What is retinol? How to use it and why women 30+ should be

What is retinol

Wouldn’t it be great if there was one magic skincare product that made a difference to all the things we moan about when it comes to our complexion? An ingredient that could smooth the look of our fine lines, fade pigmentation (those pesky brown spots we get from the sun), reduce the size of our pores, and even help clear up spots. Well, that hero ingredient does actually exist. It’s called retinol, you may have heard of it, but are you using it? You should be, as it’s one of the handful of skincare ingredients that is actually scientifically proven to reduce the signs of ageing – since I started using it my skin has never looked better. So if you only change one thing in your skincare routine for the year ahead, make it adding a retinol product to your night time routine.


Retinol (a derivative of vitamin A) speeds up the way your cells renew themselves and even stimulates the production of collagen – both slow down as we hit our 30s causing all our skin-ageing woes mentioned above. Dermatologists rave about it, you’ll often hear it called the ‘gold-standard’ in anti-ageing skincare, because it has the scientific research to back these claims up. ‘Very few over-the-counter cosmetic anti-ageing products have been subjected to rigorous, scientific trials to prove their effectiveness,’ says consultant dermatologist, Dr Justine Kluk. ‘There is evidence, however, that commercially-available cosmetic creams containing retinol can produce significant improvement in the appearance of facial wrinkles following long-term use.’


Sound too good to be true? Well, not all skin can tolerate it. It can cause redness, dryness and irritation on some complexions, especially really sensitive skin types. If you’re pregnant you should also stay clear. It can also make skin more sensitive to the sun, so always wear SPF when using it. But don’t let that put you off. I’ve never had any problems and ‘new technologies such as encapsulation protect the unstable retinol molecule, allowing enhanced penetration and controlled release into the skin so that it is delivered to the sites of greatest impact with the lowest risk of irritation,’ says Justine. These advances mean you shouldn’t have any problems if you start using it correctly.


First-time users need to phase in using retinol skincare with lower strengths. Start using it twice a week and see how your skin takes to it. My favourites below have never caused me any irritation, and are all great starting points. Apply it at bedtime, as part of your nightly routine. And remember to apply upwards and outwards with your fingertips.


Pictured left to right…

Medik8 3TR Retinol, £26.99
Simply massage 4 drops of this serum into your complexion, and then layer with your favourite night cream.

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream, £65
If you’re looking for something super hydrating too, this makes the perfect swap with your regular night cream.

Beauty Pie Super Retinol Night Renewal Moisturiser, £8.83 for members (non-members £75)
Contains vitamin C and hyaluronic acid too, so I can’t believe how cheap it is. You do have to become a member to get it at a bargain, but membership starts from only £5 a month. Members get access to all the brilliant Beauty Pie products at bargain prices. I’m a big fan. For more info, click here…

La Roche Posay Redermic [R] Anti Wrinkle Retinol Treatment, £29.50 (£22.13, HERE)
Long been a favourite of mine, and often recommended by dermatologists. A little goes a very long way! Team with the eye cream…

La Roche Posay Redermic [R] Retinol Eye Cream, £25.50 (£19.30 HERE)
The pick for those with fine lines around the eye area, but works on puffiness and dark circles too.


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