The skin, your largest organ, is the ultimate protective barrier between the internal organs and the environment. Which means that it is constantly exposed to ultraviolet (UV) irradiation, cigarette smoke, pollution, and professional exposure, make up particles, house dust…you name it! Let’s not forget internal factors such as hormones, sugary products, cortisol and stress.

Moreover, With age the skin’s natural rejuvenation process slows drastically and the skin becomes thinner, drier, and less elastic.

Retinol is probably the hottest trend in skin care right now and it finally deserved its chance to shine! But never ever have an ingredient caused so much controversy and confusion and marketing propaganda! So I will make it simple for you!

Let’s start! What is Retinol? It’s actually a more known and widely used type of Vit A or so called Retinoids. The active ingredient that can be recognised by the skin is called retinoic acid, this is important, the most effective Retinoid should be easterly converted to—retinoic acid, this is want makes that active anti ageing products.

Retinoic acid has been around for decades but because of its being unstable in light or air it has been very difficult to actually bottle it and use it mass market! But with tech advances and nano technology made it possible.

And that is why the over the counter and beauty industry usually use the derivative called Retinol! It converts to retinoic acid in just 2 steps making it an effective agent.

First of all, let’s get the prescription only medication out of the way! They will be given to you by a medical doctor, your GP or dermatologist. This is usually to fight significant acne or photoaging. Tretinoin (includes Retin-A, Retin-A micro and Renova), Tazarotene and Adapalene. Tretinoin is the most common drug but significant irritation can occur. It’s the strongest derivative. It is also teratogenic, which means pregnant and breast feeding mothers should avoid it.


The most popular version of vitamin A found in over-the-counter products is called retinol. Retinol is not retinoic acid—retinol works because it converts to retinoic acid. But there are also various types of esters, also derivatives of vitamin A, that are often described as retinol: Retinyl Acetate, Retinyl Linoleate, Retinyl Palmitate and Retinyl Proprionate. It’s important to remember that all vitamin A derivatives must convert to retinoic acid. Their effectiveness depends on several factors:

1. Number of conversion steps: Vitamin A esters like Retinyl palmitate have a three–step process (Retinyl palmitate◊retinol), while retinol takes two steps to convert to retinoic acid (retinol◊retinaldehyde◊retinoic acid). The drawn-out conversion process of Retinyl palmitate militates against its efficacy.

2. Stability: All vitamin A derivatives degrade very quickly when exposed to air and sunlight. In fact, dermatologists favored prescription retinoic acid over retinol for decades because the latter was simply too unstable in solution to be effective. Fortunately, advances in nanotechnology have given us encapsulated versions of retinol that do not degrade as quickly. It’s still important to keep your retinol product away from light and use the product only at night.

3. Concentration: The efficacy of retinol depends on concentration—higher concentrations result in higher conversion rates to retinoic acid. However, higher concentrations of retinol can sometimes lead to increased irritation, the same problem encountered with, for example, prescription-strength Retin-A. The upside here is that if you experience irritation when using a high-concentration retinol product without known irritating preservatives (parabens or sodium benzoate), you are very likely reaping the benefits of retinoic acid being absorbed into the skin’s cell receptors.

How to Choose the Right Product

Adults with both acne and aging issues will want to get the full benefit of retinoic acid if they can tolerate it. Some people experience irritation at first, which generally improves over time. If not, your dermatologist may decide to try a different prescription. If irritation persists, it may be due to other ingredients in the formula, such as preservatives.

If you’re concerned about skin reactivity, you may want to consider an over-the-counter retinol product. But beware—sometimes the reason an over-the-counter retinol product is less irritating is because its retinol concentration is so low it’s doing nothing.

So what is this reaction that everyone is scared of! It’s called ‘retinoid reaction’, characterized by itching, burning sensation at the sites of application, erythema or redness, peeling. The stronger the product and the faster it’s conversion to retinoid acid the stronger the reaction of your skin! But…only for First few weeks of application , also I recommend to use retinol as part of your nighttime routine, you won’t worry too much about the redness but also it’s when your skin cells are doing most of the work! And you want to give them a helping hand!

Important side effect associated with retinoid therapy is photosensitization or sun sensitivity which normally occurs at the beginning of the therapy. Sun block is a must for protection!