Fashion & Beauty

Retinol: Everything you need to know about this powerful skincare ingredient

When it comes to skin health as we get older, retinol runs laps around the competition! Here’s how you can incorporate it into your routine.

New and trendy skincare ingredients are always popping up, but one in particular is often considered the gold standard. Long lauded as one of beauty’s holy grail ingredients, dermatologists and skincare enthusiasts can’t get enough of retinol.

What exactly is retinol?

The clinically proven ingredient is a form of vitamin A, which promotes cell turnover and stimulates collagen. It’s credited with being one of the most effective ways to claw back the signs of ageing, and reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. It also works to improve texture and clarity, promoting a more even skin tone. Retinol is also an effective acne treatment. Need we say more?

How does retinol work?

Basically, retinol tricks your skin into thinking it’s younger. By causing skin cells to consistently turn over, retinol is able to boost your skin’s collagen production, keeping pores clear and ensuring skin is constantly refreshed and radiant.

Beauty editor’s tip

Less is always more when applying retinol – if in doubt (and unless otherwise instructed), apply a small, pea-sized amount to your whole face at night before bed.. You should also always use an SPF when you’re using retinol, as your skin is more vulnerable to external aggressors.


  1. Best for beginners: Ole Henriksen Transform Double Rewind Pro-Grade 0.3% Retinol Serum, $117, Sephora (here’s why)
  2. Best for when you’re ready to level up: Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Retinol Serum, $185 from Life Pharmacy(here’s why)
  3. Best for retinol experts: Perfectionist Pro Rapid Renewal Retinol Treatment, $198 from Estee Lauder(here’s why)

The best retinol products on the market

The best retinol for beginners

Want to integrate this powerhouse ingredient into your routine? Dip your toes before jumping in and pay attention to how your skin reacts.

Retinol can be potent and mild redness, flakiness, or dryness may occur initially, so it’s important to gradually introduce it to build tolerance. Use retinol no more than twice a week for the first month, then slowly increase to nightly usage. If you experience severe irritation or discomfort, scale back on the frequency of use or try a lower concentration. Remember, it’s crucial to use sunscreen and limit sun exposure when using retinol products, as it can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Our beauty editor’s top picks:

  • The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane, $16.50 from Adore Beauty
  • Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Line Erasing Eye Cream $125 from Life Pharmacy
  • Ole Henriksen Transform Double Rewind Pro-Grade 0.3% Retinol Serum, $117 from Sephora
  • Boost Lab Retinol Night Renewal Serum $34.99 from Life Pharmacy

Time to level up

Congratulations on successfully acclimatising your skin to retinol! Ready to get a little more serious? Transition to a higher concentration to further enhance its efficacy.

Our beauty editor’s top picks:

  • L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Laser Pure Retinol Night Serum, $60 from Adore Beauty
  • Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum, $62 from Life Pharmacy
  • Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Retinol Serum, $185 from Life Pharmacy
  • Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3 $114 from Adore Beauty
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Top tier

Calling all converts! Want to call in the heavy hitters? These pro-strength, over-the-counter formulas are ideal for seasoned retinol users who want serious results.

Our beauty editor’s top picks:

  • Perfectionist Pro Rapid Renewal Retinol Treatment, $198 from Estee Lauder
  • Perricone MD High Potency Retinol Recovery Overnight Moisturizer, $184 from Amazon
  • Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum, $154 from Mecca

Who is retinol for?

Almost anyone can benefit from implementing retinol into their routine, although it’s best avoided if you have rosacea, psoriasis or eczema. While it takes time – anywhere from several weeks to six months – and dedication, consistent use is a must to enjoy the results. Trust us, it’s worth it.

Where can I find it?

You’ll find this ingredient in everything from serums, oils, creams and even eye creams specially formulated for the delicate eye area, and in a range of different strengths. The perfect fit depends on your skin and what percentage of retinol it can comfortably tolerate.

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