Retinol: Bringing your A game.


Do you wonder, why retinol?

Perhaps a better question would be, why not retinol? There’s no real reason why you shouldn’t consider retinol in your beauty routine unless you have sensitivity issues. (I’ll come back to that in a moment).

For the rest of us, regardless of age, retinol offers something the skin needs to function correctly. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for skin health.

As time goes by, you’ll be glad you invested in vitamin A. Let me tell you what I know. I’ll also share 5 of the most powerful and noteworthy retinol serums worth trusting.

You don’t need to wait for the problems of ageing skin such as lines, wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation to occur. Start using retinol now. It will preserve your skin today, but equally, it will reverse damage in the skin, and let’s face it, the moment you step outside in the sun as a child you’ve begun to disrupt and damage your skin.


Which one is going to be best for you?

Most cosmetic and cosmeceutical brands have some form of vitamin A in their offering of products. But not all are equal in quality, stability, efficacy, and they will affect the results you are likely to get. A poorly formulated retinol product with a barely-there-hint-of-retinol is a waste of time, or worse will leave you with irritation. Not what you want, and with so many brands promising the benefits of retinol, it can get a little confusing. A bit of prior knowledge before you buy will help. Right?


What to look for.

Retinol is a light-sensitive ingredient so how it is packaged and delivered is important.

My selection criteria when choosing the right retinol product?

What type of vitamin A used in the product? 

Is it retinol, retinyl palmitate, palmitic acid or retinaldehyde, amongst others.  (but these are the most commonly used). For a more detailed explanation, you may like to check my article: Vitamin A for your skin – Activate your youth enzymes.  

Is the product stable? 

How is it produced, is it encapsulated? What have other measures been taken in the manufacturing process to ensure stability?

The packaging?

Is there minimal exposure to light and air?

What is the strength or percentage of retinol in the product?  

Strong enough to make a difference or just enough to make the bottom of the ingredient list?

Does the company offer transparency in their information?  

Most good brands will give enough information on their company website to provide you with the confidence to choose the right product for you.

What advice is being offered or recommended? 

You should also consider a consultation with a brand representative either via the company advice line or with a trusted skincare professional.


The side effects of retinol? Or, what’s normal, what’s not.

So I mentioned earlier, a poorly formulated retinol product can irritate. But this is where it gets a little confusing as most retinoid or retinol products will cause mild irritation initially.

So how do you know what’s normal? Usually, upon commencement of a retinol product, it’s best to start slowly so as not to overwhelm the skin with more vitamin A than your skin can handle. If your skin irritation persists and you develop itchiness or a rash, then the formulation is probably not right for you. 

Your best option? Look for quality cosmeceutical or medical grade brands and start with an entry-level concentration. Or, if you’ve chosen a stronger formulation, then introduce it slowly and sparingly, just a couple of times a week until your skin becomes tolerant.

How long this takes for your skin to adjust will vary depending on the health and long-standing skin conditions — seeking the advice of a qualified skincare professional who can monitor your results and answer your questions or concerns.

How long before you see results?

The very first time I used a retinol product, I noticed a change in my skin overnight. Literally! It was subtle, but my skin looked brighter, smoother and well, just better. To say others noticed? Maybe not. But I did, and that’s what counts. But again we’re all unique and our response times will differ.

Your skin condition, your history of sun damage, the strength of the product, the quality and efficacy of the formulation will all come in to play.

If you’ve found the right retinol product; one that meets the above criteria, then you will get results, and the results will continue for as long as you use retinol. So keep using it.


Remember, you are restoring your skin, allowing it to function in a healthy, youthful way and preventing future damage. Keep using it. 


If it’s not on, it’s just not on!

Or put another way, when is the best time to apply your retinol product?

I often hear that retinol shouldn’t be used during the day as it will cause sun sensitivity. That’s not entirely true. Your skin needs adequate stores of vitamin A to protect itself from the sun; the only caveat is: Always protect your skin from the sun with a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

Many will suggest retinol is used at night to minimise the loss of retinol caused by daylight. True.

The best answer? Use it at a time that suits you or as recommended by your chosen brand. What’s important is, you use it regularly and always in conjunction with a sunscreen. 

What do I do? A Retinyl Ester (palmitate, acetate or propionate) formulation applied daily. At night? A full-strength retinol or retinaldehyde formula followed by a well-formulated moisturiser.


5 of the best I know of and why I like them.


Alpha H | Vitamin A 0.5%

I love Alpha H for so many reasons. An authentic cosmeceutical, it’s Australian, and the founder Michelle Doherty is passionate about skincare, and it works very well.

This is the perfect introduction to Vitamin A. Alpha H has used an ester known as Retinyl Propionate in this formula. It’s gentle, but very effective and will not be diminished by light, so great to use both morning and night. 

Alpha H has recently improved its packaging which makes this product a winner. Commit to at least three months of regular use and you will start to see results.


Paula's Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment


Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment

If necessity is the mother of invention, then Paula Begoun is one dedicated mother. A career born behind a cosmetic counter and frustration with her skin led to a beauty empire.

Paula has numerous books to her credit, such as ‘Don’t go to the cosmetics counter without me’ and The Beauty Bible. 

Despite there being more than 25,000 products on the market today, Paula has found her niche’, which is delivering only the ingredients supported by evidence in a no-nonsense way. 

This particular product will give you a powerhouse of retinol.

What I like about this product, as well as the strength, is the excellent lengths Paula and her team have undertaken to bring you a stable retinol product. Not only has Paula ensured the contents remain stable for as long as possible in an airtight container, but her production and filling methods provide stability with every step along the way. 

This product is for you if you’re ready for a robust and powerful product. If not, start with some of Paula’s other retinol products with less punch. 


AVST Moisturiser #1

Environ | AVST 1

It took me a long time before I tried this product, but once I did, I was pretty impressed. Environ take their vitamin A very seriously.

You’ll require a skin consultation before they get you started and no matter where you are in your journey with retinol, it’s likely they’ll begin you with their lowest strength formula.

I started with AVST #1, and even though it’s a low dose formula, I noticed the results very quickly. I couldn’t wait to get to the next level, and concentration of vitamin A. Des Fernandez is the brainchild behind this brand and, credited with being the first cosmetic company to bring consumers like you and me a cosmetic preparation containing retinol.

Before Environ coming on the market, the only available vitamin A was via a prescription from your dermatologist. So you could say, pioneers. 

They also deliver their vitamin A in light and air controlled packaging. If this is your first foray, then Environ will not disappoint. 


Ultraceuticals Ultra A Skin Perfecting Serum


Ultraceuticals | Ultra A Skin Perfecting Serum

What can I say; this is a brilliant product. Dr Geoffrey Heber is very passionate about delivering scientifically supported products that will bring you results.

What I like about this range of retinol is the packaging and the sophisticated formula. The improved formula now encapsulates retinol to provide longevity right to the last pump of serum.

Ultraceuticals have also created three strengths so again, and if you’re a retinol virgin, then you can start slowly and work your way up to the full retinol love affair. Doubtful you’ll have any regrets.


Aspect Retinol Brulee

Aspect | Retinol Brulee

Okay, so I am yet to try this one. But I include it because this is a brand to trust. Aspect has also ensured stability by giving you the type of packaging all sophisticated formulations containing retinol should be.

This would be suitable for you if you are already accustomed to a potent vitamin A formula in your beauty routine. If not, you may want to start with one of the introductory formula’s I’ve recommended here. 




One last bonus product: If you’ve tried skincare with vitamin A, but it just doesn’t seem to agree with you?

Ella Bache Creme Intex

Ella Bache | Creme Intex

Some of us have underlying issues that make using retinol even at a low strength formula like Retinyl Palmitate somewhat troublesome. There can be many reasons for this, maybe your lipid barrier is compromised, or you’ve had too many years of harsh products and exposure to environmental stress, or you’re just a bit sensitive.

Well, it’s possible to use something containing vitamin A that provides you with a more healing and soothing effect.

You may like to try Ella Bache Creme Intex. Derived from Fish Oil, you’ll get the restorative benefits of vitamin A, but without the intensity of retinol that converts to retinoic acid to restore the DNA of skin cells, activate youth enzymes and rejuvenate the skin. Still, even so, you’ll be delighted with how this product soothes sensitivity in the skin by harnessing the benefits of vitamin A derived from fish products. 

And now you?

There are many great retinol products on the market, more than I can list here, for now, I’ve chosen five that meet with my criteria. If you have a retinol product you’d like me to review, drop me an email. If you liked this article, why not share it on your favourite social media. I’d be delighted if you did.

See you next time.