Retinoid Guide Part 1: Are you ready for Retinoids in your skincare routine?

A quick guide containing all the important information you need to know about Retinoids like Retinol and Retinal.  

Skin Education | 

Written by: Farah Latreche


3 min read


Retinoid Series

We know that incorporating Retinoids into your routine for the first time can be challenging or even scary for some. When not properly formulated or used incorrectly, it can induce skin irritations and hinder the great benefits of retinoids. This series is really about eliminating some of these fears so you can be confident using this ingredient in your routine with ease.


If you are serious about well ageing, clearer or brighter skin then Retinoids will definitely be an ingredient at the top of your list.

First Up:

What are Retinoids?

Retinoids (Vitamin A derivatives) are an umbrella term used to describe a family of chemical compounds that are derived from Vitamin A, such as Retinol, Retinaldehyde (Retinal), Retinol Esters etc. They are one the most effective skin ingredients that lead to slowing, preventing and reversing the signs of ageing as well as treating a host of different skin concerns. (hyperpigmentation, acne, hormonal breakouts, uneven skin tone, dark spots). Even so, results can take anywhere between 3-6 months with optimal results over 6-12 months of consistent use. 

Benefits of using a Retinoid?


Stimulate collagen and elastin production - Improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, elasticity, minimizing the appearance of enlarged pores and improving skin texture.

Boosts cell turnover, normalising desquamation - Normalises hyperkeratinization which is the optimal shedding of the outer layer of skin that can in turn help prevent clogged pores, blemishes, Keratosis Pilaris and help fade hyperpigmentation. 

Targets and prevents blemishes as it normalises cell turnover as noted above and may help suppress sebum production.

Targets hyperpigmentation, dark spots and sun damage with its inhibition of tyrosinase and epidermal melanin dispersion.

Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, strengthens and protects the skin from collagen against degradation and transepidermal water loss.


Suitable for

  • Ageing skins 
  • Acnegenic, breakout and congestion prone skins (those who suffer from blackheads, whiteheads)
  • Uneven skin tones, photo-damaged and hyperpigmented skins


What is the optimal age to start using retinoids?

There is no age criteria to start using retinoids.

However if you are young, it is worth taking extra precautions, starting slowly and following a strict protocol for use.


How do Retinoids work?

Retinoids work by binding to receptors in the skin (like RARS - Retinoic Acid Receptors) to activate them leading to a myriad of skin benefits.
Retinoids need to be converted to Retinoic Acid before they can be used effectively by the skin (unless you are using prescription Retinoic Acid directly on the skin). The longer the conversion process for the retinoid to be converted into Retinoic Acid, the lesser the potency and the lesser the risk of irritation.  



Here you can see Retinaldehyde also known as Retinal is more potent than retinol and only goes through one conversion to get to the active Retinoic Acid form (unlike Retinol which needs two conversions). However, the greater the potency the faster the results but also the greater the risk of irritation.

There are also relatively new Retinoids known as Retinoic Acid Esters like (HPR, Retinyl Retinoate, Granactive Retinoid) which do not need to be converted to Retinoic Acid as they are delivered in the active form however studies on these derivatives and their efficacy are limited.

Managing Side Effects

We cannot talk about Retinoids without talking about the side effects. The closer the Retinoid is to the active form, Retinoic Acid - the higher the chances for irritation which can mean anything from redness, irritation, dryness etc. However, the risk of irritation will largely be determined by the concentration of the Retinoid, the overall formulation of the product and how you incorporate the Retinoid into your routine. Slow use of retinoids, slowly acclimatizing the skin to the ingredient reduces this risk of irritation as does the incorporation of barrier supporting ingredients to strengthen the skin barrier and soothe the skin. 

Some side effects of topical Retinoids include:

  • Sun sensitivity
  • Dryness
  • Irritation
  • Redness
  • Soreness
  • Flaking
  • Peeling
  • Purging (microcomedones)
Just remember:

**Each person's experience will vary in terms of side effects and how long it takes for their skin to settle from the side effects. 

**Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women although some argue OTC derivatives may be safe to use, we always recommend consulting with your doctor or erring on the side of caution.

**We recommend starting with an OTC retinoid product, as it is less irritating than Retinoic Acid and can truly benefit your skin when used regularly.

Need some tips on how to start using your Retinoid?

Read Part 2 of our Retinoids Series to learn how to start incorporating Retinoids into your routine.

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