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Retinol 101: An In-Depth Look At Retinoids

Retinol has long been lauded as a best-in-class anti-aging ingredient by dermatologists and skincare enthusiasts alike. Still, the science behind this powerful ingredient often remains a mystery to those of us who haven’t been to medical school.To learn more, we turned to Biossance Director of Product Marketing + Strategy Celeste Schreier for an in-depth look at this derm-approved ingredient. Read on to learn exactly what retinol is, how it works, and how to incorporate retinoids into your skincare routine.

What Is Retinol?

When we talk about retinoids, we’re referring to an umbrella term for Vitamin A derivatives that include retinol, retinal, and tretinoin. “Retinol is an over-the-counter form of vitamin A that’s been clinically proven to be a best-in-class ingredient for improving the look of common skin concerns such as signs of aging, acne, and sun damage,” says Celeste. Over-the-counter retinoids undergo one or more conversions within the skin to become retinoic acid, which is the compound that creates the desired changes. Retinol undergoes two conversions, and retinal gets converted just once, making it the strongest OTC retinoid on the market.

How Does Retinol Work?

Retinoids help speed up cell turnover by increasing the rate that old cells turn over in order to make room for new cells,” says Celeste.  “They also help to decrease the breakdown of collagen and thicken the deepest layers of the skin.”

Retinoids operate differently from other skincare ingredients by traveling deeper into the skin layers to stimulate cell turnover, effectively minimizing fine lines & wrinkles, firming skin, and reversing sun damage from the inside out rather than the outside in. Retinoids can also change your skin at the cellular level, improving cell renewal and growth. In layman’s terms, they make the skin grow thicker and more elastic while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol Before and After

How Does Retinol Benefit The Skin?

“Retinol addresses signs of aging such as fine lines & wrinkles and loss of firmness. They also help reverse signs of sun damage by lightening dark spots and evening out the complexion” says Celeste.  “Lastly, they work to clear up clogged pores, acne, and scarring.”

5 Benefits Retinoids, such as retinol and retinaldehyde (aka “retinal”):

  1.     Minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  2.     Improve uneven skin tone and visible sun damage
  3.     Increase skin firmness and boost collagen
  4.     Improve the look of blemishes
  5.     Promote skin radiance

Which Biossance formulas include retinol?

We reimagined the retinol for our Squalane + Retinol Night Serum to minimize irritation by encapsulating our powerful blend of retinol and retinal to release our retinoid actives gradually over 8 hours. 

“Our retinoids are encapsulated, which means they have a molecule surrounding the outside of them that allows them to travel deeper into the skin’s layers before they activate which helps your skin benefit from them the most,” says Celeste. “In order to create a formula that was powerful, yet still gentle, we included two types of retinoids to get the most compelling results. Years of clinical data have shown the effectiveness of retinol while the composition of retinal proves it to be both powerful and gentle.”We also went a step further, stabilizing our retinoid blend using nourishing antioxidants rosemary and saffron. This not only ensures that the active ingredients in our serum stay effective, it also means they won’t break down and irritate your skin.

How Use Retinol In Your Routine

Using our Squalane + Retinol Night Serum is as simple as applying it after cleansing and before moisturizing. 

“When introducing retinoids to skin, you should start by using 2x a week and gradually build from there,” says Celeste. “Retinoids start working instantly so you’ll see some results immediately and more eventually over time.Here are four additional tips for maximizing your results:
  1. Make sure your skin is completely dry before using retinol. Using retinol on damp skin can make it penetrate too deeply and potentially cause irritation.
  2. Only apply a pea-sized amount.
  3. Follow with your favorite moisturizer, and for an extra boost of hydration, try mixing in a drop or two of Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil.
  4. Be sure to apply sunscreen every morning, but be especially diligent on mornings after using retinol. 

Can sensitive skin types use retinol?

Our Squalane + Retinol Night Serum is gentle enough even for sensitive skin. There are also several ways to use retinol that make it even gentler on sensitive skin. One of these is skin cycling, a routine in which nighttime retinol use is incorporated using a four-day cycle that gives skin time to recover. You might also try sandwiching your retinol between layers of moisturizer to create a buffer active ingredients.

A Retinol Layering Guide With our Squalane + Retinol Night Serum

Powerful ingredients such as retinol need to be treated with care, as you don’t want to cause your skin to turn over too rapidly. “Moisturizing and calming actives such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and peptides pair well with retinoids”, says Celeste. “Avoid using Vitamin C and acids such as AHAs or BHAs on the days you use your retinoids.”

Our Recommended Squalane + Retinol Night Serum Layering Guide:

  1. Step One: At night, cleanse with our Squalane + Amino Aloe Gentle Cleanser. Pat Dry.
  2. Step Two: Using your ring finger, tap a small amount of Squalane + Marine Algae Eye Cream onto the ocular bone beneath your eye.
  3. Step Three: Apply a pea-sized amount of Squalane + Retinol Night Serum.
  4. Step Four: Moisturize with Squalane + Omega Barrier Repair Cream.
  5. Optional: Cocktail a drop or two of Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil into your cream for additional moisture and glow.


Shop Squalane + Retinol Night Serum
Christine Tusher
Christine Tusher Writer and expert
As a lifestyle writer and journalist, I love sharing my passion for ocean conservation and obsession with clean beauty. I’ve tried almost every trend and ingredient, and Biossance’s science-backed formulas are the only ones that consistently calm my reactive skin and make it smoother, clearer, and healthier. I’m so excited to be on this journey of skincare innovation with Biossance, and to share it with you!

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