Why retinol is such a game changer in skincare

It’s the holy grail of skincare, skyrocketing to become the biggest beauty trend of 2022. So, what’s all the fuss about retinol?

With a whopping 1.2 billion views on TikTok and over nine million Google searches (and counting), retinol is 2022’s skincare darling.

“A few years ago, when I was talking retinol products with clients, I’d have to describe them as vitamin A, now I just say retinol because everyone knows what it is,” skin practitioner Sarah Hudson says.

Retinol is said to be skin-smoothing, wrinkle-reducing, pore-minimising, pigment-reducing and acne-clearing – it’s little wonder this powerhouse active ingredient is setting the internet alight.

What is retinol exactly?

For the uninitiated (few may they be) retinol is a type of retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A, which is one of the body’s key nutrients for boosting cell turnover, says dermal therapist Dr Giulia D’Anna.

“There are several variations on the market that work at different levels,” Dr D’Anna explains.

“You can find it in everything from highly active prescription creams to more gentle, plant-based products; it’s in moisturisers, eye creams, serums, the list is endless.”

Dr D’Anna says many clinical trials have shown retinol penetrates the layers of the skin and improves cell turnover and minimises the breakdown of collagen, which leads to fine lines.

“It’s also helps with skin concerns like acne and pigmentation, as well as dryness, rough skin and blemishes,” she says.

With flawless featured celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Jessica Alba and Lily Alridge all said to be fans, Sarah says retinol is a gold-standard anti-ageing ingredient.

“It normalises and makes your skin cells so healthy and is the ultimate for getting everything done,” she says.

“Retinol’s magic is in the way it changes the skin’s texture to be smoother and more even-toned.”

What is the best way to use retinol?

Hold five before you dive straight in with this hero ingredient, because there are a few tips to using it correctly, explains Sarah.

“It’s definitely night-time only because it makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight,” Sarah says.

“And fair to sensitive skin types need to be extra cautious.

“It’s a good kick-off plan to start slowly and build up your application – try twice a week and move to every other night and then nightly because not every skin can tolerate it.”

Dr D’Anna recommends applying a small amount of retinol (think pea size) after thoroughly cleansing and then allowing time before you apply your serum and moisturiser.

“There may be a little irritation, redness, dryness and peeling initially which is why we recommend starting slowly,” Dr D’Anna says.

“And don’t expect immediate results, it might take a few weeks before you start seeing benefits.”

When should retinol be avoided?

Don’t use retinol if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, say our experts.

“Those with skin conditions such as rosacea should also steer clear,” Dr D’Anna says.

“And don’t use it if you’ve had treatments like skin needling as the skin may be extra sensitive.”

Sarah recommends checking with your health professional if you’re unsure whether to use retinol.

“But for the great majority of people, and I would say starting from the age of about 25-years-old, it’s definitely one ingredient worth having in your routine,” Sarah says.

Written by Liz McGrath.