Are you looking to add a powerhouse serum to your skincare regime? We give you the lowdown on retinol and the benefits this gold-standard ingredient provides.


We all love a good skincare serum to counter ageing skin, especially when it’s rich in Vitamin A [retinol]. Used to speed up cellular turnover, pigmentation and even out the tone and texture of your skin, retinol is considered one of the transformative ingredients in any skincare regime.

 But before you load up your beauty case with this hardworking serum there a few factors about retinol you may first need to know. This includes when to apply it and when you should steer clear of the potent products.

Let’s start with the R-word.

Many patients are confused about the differences in the molecular structure between retinol and retinoic acid even though they’re vitamin A derivatives.

Retinoic acid is the magic active ingredient that is prescribed to combat visible ageing at a cellular level, while over the counter retinol contains a lower concentration of retinoic acid but still achieves the same thing — but just more gradually. What’s more, retinol is what is used in regular serums and creams.

Other derivatives that are known as pro-retinol such as retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate and retinyl linoleate are also quite weak in their potency. Another less irritating form of Vitamin A is retinyl propionate, which is more palatable for patients who suffer from various skin sensitivities.

Is it suitable for most skin types?

Usually, yes as most skin types can tolerate retinol or retinoid.

How do I know if the active ingredient will suit my skin?

We will first make sure that you use the right retinol or retinoid product along with a gentle skincare regimen that includes a mild cleanser and moisturiser.

What is an example of an excellent cosmeceutical?

Retriderm® Serum Max by Biopelle Tensage. Containing 1% retinol, the serum is ideal for extremely UV photodamaged skin and patients who have a high tolerance to retinoids. For those who can’t manage this, we recommend Retriderm® Plus or Mild, which both are formulated with the highest strength of retinol to provide maximum rejuvenation suited to their skin types but achieving softer and more plumper-looking when applied daily or as directed by our clinic. 

How do I use it?

Ideally, the serum should be applied after you’ve cleansed your face of an evening. If you do you apply it in the morning, it’s important that you also use an SPF 30 sunscreen. Also, ensure that any other products that you may use be applied after the serum has dried.

Who Can’t Use Retinol?

If the winter season has left your skin dry and flaky, strengthening your skin’s natural barrier is the first step to restoring all aspects of your skin’s health. But the first thing you should avoid is the active big guns that will likely to cause further irritation or inflammation.

How can I restore my skin’s natural barrier?

Start with KCeutic post-recovery cream, our ‘go-to’ product we use after any laser, IPL or Microneedling treatment. Not only do its ingredients help to replenish and rebuild your skin’s natural barrier, but the luxurious cream also leaves your skin looking calm, smooth and radiant. We also love A’kin’s Rosehip Oil, which is not only soothing but helps replenish the skin.

This smart cream is also ideal for women who suffer from rosacea as its properties help to reduce the redness and inflammation that’s associated with this debilitating skin condition. If used as a daily home care product, KCeutic will speed up the healing and combined with hyaluronic acid-based serum, you will notice an immediate and pronounced difference in appearance.


What is the next step?

Once we have restored your skin back to health, we will start you at the lower end to ensure that your skin can tolerate the lower concentration of retinol that is formulated to bind only some receptors for retinoic acid.

When should I apply the serum to my skin?

As with all new products, retinol is something that should be introduced slowly and cautiously. The key is to gradually build up your tolerance and avoid doing too much damage in the process.

How should I do this?

Start by applying the serum at night as part of your evening skincare regime as direct sunlight deactivates retinoic acid. The serum should also be applied to dry skin after you’ve properly cleansed the skin.

It’s important that you slowly ease the application of the retinoid serum every third night as the potent vitamin can cause inflammation, redness, dryness, and flaking. Some patients may also feel a stinging sensation the first time they apply the product.

First, apply a small amount first and wait a few minutes before applying a moisturiser to counter any flaking or dryness.

When can I increase its use?

If your skin tolerates the serum over a two week period without any side-effects including skin irritations, you can apply the product every other night for another two weeks until you know you are no longer sensitive to it.

Is retinol primarily applied as a single formula?

No. Depending on which serum you’re using, some may combine other active ingredients.

For instance, Biopelle Tensage’s Retriderm® is Retinol (vitamin A) is released in a protein-rich and oil-free, aqueous suspension allowing for maximum absorption, minimal irritation and visible results. The holy-grail of anti-wrinkle products, the serum will help, diminish the appearance of lines and wrinkles, leaving you with the
appearance of plumper and more smoother-looking skin.

Is moisturising very important?

Absolutely! This is especially the case if the retinoids have irritated the skin as they can cause further dryness and flaking. So moisturise day and night.

What else should I avoid?

Avoid harsh soaps or alcohol-based toners especially before applying a retinol-based serum as they can strip the natural oils from the skin. In fact, your natural oils also act as a protective buffer and help keep your skin hydrated while using a retinoid.

Also, avoid exfoliating and any harsh brushes that may further impact your skin’s natural barrier. Microabrasions to the skin will simply set you up for more irritation.

Why is my skin more sensitive to retinoid in winter?

During the dry, winter months, patients with sensitive skin will be more prone to skin irritations than during the more humid months throughout summer.

If you’re travelling to a different climate, it’s important that you adjust your skincare regime to suit the environment or season.

What if I am pregnant or breast-feeding?

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid using retinol-based serums altogether.

Our senior dermal therapist, Michele Hetherington will provide you with professional skincare expertise including the most appropriate medical-grade skincare regime for day and night.

For further information on acne outbreaks and hormones, please read our blogs.

For all appointments and consultations, please contact practice manager, Jane Luong on 97446755.