Retinol For Your Skin: What’s So Great About It?


Retinol is a retinoid.  Retinoids are the vitamin A family class of agents.  Retinoids, in my experience as a dermatologist, are the most effective anti-aging skin care product ingredient short of sunscreen.


I’ve recommended topical retinoid skin care products to my patients for over 25 years and I’ve seen the anti-aging results over and over again – smoother more youthful appearing skin, fewer fine lines and wrinkles and a “stop the clock” effect on skin aging.  I myself have used retinoid products for the same period of time.  Yes, I’ve  drunk the retinoid “cool aid” big time and for good reason.

As a dermatologist I think that everyone who wants to have the best anti-aging skin care routine should be on a retinoid – and it’s never too late or too soon to start.

Dr. Bailey’s Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Night Creams Now Available!

 Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream 5x

Retinol Ultra Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream 10x

Retinol for your skin is the most effective member of this vitamin A family of agents that is available without a prescription. It is a highly effective retinoid when applied to human skin, and it has the science to back that claim up.  Retinol (vitamin A) is formulated into many over-the-counter skin care products. What you need to know though is that some work and some don’t.  Plus, some are irritating and others are not.

Pick a good retinoid product, use it correctly, and get ready to watch the transformation.  You’ll be impressed.

When you start using the right retinoid or retinol for your skin, youRetinol For Your Skin:how to look younger’ll see:

  • a brighter, smoother, more youthful complexion
  • improvement in fine lines and wrinkles
  • improvement in unwanted irregular skin pigment
  • and, your pores may even look less noticeable


Retinol is the Best Retinoid You Can Get Without a Prescription

Is retinol the “fountain of youth” skin care ingredient? Maybe, but know your facts about retinol for your skin before investing your time and money on a retinol product because retinoids are as tricky as they are transformative for your skin.

 “Thanks Dr. Bailey for taking a few years off my face.

Florence B, Bodega, CA

In my next retinoid post I’ll give you the retinol facts.  And, we’re just about to launch what I think is the best retinol for your skin product available without a prescription. It’s the latest member of our science based skin care line – trusted anti-aging skin care and age-defying results for you, the best blend of science and nature.  Stay tuned, we’re excited and hope that you are too!

(Retinoid) Retinol for Your Skin References

Improvement of Naturally Aged Skin With Vitamin A (Retinol), Reza Kafi, MD; Heh Shin R. Kwak, MD, Arch Dermatol. 2007;143:606-612

Improvement of photoaged facial skin in middle-aged Japanese females by topical retinol (vitamin A alcohol): a vehicle-controlled, double-blind study. Kikuchi K, Suetake T, Kumasaka N, Tagami H, J Dermatolog Treat. 2009;20(5):276-81

Choosing Topical Retinoids for Aging Skin, Sachs, DL, Dermatology Focus, Summer 2013 Vol 32 No 2 page 4

Application of Retinol to Human Skin In Vivo Induces Epidermal Hyperplasia and Cellular Retinoid Binding Proteins Characteristic of Retinoic Acid but Without Measurable Retinoic Acid Levels or Irritation, Sewon Kang, Elizabeth A. Duell, et. al., J Invest Dermatol 105:549-556, 1995

Vitamin A Antagonizes Decreased Cell Growth and Elevated Collagen-Degrading Matrix Metalloproteinases and Stimulates Collagen Accumulation in Naturally Aged Human Skin, James Varani, Roscoe L Warner, Mehrnaz Gharaee-Kermani, et. al., J Invest Dermatol (2000) 114, 480–486;

Topical Tretinoin for Photoaged Skin: a Double-blind Vehicle-controlled Study, Weiss JS, Ellis CN, et. al., JAMA. 1988, 259: 527-532

Tazarotene Cream for the Treatment of Facial Photo Damage: a Multicenter, Investigator-Masked, Randomized, Vehicle-Controlled, Parallel Comparison of Tazarotene 0.01%, 0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.1% Creams and Tretinoin 0.05% Emollient Cream Applied Once-Daily for 24 Weeks. Kang S, Leyden JJ, Lowe NJ, et al., Arch Dermatol. 2001;137:1597-1604.

Mechanisms of Photoaging and Chronological Skin Aging, Gary J. Fisher, PhD; Sewon Kang, MD; et. al., Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(11):1462-1470

Photo: Thanks and Gratitude to tommerton2010 and DownTownPictures

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18 Responses to “Retinol For Your Skin: What’s So Great About It?”

  1. Shiv Sharma April 1, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

    Thanks for knowing me new retinoid skin care products for anti-aging problems. I used to try lot of creams but find no result. I get rid of all these. I will start to use these products.. I hope I get the better result….

  2. Stella April 2, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Interesting blog, and I always love to hear about retinoids. I am using Retin A 0.05 and so far no irritation or peeling. I live in Europe and my only problem NOW is that it is being discontinued! Not only UK but also the country I live in, in Europe. I asked a few pharmacists and dermatologists and they couldn’t believe it that I use it for Anti aging. They dont even know that. Now that I am in my third month and I do not wish to give up on it…I have no clue where I can buy it from. Would appreciate if you will tell us what percentage of RETINOL I can use to make up for the 0.05 % tretinoin!

    Also, is it true that Tretinoin thins the skin? One dermatologist here told me so , maybe that is why it has been discontinued in Europe.

    Thank you Dr. Bailey for your blog that I find really really interesting.

  3. Nina Germeyer April 2, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Is your upcoming retinoid cream as effective for wrinkles as Tretinoin 0.025%? And is it less irritating? I have only ever been able to apply the Tretinoin 0.025% every third night and I often have to discontinue for weeks or months to calm down skin between seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups. If your retinoid is less irritating it might compare in efficacy because I will be able to apply it more often. Or is the quality of results too different between the two types of vitamin A to compare? Lately I have tried pre-treating with niacinamide and it seems to be better tolerated. But you can never tell with seborrheic dermatitis if it would be in remission anyway. The other issue I find problematic is that zinc oxide is a natural astringent and it seems to irritate and dry my skin even worse if I am using Tretinoin at night.

  4. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. April 2, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    Hello Stella,
    Retin A went generic in the states several years ago and it became hard to obtain the trade brand of Retin A. In my practice I have found that the generic tretinoin works as well. Perhaps that is what is happening in the UK.

    No it does not thin the skin it actually thickens it. It compacts the dead cells and can make the skin more sensitive. The living layers actually thicken. I will give more information in the next post so stay tuned.

    You can try the Retinol Cream at the strongest level and see how it compares if you are unable to get prescription tretinoin. Boy, what a shame it would be if tretinoin becomes completely unavailable to the UK.

  5. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. April 2, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Nina you have an all too common skin dilemma. I share it myself so I sympathize. The new Retinol Cream is less irritating than tretinoin, which is what is so exciting for people like us. The reduced irritancy is born out by both scientific study and my experience. Both tretinoin and retinol stimulate the same biologic activities in the skin for anti-aging results, which I will detail in the next post. Tretinoin is very well studied over the past 30 or so years. To my knowledge, there have been no side by side studies to compare the long term efficacy of Retinol versus tretinoin as an ingredient. It means that there is no answer to your question that is guided by science. I doubt we will get those studies either since the tretinoin studies were done by pharma on proprietary tretinoin pharmaceutical products.

    Your thought that you may have greater efficacy if you can use it more frequently than tretinoin is spot on. It can be used in between tretinoin or in place of it. The results are apparent within weeks to a few months and you will be able to judge for yourself. I will give you more info in the next post.

  6. Stella April 3, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    Thanks Dr. Bailey for your response. I got confused between Retin A and Tretinoin…all I can say is that I got Tretinoin usp written on my tube. It has been discontinued in the UK as I already know others that have tried to purchase it with no success.. I really do not know the reason for this.

    Its good to know that it doesn’t thin the skin. I heard this from a pharmacist myself and it could be the reason it has been discontinued here! We are part of the European union so if it discontinued in one country it will be discontinued everywhere.

    I look forward to your blog about the Retinol product.

    In the meantime, I am looking for a very good day cream…although I am not peeling or anything (I hope Retin A is working anyway!), my skin is extremely dry that when I put on my physical sunscreen, it gets worse and I look very old and sick. Although I do use oils to moisturize, yesterday someone gave me a sample of a moisturizer and my skin changed instantly! If it wasn’t about 90$ I would have bought it on the spot . Thanks for your blog and comments.

  7. Lisa Anderson April 3, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    I was using over the counter retinol before getting pregnant and I know that retinol is not to be used during pregnancy (I stopped) but I can’t definitively find out if one can use retinol while breastfeeding – some people say yes and some say no. Any thoughts? I’d love to start using it again but not if its bad news whilst I am still nursing.


  8. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. April 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    For liability purposes only the pediatrician and/or obstetrician can make this call.

  9. Kristina Gustavson April 4, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    Dr. Bailey, you recommended that I should use retin a or a retinoid type product 24 years ago. I am so thankful I followed your advice. I get complements all the time on my skin and I know it is all due to using retinoid products that you recommended. I am looking forward to learning about this new retinoid product! Thank you for all your dermatological words of wisdom.

  10. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. April 5, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    Hello Kristina,
    What a lovely message for me to read first thing Saturday morning! Has it been 24 years?? Congratulations for taking the best care of your skin for all this time, oh it pays off grandly! There are indeed good, better and best choices for anti-aging skin care and you’ve done it right. I am deeply satisfied to have helped. You know, I’ve been on medical leave from the office for 8 months for the treatment of breast cancer. I’m doing well so all is good but I really miss seeing people and their results in person. You have brightened my day today with your personal message! Thanks so much for writing in.

  11. Stella April 5, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    Cynthia, God bless and wish you the best! Love and light xxx Stella

  12. Cura Pelle April 8, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

    Hi Dr. Bailey,

    Can Retin-A Micro be worn over a light moisturizer? If I put on a thin lotion at 8, is it necessary to cleanse my skin again before applying Retin-A Micro, waiting 20 minutes and retiring? Does the skin need to be bare in order for the microsponge technology to work?

    Have I told you lately how glad I am that you kicked cancer’s ass backwards, forwards and sideways? You GO, girl!


  13. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. April 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Hello Cura!

    How lovely to see your comment and thank you for your kind words!! I sure do hope kicked some a w/ that cancer. Fingers crossed though as one never knows. I am acting “as if” though.

    Many dermatologists, including myself, do have their patients apply moisturizer under RA Micro. I have never heard that it would interfere w/ the microsponge technology and in my experience patients get RA results when they do apply a moisturizer w/ it.

    Cynthia Bailey MD

  14. Cura Pelle April 13, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    “As if” is the only way to act when you know that the war is still underway, but the first couple of battles have been won – and how! Thank you for the answer.

  15. Stella April 14, 2014 at 12:15 am #

    Dr Bailey some people say you have to stop using Retin A and Retinol in the summer, while others say its completely unnecessary and they still use it in summer with a high SPF. what is your opinion about it please??

    If we do have to stop, how can we keep our skin subtle and keep the good benefits of Retin A?? Do we use AHAs instead?


  16. Cynthia Bailey, M.D. April 14, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    Hello Stella,
    For many years dermatologists have told patients that using tretinoin will increase the skin’s sun sensitivity due to the stratum corneum changes that include exfoliation. These changes were believed to lead to more penetration of UV light into the skin. That is now up for discussion as some derms are rethinking the science and are now saying it’s not true.

    In my 25+ years of experience both prescribing tretinoin and using it, tretinoin treated skin seems to sun burn faster. Tretinoin treated skin also wind burns more easily. Thus, I think the alteration in the stratum corneum is significant enough to alter barrier function, both to wind, UV and harsh chemicals as well as facial waxing. It means I’m not changing my position. That said, if a person is sun protecting with a broad spectrum (preferable mineral zinc oxide) sunscreen and wearing a hat and not seeing their tretinoin treated skin getting tanner, then I don’t have my patient stop tretinoin use in the summer.

    It does appear that retinol has even less of this barrier impact on skin and I think it is a good choice for summer use. Before we had a really good retinol product, some of my patients chose to switch to AHA in summer if they are not able to be 100% with their sun protection. Even AHA alters barrier function and so sun protection is still important. Thus there are options and it all boils down to sun protection, which should be a top priority no matter which of these anti-aging products you chose.

  17. Stella April 14, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    Dr Bailey thanks so much for your answer! I think I will opt NOT to use Retin A in the summer (tretinoin 0.05) , and try to use either a mild AHA or a mild Retinol (or a combination of both), with high SPF of course! and If I see that I am in the sun more than usual, then I will opt to stop completely. I think it makes sense and we do not want to risk further damage.

    Best to you

  18. Cura Pelle April 15, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    Hello again, Dr. Bailey,

    It must be a beautiful day in Sebastopol. Most days are, I suppose. I’m glad you’re experiencing it.

    This is a curious question that has just come up, and I’ve wondered about it for a while, what’s the right dose and schedule to get the max. benefit at the lowest cost to the barrier. I know that adapalene has not been proven to confer the anti-aging benefit of its cohorts in the class, but the anti-acne benefit has been verified. It, no doubt, also impacts barrier function. Now I wonder, would using .01% adapalene have less of this barrier impact on skin? Would it’s alteration of the stratum corneum be significant enough to alter barrier function?