Retinol: Before and After

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Suppose you have researched information on how to improve your skin and prevent signs of aging. In that case, you have most likely already stumbled across the word “retinol.” More than likely, you have also seen your fair share of before and after retinol photos.

The use and recommendation of retinol have been around since the early 1930s but became FDA approved in the 1970s. Today, many people use retinol treatments and products to regain their youthful appearance and prevent more signs of aging.

Retinol is a type of Vitamin A. While it is mostly used for anti-aging purposes, there are many great benefits to incorporating the vitamin into your skincare routine.

What Is Retinol?

As stated above, retinol is in the vitamin A family. The vitamin has the ability to treat skin problems, and people can also take it as a dietary supplement. There are many uses for retinol all over the body. As a result, it is recommended by dermatologists around the globe.

However, retinol itself is not the product that people will be using on their skin. Retinol is essentially an ingredient that many skincare products feature. The impact of retinol can vary depending on how the product features the ingredient and how much retinol a product features.

While retinol products are available over-the-counter, they are different from other retinoid products. Retinol is a form of a retinoid that is milder on the skin and not as powerful. Certain retinoids are only available through a prescription due to their strength.

Four main retinoids are used in skincare products, including retinol, retinoic acid, retinaldehyde, and retinyl palmitate. Each retinoid comes from the same vitamin A family, but each has unique traits.

There are many uses for retinol besides acting as an anti-aging product. Retinol can brighten skin, treat acne, and even out the skin tone.

Why Retinol Works

There is plenty of evidence available proving that retinol works, ranging from before-and-after photos to articles documenting the ways that retinol can help the skin.

Because retinol is beneficial to the skin in more than one way, we will break down and go over how retinol can help and why.


Retinol products are most commonly used to prevent and erase aging signs, such as wrinkles, fine lines, and crows feet.

Unlike other skincare products, retinol products can penetrate the epidermis(the skin barrier)and treat the skin’s middle layer.

In the middle layer(known as the dermis), retinol will be able to stimulate and help the skin produce collagen and elastin. The growth of collagen in the skin is what brings a youthful, fuller look that eliminates wrinkles.

Retinol can also keep the skin hydrated, as retinol products gently exfoliate any dead skin cells that may be depriving your skin of its natural moisture. The skin cell turnover can help with eliminating imperfections on the skin. Retinol is also a great option for those with dry skin types.


Using a retinol cream can be a great form of acne treatment, and even clear scars you may have related to cystic acne.

While in the middle layer of skin, retinol works to prevent blemishes from forming by creating comedolytic agents. While a prescription retinol product can easily clear mild acne cases, more severe cases of acne may need a combination of topical solutions.

Retinol will not work in combination with all skin products, however. For example, Benzoyl peroxide is not recommended for mixing with retinol products, as the two are said to cancel each other out.


While retinol helps improve many people’s complexions, not everyone’s skin type will allow them to use retinol products. Sensitive skin types may cause issues when using retinol, but there are still ways to get the same result.

Retinyl palmitate is a much gentler form of retinol that can similarly treat the skin.

How Long Does Retinol Take to Work?

With any new skincare regimen, you will not be able to see the full results of using retinol-based right away. While you may be able to notice a small difference in your skin after the first few applications, the before and after results of retinol will not be apparent until later.

How long it takes for retinol to work to its full extent depends on the person’s skin using it. Every skin type is different. As a result, retinol may work faster or slower depending on how your skin reacts to retinol and skincare products in general.

It will take at least six weeks to see the full results of using retinol in most cases. However, if you do not see results in the first six weeks, remember to be patient. It can take up to two or three full months before you notice a drastic change in your skin.

If you are using an ordinary retinol product with a low potency, it can even take six months to see a change. But the best way to get results from any skin product is to be consistent with your skincare routine. The point of retinol is to remove dead skin and help produce collagen, so it is understandable why your new skin will need some time to grow.

Retinol is not the solution if you are looking for an overnight fix. However, if you are willing to wait, your patience will pay off in the form of clear and healthy-looking skin. In the process of using retinol products, you can also incorporate serums and sunscreen into your routine.

As long as the products you are adding are proven to work well in conjunction with retinol, you can help keep your skin looking its best as you are waiting for the results of retinol products. 

Retinol Skin Solutions

If you frequently use skincare products, then you have likely already used something that contains retinol. There are many creams and serums on the market that use retinol. There are also various prescription retinoids for those dealing with more severe acne cases or scarring.

Prescription Retinoids

Prescription retinoids are more potent and tend to work faster than the over-the-counter products you can find in-store or online. Prescription retinoids can also cause more side effects and may cause issues in those who have sensitive skin types.

There are three common retinoid-based treatments that dermatologists will prescribe.


Adapalene is commonly used to cure stubborn acne. Using adapalene can reduce current and prevent the growth of new pimples or cysts. Similar to other retinoids, adapalene stimulates the growth of skin cells. Adapalene can even reduce inflammation and redness in the skin.

This retinoid is not only available as a prescription, however, and is also sold in stores under the name Differin. The difference between the over-the-counter version and the prescription version is how much adapalene the product chooses to feature. In Differin, there is only 0.1% of adapalene in the gel.


Tazarotene is another prescription for treating the skin. This retinoid comes in the form of gels, foams, and lotions. Tazarotene is used to treat acne, as well as fine lines and pigmentation on the skin.

Tazarotene is also an option worth looking into if you are suffering from a form of psoriasis. Tazarotene is the form of Tazorac gel used to treat a condition known as plaque psoriasis. Tazorac gel can reduce the amount of itchiness and scaling that occurs with many forms of psoriasis.

If you are looking to try Tazorac to treat your psoriasis, talk to your doctor or dermatologist if Tazorac might work for you.


Tretinoin is a prescription that specializes in treating sun-damaged skin, as well as acne. The medication can help the overall appearance of the skin by reducing the amount and severity of wrinkles. Tretinoin is retinoic acid and is also known under the name Retin-A.

Unlike retinol, tretinoin is a synthetic form of vitamin A. It treats acne and sun-damage by irritating the skin. The irritation of the skin signals the skin to speed up the life of your skin cells. When the skin cells die off, new ones will take their place, bringing healthier skin.

Over-the-Counter Retinols

Suppose you have a more mild acne case or start using an anti-aging product. In that case, many retinol products are available in-store or online. In this section, we will go over some of the most common topical retinol types. Different types work well for different people, so if one doesn’t work for one, try switching to another type. 

Depending on the product, the amount of retinol used can vary. To ensure that you are getting the right amount of retinol for your skin, you should have a brief talk with your doctor or dermatologist.

Retinol Lotions

Often when we think of applying retinol, we imagine someone dotting the product on the face. But retinol doesn’t have to just be used on the face; it can also be used on the arms and legs.

There are retinol face and body lotions on the market. Using these lotions can treat sun-damage and acne on the body.

While lotions are similar to creams, lotions contain more water than a cream-based product. The watery consistency can eliminate the greasy feeling that comes with using some creams.

Retinol Creams

Retinol creams are thicker in consistency than their lotion counterparts. These creams are better for moisturizing the skin due to added oils in the base of the cream.

Retinol Gels

The main reason that people prefer to use gel products over cream or lotion products is that gels are compatible with nearly every skin type.

Gels do not contain any added oils for hydrating effects, so those who have oily skin types can use gels without breaking out. The oils in a lotion or cream can be great for dry skin but may cause those who have oily or combination skin to break out.

Who Should Use Retinol?

Retinol is great for many people, but some side effects can occur from incorporating retinol into your skincare routine.

Those Who Want to Reduce Wrinkles

There are many people who, as they age, get insecure about the fine lines and wrinkles that start to show. Some people want to prevent the formation of wrinkles before they start. Retinol is known for its ability to decrease the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Those Who Want to Treat Mild Acne

Those who are suffering from mild but consistent acne may want to look into getting a retinol treatment of some kind.

While standard over-the-counter forms of retinol may not work for more severe acne cases, there are many retinol creams and gels that have different amounts of retinol in them. You can play around with different products to see which ones work best for you, but remember to keep an eye out for any side-effects.

Side-Effects of Retinol

There are a few side-effects that can come up while using retinol treatments. These side effects can include irritated skin, itchy skin, burning sensations, dry and/or peeling skin, and in even some severe cases, increased sensitivity to being exposed to the sun.

If you are using retinol and any of these side-effects come up, keep a close eye on them. Often, certain side-effects such as itchiness or irritation are only temporary. However, if these side-effects do not go away, or if they worsen over a while, make sure that you stop using any form of retinol and consult with your doctor.


Retinol is a form of retinoid that dermatologists have been recommending for years. Since it comes in various forms, it is compatible with many different skin types.

Before starting retinol, however, you should always make sure to check with your dermatologist to see if retinol is a good fit for you. Having this conversation with your doctor is the best way to avoid exposing yourself to a product that may not be good for your skin.

Still, there are great benefits of using retinol, such as eliminating wrinkles and dark spots, treating acne, and bringing an overall youthful appearance to the skin. If you think retinol would work for your skin, talk to your doctor today!