Studies on Retinol; What They Say, and What They Don’t

When it comes to stopping the onset of aging skin, Retinol is one of the most recognized ingredients in the industry.  Being recognized is one thing, but understanding what the ingredient is, how it works and what can be expected is an entirely different thing.  We examine Retinol closely, taking the time to break down all of the details you need to know about this anti aging powerhouse.  

What is Retinol?

Retinol is vitamin A.  This vitamin has multiple uses throughout the body but as it pertains to your skin, Retinol helps with the acceleration of of skin renewal and cell turnover.  This produces an increase in collagen production which plumps the dermal matrix diminishing the appearance of wrinkles and lines.  

There is a significant amount of research that has gone into Retinol and the affects it has on the skin.  While some of the affects are great, it has some side effects that are less than enjoyable.  

What About Side Effects?

Irritation has always been the Achilles heal of Retinol.  Users with normal to sensitive skin have displayed side effects while using the ingredient.  Most people that use Retinol will see some dryness on the surface layers of the skin.  Others will experience temporary redness, flakiness and peeling.  

Sensitivity to the Sun is the side effect we hear about most.  This is why you see so many ‘overnight’ creams that contain retinol.  It is better for most people of not worn during the day.  This naturally slows down the reversal of the aging process, but until recently Retinol was the biggest game in town.  As skincare products evolved other effective active ingredients have taken stage. Similar results with less irritation.

What is Photo-aging?

In short, photo-aging is the premature aging that happens to your skin as a result of a lifetime of exposure to the sun’s UV rays.  Chronic exposure over decades causes the degradation of collagen, reflecting furrows, wrinkles and discoloration of the skin.  The greater the damage the more accumulation of rougher skin, wrinkles and loss of elasticity.  

Retinol has been shown to be effective reversing the signs of photo aging in clinical studies.

Is It Worth the Risk of Side Effects?

This is the question that many anti aging consumers face.  There is documented scientific support of Retinol’s benefits as well as the side effects it may cause.  Obviously, if you have super sensitive skin or typically sensitive, this may be an easy answer for you.  Probably not best for you to use Retinol.  However, if you don’t have sensitivities and typically don’t have reactions to anti aging products, it may be worth a shot.   There is no blanket answer one way or the other, it’s a personal choice, but the chance of irritation is real, so proceed accordingly. 

Retinol Alternatives

There are a few ingredients that mimic similar properties of retinol.  The most exciting one, is also one of the latest discoveries.  

Bakuchiol is a plant based alternative to Retinol.  It accelerates the healthy cell turnover and renewal processes the same way as retinol, but without the irritation and sensitivity to the sun.  

Peptides are another option that consumers turn to for cell renewal benefits.  While not an apples to apples alternative to retinol, peptides offer similar skin renewal benefits with a much gentler affect on the skin.  


Retinol is a significant ingredient in the anti aging skincare game.  You may have tried it before, or perhaps you’re just considering its use.  As is the case with all skincare products, knowing and understanding the ingredients is half the battle in finding effective anti aging.  

Retinol has a place in the regimen of consumers that can tolerate the irritation.  For those consumers who cannot we recommend seeking out a product that offers a similar or alternative ingredient to achieve similar results more gently.