagen production, using retinol serum will help to restore the skin’s elasticity. When the skin becomes firm, there will be a reduction in the appearance of stretch marks.


Retinol serum is good for treating skin concerns such as acne, aging signs, and hyperpigmentation. All of these happen due to aging or sun damage and can be prevented with the consistent use of the serum. 

As effective as retinol is in treating the skin, it comes with side effects. Therefore, you need to learn to use retinol correctly on your skin. Start slowly with a low percentage and usage frequency and upgrade later as your skin allows.

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