1 Aug 2021


Retinol has long been considered the gold standard of anti ageing. Here we discuss all things Retinol with Dr. Maryam Zamani to understand the hero ingredient better, and find out if it is worth the hype!

What is retinol?

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, and one of the most widely researched and proven skincare ingredients available today. Retinol is available in different strengths but an ingredient that helps promote cell turnover, diminishing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone and blemishes.

How does work?

With age, skin’s natural cell turnover decreases resulting in dull, uneven skin tone and rough skin texture. Topical retinol creams help promote turnover of surface cells, which means dead skin cells are sloughed away faster, revealing visibly healthier and brighter skin. Similarly, this mechanism helps improve the appearance of blemishes by preventing dead skin cells from clogging pores.

Why is retinol such a good ingredient to incorporate into your routine?

Vitamin A (retinol) and its derivatives (retinaldehyde and tretinoin) can induce the synthesis of collagen and reduce the expression of collagenase (which breaks down collagen). Retinol has been clinically proved to reduce the signs of UV induced early skin ageing (think wrinkles, loss of elasticity and pigmentation).

Which other ingredients play nicely with retinol, and which should be avoided?

At MZ Skin our ethos is to Reveal, Enhance and Protect the skin. To achieve that it is all about layering certain ingredients that work in harmony to get your skin at its best health. Alpha Hydroxy Acids provide a gentle exfoliation to reveal healthy new cells and encourage absorption of following products. Combining retinol with exfoliants or other strong ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can accentuate dryness, redness and irritation in the short term but may actually increase its benefits.

To enhance the skin, we need to nourish it with antioxidants, and retinol. Vitamin C helps stop free radicals created by UV rays from damaging the skin while encouraging collagen synthesis. It is commonly thought that Vitamin C and Retinols counteract one another but recent studies suggest they may be synergistic with one another. Hyaluronic Acid is in many products and helps maintain and restore skin moisture which is important if your skin is feeling dry from Retinol.

Of course, if you are using Retinol, it is strongly advised to use SPF daily to protect the skin.

Those on medication which thins the skin such as Roaccutane are also best avoiding topical retinoids.

How can shoppers spot retinol on the ingredients label/which version of retinol are the best to use, and which aren’t as effective?

The retinoid family includes the natural derivatives of retinol including retinaldehyde, retinoic acid, and retinyl esters. Vitamin A cannot be synthesized by the body and are generally present as retinyl esters which are converted to retinol and after a series of changes is metabolized to four important products: retinyl esters, all trans retinoic acid, 14-hydroxy-4, 14-retro retinol, and all-trans 3, 4-didehydroretinol, and its esters.

Tretinoin ISA retinoid which was initially proved to clinically improve photoaged skin as well as deposition of reticulin fibres and new dermal collagen formation of Type I and III. Further studies show increased epidermal thickening, improvement of fine lines and wrinkles improvement in hyperpigmentation, skin texture and laxity. Retinol has less signs of erythema and irritation when compared to tretinoin but also needs further conversion to retinoic. It is more unstable and can be inactivated by light and air. Retinol derivatives were developed to improve chemical stability of retinol. Science has attempted to change vehicles of delivery to decrease the potential side effects experienced.

Look for high concentration of pure retinol as opposed to retinol derivatives such as retinyl palmitate.

Why does retinol need to be introduced slowly into your routine?

Using a retinol infrequently and building up tolerance creates less reactive skin, with cumulative use.

What are the potential side effects of retinol?

I hear that because of increased skin turnover, people think that the skin is peeling and therefore becoming thinner. However, this is incorrect. Retinol functions to enhance collagen production. It is not an exfoliant. It can make skin more sensitive to UV light so SPF is needed. Also people think that improvements can be seen in 4-6weeks. Unfortunately studies actually show great improvement in skin at 6 months. It’s important to stick with it! Also some believe that if a product irritates the skin, one must discontinue its use. However, treatment with a form of Vitamin A can take weeks to adapt to and it is not unusual to be flushed, dry, and with light peeling. Also interesting is that studies have shown that Vitamin A derivatives can prevent the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of collagen after UV exposure so you can use retinol while on holiday (do not forget the sunscreen!).

MZ Skin Retinol Skin Booster uses encapsulation technology; delivering the active deep into the skin, targeting skin cells where it would provide most benefit and helping prevent common side effects.

Why is it important to wear SPF when using a retinol?

Retinol increases cell turnover and so produces an abundance of new cells, which are more sensitive and susceptible to UV damage.

Why is retinol best used at night?

Using Retinol at night helps to limit photosensitivity and irritation.

What are the alternatives to retinol? How are they similar?

Rosehip oil contains small concentrations of retinoic acids. Glycolic acid is an aforementioned AHA that also is known to boost collagen and elastin in the skin, so it can offer similar anti-aging benefits.

Treatments to Consider:

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As a leading Oculoplastic Surgeon with special interest in Facial Aesthetics, Dr. Maryam Zamani has garnered a global reputation - both in the US and UK - for her meticulous attention to detail and sought-after techniques for eyes and facial aesthetics.

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