Retinol 101: A Beginner’s Guide

If retinol hasn’t yet made it into your skincare arsenal, you’re missing one of the most effective ingredients in the beauty world. Known for its unparalleled ability to diminish signs of aging, brighten skin, clear acne, and fade dark spots, retinol, or Vitamin A, is a powerhouse that can transform your skin. But diving into the world of retinol can be overwhelming, with a multitude of products and concerns about irritation. 

This guide aims to demystify retinol for beginners, from its benefits to how to seamlessly integrate it into your skincare routine.

Retinol is a vitamin A derivative with immense cell turnover-boosting capabilities. When exploring retinol-based skincare treatments, you’ll come across interchangeable terms like retinol and retinoid. Retinoid refers to the entire family of vitamin A derivatives, which includes both the stronger, prescription-only forms and the milder, over-the-counter versions.

Retinoids address a whole host of skin concerns, from acne, rough texture and dullness to minimising the appearance of pores and ageing. This is one ingredient that really just does everything.

And yet, the biggest challenge for retinol beginners is how to push through sensitivity and irritation, or avoid it altogether, as your skin acclimatises. The reason retinol can lead to irritation lies in how it works. As retinol accelerates cell turnover, it essentially speeds up the skin’s natural renewal cycle. This rapid shedding of the outer skin layers to reveal new skin underneath can initially cause the skin to become dry, flaky, and sensitive. Additionally, since retinol promotes such a significant increase in cell regeneration, the skin’s barrier function may temporarily be compromised during the adjustment period, making it more susceptible to irritants. This period of acclimatisation is a common challenge for many retinol users, but with consistent and correct usage, and the right retinol product, the skin gradually adapts, leading to dramatic skin benefits.

Our body naturally produces vitamin A, but as we age, production decreases, leading to visible skin aging. For newcomers, the goal is to enjoy retinol benefits without irritation. Hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR) is the retinoid ingredient you need to look for – it directly binds to skin receptors without conversion, making it stable, fast-acting, less irritating, and suitable for all skin types, including skin prone to sensitivity and breakouts.

Experts suggest introducing retinol into your routine at around age 25, when skin begins to lose elasticity. Opt for a HPR-based product suitable for all skin types, starting with 2-3 weekly applications and gradually increasing to daily use for the best results. We recommend starting with 0.2% active retinoid concentration.

Apply at Night. Retinol is best used in your nighttime routine, as it can increase sensitivity to sunlight.

Start Slow. A common mistake is using retinol too frequently at the start. Begin with a pea-sized amount twice a week, and slowly increase usage as your skin adapts.

Use a Pea-Size Amount. (or, in the case of our Superstar night oil, just a single pump).  A little goes a long way with retinol. A pea-sized portion is sufficient for the entire face.

Mix It Up. If dryness is a concern, mix retinol with your moisturiser to dilute its strength until your skin adjusts.

Monitor Dryness. Keep an eye on your skin’s response. If excessive dryness occurs, reduce frequency.

Give It Time. Patience is key. It may take several weeks to see noticeable changes in your skin.

Don’t forget your SPF. Since retinol increases your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, applying a high-SPF sunscreen every morning is crucial to protect your skin from UV damage.

Retinol’s benefits extend far beyond reducing wrinkles and fine lines. It boosts collagen production, refines pores, reduces hyperpigmentation, balances oil production, and leads to a plumper, more youthful complexion.


Retinol is a game changer for your skincare routine, offering many benefits that cater to various skin concerns. With the right approach, incorporating retinol can be straightforward and transformative, leading to healthier, more vibrant skin. Remember, the journey to great skin is a marathon, not a sprint. Give your skin time to adjust, and you will reap the long-term rewards of this potent ingredient.


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