Still struggling with your skin? Whether the issue is chronic mild to moderate acne, excess oil production, or even just signs of aging, we know an effective skin care secret that can help you glow and shine like the true beauty you are – retinol!

It is a product…but not a new one. In fact, this one has been around since as far back as 1971. Nor is it a simple reformulation, either, although the way we use it certainly has changed over the years. And best of all? It’s safe enough to use at home.

If you’re dying to know what it is, here’s a little relief. Retinol remains one of the skin care industry’s best-kept secrets for maintaining perfect skin at any age when it’s used right. We’ll tell you why it’s such a skin savior right now.


Retinol was originally created to treat acne in cases where other products or regular maintenance (e.g., washing and spot treating) simply didn’t work. It remains one of the best options available for mild to moderate adult acne without cystic involvement or the presence of a secondary infection.

So, how does it work? Retinol roots out acne by addressing the core elements that cause it simultaneously. Not only does it open up pores and allow build-up to clear, but it also mildly inhibits surface bacteria on the skin. It also dissolves old, dead skin cells, making them easier to clear away. The result is that skin is better able to engage in self-healing and your own built-in rejuvenation process.

The only catch? Some people with moderate to severe acne experience redness, itching, or even flaking during the initial first few rounds of treatment. A medical spa can provide you with custom-compounded products to help eliminate this. Or, you can use a lower retinol strength (or even less often) to gradually work up to a full dose.


If retinol’s original “cause” was treating acne, erasing wrinkles and fine lines is its next important quest. This pleasant side effect of regular use proved to be so reliable that researchers were able to create products, namely Tretinoin, designed specifically for treating those pesky little grooves. Like Retinol, Tretinoin is a type of processed, preformulated Vitamin A.

But unlike its acne-busting cousin, this newer solution mostly works by directly affecting the way skin cells grow over time. It begins by triggering skin to produce more collagen and grow newer, more youthful blood vessels. Skin becomes more elastic and circulation improves, which allows it to remain healthy, self-cleanse, and detoxify effectively.

Tretinoin is also much more “aggressive” or powerful, meaning you’re far likely to see the results you want quickly if you use it. Plus, there’s evidence it might help you recover from sun damage and avoid sunburns – a very important task.

The only catch? As with retinol, some people react at first with irritation or redness. If you find this intolerable, trying retinol for its gentler formula profile is an option. While it isn’t quite as effective as Tretinoin, it still carries many of the same benefits!


Retinoids aren’t only useful for fine lines and wrinkles. In fact, there’s a decent amount of research to show that using them regularly might ward off signs of aging altogether – at least, if you start them soon enough, anyway. HuffPost writer Simone Kitchens spoke with Dr. Howard Murad, creator of Murad Skincare, in this article.

He recommends that you, “start in your 30s,” adding that “by your 40s, it’s time to add a retinol product in your night care routine.” The reason retinoids prevent aging is intrinsically tied to the effect they have on cellular regeneration, growth, and healing. Specifically, the way they trigger new blood vessels to grow improves skin color and tone.

That’s a good way to keep skin from appearing sallow, pale, overly red, unhealthily flushed, or even less shadowed. Because retinoids encourage skin cells to turn over while dissolving and clearing old, dead cells at the same time, the skin cell life cycle is effectively shortened.

That might sound bad, but it’s actually a really positive thing for someone with age spots, melasma, or even old scarring from acne. The product gently wears away darker skin cells, replacing them with more youthful and even-toned cells, which makes these areas lighter and harder to detect. It might even prevent them from recurring later on.

We also told you about how retinoids help boost collagen growth. That’s important in the fight against signs of aging, too, because it ensures that skin maintains elasticity well into later life. You’re less likely to see things like crepe skin and loss of volume.

The biggest takeaway here is that using retinoids preventatively works best if you start early in life. So, even if you’re only in your late teens or early 20s, they can still benefit you. Ask your medispa provider for more info.


Spent a little too much time at the beach this year? Maybe you’re a ski bunny who’s exposed to wind burn so often, your skin has become rough, tough, and thick. That’s a normal response to environmental influences… but it’s also a symptom of damage.

Many people overlook retinoids for treating issues like rough skin. This is usually because they carry a risk for irritation, redness, and flaking, which is exactly what you don’t want if your skin is already rough. But this is a short-sighted approach, especially if you combine the retinoid you use with alpha-hydroxy-acid (AHA).

First, retinoids soften by slowly wearing away those older, tougher, or even calloused skin cells. Following up with AHA-based treatments keeps those precious new skin cells more youthful and prevents them from becoming rough again over time. It does usually take around three to six months of regular treatments to see results.

The biggest catch for using retinoids, regardless of what you use them for, is that they might not be the right choice if you have certain skin conditions. This includes both rosacea and eczema. The formula’s increased risk for irritation might actually make your issues worse. Ask your spa provider before you use retinoids, even if they’re just OTC, if you think this applies to you.

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