Anyone interested in anti-ageing products will probably have heard of Retinol. But is all the hype worth it and what are the best retinol products on the market?

If you are always on the look out for the best anti-ageing solutions, you’ll probably have heard of retinol cream – or have one in your make-up bag. It’s been a beauty buzzword  for decades and celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whitely and LA make-up artist Jessica Wu are big fans.

What is retinol?

See also… Retinyl/Retinoids/Retin-ahhhhh

With so many scientific sounding names, things can get confusing. Lots of products have retinol in them but what is it and what should you look out for? The simple answer is that retinol is Vitamin A. It can be found in dark green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale.

“Rubbing spinach on your skin is not going to knock years off your skin'” says Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, a consultant physician at University College London University and Medical Director of Adonia Medical Clinic. But retinol creams and serums CAN be very effective for anti-ageing if used as advised.

Retinoids are a derivative of retinol. Confusingly, people tend to oscillate between the two terms but technically it is likely to be a retinoid that is in your anti-ageing cream rather than retinol itself. 

How do retinol creams and products work?

As you get older you skin cells age and this means they slow down. Dr Ejikeme says the strongest retinoids can do four things:

  • Increase the skin turnover
  • Increase blood supply to the skin
  • Reduce pigmentation
  • Reduce oil production in the skins.

The overall effect is less acne, age spots and less wrinkles. Amazing right?

But do retinol products actually work?

Yes and no. Unfortunately nothing is as powerful as nature’s intentions. While retinol creams can reduce the signs of ageing they cannot work miracles. But if you are consistent then you are likely to see some good results.

Limara Fayyaz, 28, suffered from adult acne for years and in her own words, “it’s not fun”. Eventually she sought professional help. Limara went to skin care specialist Natali Kelly and was given prescription-skincare products and a personalised skincare regime. She says: “It was in intense. And the only reason I saw it through was my trust and belief in my practitioner. My skin would be red the nights I used it, I’d get very dry and the peeling was crazy, my chin especially would just peel and peel.

“My reaction to it was above the norm in my practitioners eyes but assured me to stick to it, and train my skin to tolerate it and I’d reap the rewards. And that’s just what I did.” 

It took two years of gradually increasing the retinol strength for Limara’s skin to bounce back and leave her fresh faced. But she admits that it took a lot of commitment and constant reassurance.

Limara says: “If you have a concern such as acne like I did, I’d recommend seeking a specialist, and getting your hands on that stronger skincare and stronger retinol under supervision. I don’t think I would have stuck to it without professional advice and I’m so thankful I did. Be prepared for the adjustment period and stick to it, it takes time.”


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What products are available?

There is a wealth of retinol products on the market. According to Bryan Barron, director of skincare research for Paula’s Choice, the best way to apply retinol to the skin is through a leave-on product like a lotion or gel.

She says: “In a cleanser, the retinol would be rinsed from skin before it has a chance to work. Generally speaking, gel formulas penetrate skin faster than creams or lotions, so those with extra-sensitive skin should start with a retinol product in a moisturising base.”

Dr Ejikeme recommends products with a 0.05 per cent dosage of  retinaldehyde. She says it is one of the best kept secrets for anti-ageing but very few products in the UK have it. Studies show when used daily for 3 months it can have a similar effect to a prescription only cream but without the redness peeling or dryness. Two brands Dr Ejikeme also recommends are Avene and dermaquest.

But remember the golden rule…

Dr Ejikeme recommends always using a high SPF sunscreen while using retinol products to protect your skin. If you are having other treatments such as laser hair removal or skin peels, you should tell your therapist that you are using retinoids. And retinol products certainly should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding because it can cause birth defects.

Retinol cream – which one should you use?

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, £8, VictoriaHealth.com

The Ordinary are a low-cost skincare brand that promises incredible results. Their £8 Granactive Retinol 2% Emulsion has been making waves on the beauty scene, with editors and customers raving about its quick effects.

La Roche-Posay Redermic UV, £25.05, Escentual.com

Super Facialist Retinol+ Anti-Ageing Restoring Serum, £16.99, Boots

Image Skincare’s Ageless Total Overnight Retinol Masque £80, www.imageskincare.co.uk

ageless overnight retinol masque

Super Facialist Retinol+ Anti-Ageing Night Cream, £19.99, Boots

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Perfecting Facial Oil, £9.99, Superdrug

Super Facialist Retinol+ Anti-Ageing Day Cream, £19.99, Boots

superfacialist retinol day cream

skinChemists Advanced Retinol Moisturiser, £69, www.skinchemists.com and www.lookfantastic.com

skin chemist retinol serum

skinChemistsRetinol Eye serum, £79, www.skinchemists.com and www.lookfantastic.com

skinchemist eye serum

REN Bio Retinoid Anti Ageing Cream, £44, Escentual.com

Dermaquest Retinaldehyde Renewal Cream, £69, www.dermaquestinc.co.uk

From creams to serums, oils and masques, when it comes to your retinol routine the most important thing is dedication. As you can see there is a wealth of products to choose from so you just need to find the product that works best for you.

If you are worried about your skin’s health or you have never used retinol creams before, it could be best to consult a professional skincare expert who can help find you the right regime and product.