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As a woman who has lived through many passages and learned through my larger than life experiences (positive and negative), I’ve discovered how to take a big empowering bite out of life.

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Passages After 50

What is Retinol and What Does It Do?

Darlings, one thing that we can be doing during our extra time indoors is taking care of our bodies and trying new self-care routines. I’ve said before that retinol is an essential skincare product and I’ll say it many times again. I hope you enjoy this article that teaches us all about retinol, it’s benefits and how it works. 

The Truth About Retinol

Most of us expect to experience instant gratification and immediate results when trying a new skincare product. Unfortunately, that’s not always the way it works. Unlike other cosmetics, the majority of our skincare treatments require special care and attention for them to work correctly.

The timeline to visible results can depend on the type of product, its active ingredients, and how consistently you use it. Retinol-based skincare products, for example, are meant to treat ace and reverse signs of aging. However, different brands and circumstances can affect how long it takes to see results from retinol. Let’s take a closer look!

What is Retinol and What Does It Do?

Retinol is a synthetic form of vitamin A commonly regarded as a gold-standard ingredient for skincare. It’s a type of retinoid that works to prevent acne, fine lines, and wrinkles, and improve skin tone, texture, and pigmentation.

Retinoids are a class of topical medications and compounds including retinol (vitamin A) that are both natural and synthetic derivatives. Its transformative effects come from its powerful ability to repair the skin at a molecular level. Specifically, retinol helps speed up cellular turnover and increase collagen production, two factors that tend to slow down with age.

Thankfully, with regular use of these products, it’s easy to preserve your youthful glow and maintain smooth, supple-looking skin. Sounds great, right? The only catch is that this active ingredient calls for considerable time and patience before you can expect to see results.

How Long Does Retinol Take to Work?

Although you may not see results right away, retinol begins to work as soon as it comes into contact with your skin. Retinol immediately attaches to your body’s retinoic acid receptors. From there, your skin enzymes must convert the ingredient into retinoic acids before it can be usable.

The conversion process is crucial for retinol’s effects. Conversion may take longer than other over-the-counter (OTC) treatment products. That said, OTC retinol formulas generally take about 12 weeks of consistent use before you see skin changes such as improvement in texture.

Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription Retinol Formulas: What’s the Difference?

One main factor that influences your retinol timeline relates to the types of retinoids and retinol products you use.  Some retinol formulas tend to be stronger than others, which can impact how long it takes for you to see results.

Prescription retinoids like Retin-A (the generic name for tretinoin), for instance, are more potent than other OTC retinol products, as they’re already converted into retinoic acid. Therefore, the formula can immediately start working, allowing you to reach the desired results more quickly.

Still, despite the powerful effects of prescription-strength retinol products, it’s vital to be mindful of your specific skin type and concerns, as these formulas can lead to skin irritation if you’re not careful. For that reason, it may be a good idea to start with an OTC retinoid first since those products will typically disclose their exact percentage of retinol on the label. That will help you determine what dose is best suited for your skin and allow you to work your way up if needed.

However, if your OTC retinoids aren’t providing you with the results you desire, you may want to consult with a licensed healthcare provider. Dermatologists, who specialize in skin treatments, can determine if you are a suitable candidate for a prescription-strength retinoid.

What Other Factors Impede the Speed at Which Retinol Works?

It’s no secret that consistency is a key element for a successful skincare regimen. From the steps you perform to the products you use, it’s essential to be vigilant when caring for your skin.

Does that mean you should also be using certain treatment products every day to achieve fast results? No, not necessarily. Rather, when it comes to your frequency usage of retinol skincare products, less can often mean more.

Most dermatologists typically recommend applying retinol-based skincare products every other night. But, if you tend to have sensitive skin, they might suggest only using the product once or twice a week to reduce the likelihood of skin irritation (especially when you first start). It’s essential to stick to a consistent schedule throughout your skincare journey, whatever it may be. In other words, be consistent with how regularly you use it, even if that isn’t every day. You can always adjust later on as needed.

The Takeaway

In short, retinol-based products have proven their efficacy as an effective treatment for anti-aging, acne, discoloration, and more. But, like most skincare formulas, you must be patient and give it time to work. Only then will you be able to see the results you’re looking for.

Understanding your skincare products and their unique ingredients is critical for creating a smooth, healthy complexion. To further uncover the timeline of your skincare, check out this graphic to learn more:

Do you use Retinol and has it worked for you? Let us know in the comments below! 

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March 30, 2020


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  1. Susan says:

    Yes I have used prescription retinol for about 10 years. Consistency is key for this product to work.
    My pores have shrunk on my nose. That was something I didn’t expect but am really happy. My skin is smoother and dark spots have disappeared. I imagine it has helped with fine wrinkles but not deeper folds around the eyes.

    Hope this helps would be users. Oh yes…be careful because it can cause irritation so I have taken breaks from it or used a light moisturizer underneath the retinol.


    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      Thank you for sharing, Susan. You are right about consistency. I hope you are safe and well and keeping busy as we self isolate. These are very frightening times. Warmly, Honey

  2. Kathy says:

    I have used a non-prescription .5% retinol consistently for about 14 years, purchased from my dermatologist. I also use a
    Vitamin C and E serum and sunscreen daily. I am 72 and my skin tone looks good, dark spots have faded and enlarged pores have shrunk. I don’t have any wrinkles, thanks to also avoiding unprotected sun exposure. I agree with the previous comment to be careful and take a break if your skin becomes irritated and exfoliates. I tried 1% for a while and it was irritating to my skin, but .5% works well.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      Thank you for sharing your information. It does pay to be proactive about our skin. So glad you sent the info. Stay safe and well. Warmly, Honey

  3. Dee says:

    Yes l have. I use the brand Paulas choice for many years with the retinol range and I’m very happy with it it’s aover the counter however I think the best results for mehave been hyaluronic acid injections into the skin I love them they smooth out the skin and it looks amazing I would rather save my money and not buy a whole range of skin creams and spend it on things that really work

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      I have never heard of those injections. How does the procedure work? I hope you are well and safe. Warmly, Honey

  4. Maria Davies says:

    Hi Susan, Here’s a twist on the use of Retinol. I’m working on a compilation of folk medicine, so I’m experimenting with many of the plants I’m cataloguing. One of them is Moringa, a tree that grows near my house. It has many medicinal & cosmetic properties, Retinol being one of the compounds it has. I make a past of moringa & aloe gel (aloes grow in my garden) with a little water, using my blender. I apply the paste every other day. Having done this for about 3 weeks now, I notice a tightening of my skin, a smoothness, smaller, less visible pores

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      I am so interested in your new product and the fact that you found a new calling, folk medicine. I would love you to write about this old art and also join my new private FaceBook Group called, GRANDwomen with Moxie…where loneliness disappears. I would love to try your product. How can I? When I lived in Honolulu I used aloe often for a few things. I had a plant in my yard. I hope you are fine and keeping safe. Any cases on the Island? How do you shop? Do you use take out? I have been cooking every night and shopping every few weeks when the store is empty. I am going to start ordering today. I am so excited to learn about your new adventure. Warmly, Honey

  5. Dee says:

    Thanks for that Maria
    Always keen to see a natural alternative I shall look further into that

  6. Hi Susan, I had a skincare line that I sold several years ago. The FDA allows a 2% maximum of Retina A. My line had 2.5%. I was in the J.P. Penny stores in shopping malls such as Culver City, CA where I launched my line, as well as, the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania to name a few. One day I received a call that my cream was removed after a unexpected FDA person arrived at one of the counters. It was expensive, but the best lesson. I then sold it via info commercials late at night. I increase the number of vats to keep up with the orders. But……the prescriptive Retina A is the best. I am living proof.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      I will buy one from you! I don’t use Retina A so you will have to instruct me. Let me know how to connect with you. I am proud of you. You were resourceful and found a way. Does the info commercial company sell books. What is the name of the company? Are you still doing this? Warmly, Honey

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