Retinol Skincare: How to Use It for Different Skin Types and Understanding the Differences Between Retinoic Acid, Retinal, and Retinol

Before incorporating retinol into your skincare routine, it’s important to understand its effects, how to use it for various skin types, and the differences between retinoic acid, retinal, and retinol. Here’s a comprehensive guide with insights from dermatologists.

Shot of a beautiful young woman cleaning her face with cotton wool in the bathroom mirror

Introduction to Retinol Skincare

Retinol, also known as Vitamin A1, has become a highly sought-after ingredient in skincare. According to Google Trends, searches for retinol in Taiwan tripled in 2022, indicating a growing interest in its benefits. However, many people are unsure about the differences between retinol, retinoic acid, and other related compounds. Dr. Wu Yingjun, a clinical professor of dermatology at National Taiwan University, explains the benefits, usage, and effects of these ingredients.

The Benefits of Retinoic Acid

Retinoic acid, the most potent form of Vitamin A, is the only derivative approved by the FDA for treating photoaging. Its long-term use offers four main benefits:

  1. Skin Renewal: Increases skin thickness, reducing the appearance of large pores due to aging.
  2. Anti-Aging: Firms the skin, reducing wrinkles and roughness.
  3. Brightening: Inhibits melanin production, resulting in brighter and clearer skin.
  4. Anti-Acne: Reduces redness and inflammation caused by acne and other skin conditions.

Differences Between Retinoic Acid, Retinal, and Retinol

Retinoic AcidThe most potent and effective form, but highly irritating. Requires a prescription.
RetinalConverts directly to retinoic acid in the skin. Effective but more irritating and less stable.
RetinolConverts to retinal and then to retinoic acid. Less irritating and more stable, making it suitable for over-the-counter use.
Retinyl EstersThe least irritating and most stable, but requires multiple conversions in the skin to become active.

Retinol vs. Mandelic Acid vs. Salicylic Acid

IngredientMain BenefitsUsage SituationsIrritation LevelSkin Penetration Depth
RetinolAccelerates cell renewal, refines pores, reduces wrinkles, smooths skin textureAging-related issues like large pores, wrinkles, dullness, and loss of elasticity★★★Deep
Mandelic AcidPromotes keratinocyte turnover, reduces acne, and refines poresIssues from abnormal keratin turnover or excess oil production causing acne and large poresShallow
Salicylic AcidPromotes keratinocyte turnover and deeply cleanses poresIssues from abnormal keratin turnover or excess oil production causing acne and large pores★★Medium

了解更多關於Fashion的知識請參考這篇:4 Effective “Immersive” Massage Techniques to Boost Collagen Production

How to Use Retinol for Different Skin Types

For Beginners

Start by using retinol as a serum step after toner and before moisturizer.

For Experienced Users

Apply retinol directly after toner for more potent effects.

For Sensitive Skin

Use retinol as the final step in your routine after moisturizer to reduce irritation.

Tips for New Users

  • Begin by applying retinol once every three days, gradually increasing the frequency as your skin builds tolerance.
  • Always use retinol at night due to its photosensitivity, and apply sunscreen during the day to protect your skin.

Recommended Retinol Products

  1. DR.WU Intensive Renewal Serum with 1.5% Retinol: Combines retinal, retinol, and retinyl esters with high-efficiency anti-aging ingredients like peptides, CoQ10, niacinamide, and more.
  2. Origins Plantscription Retinol Night Moisturizer: Uses microencapsulated retinol for a gentler, high-efficiency experience. Recommended to use with Vitamin C in the morning for enhanced results.
  3. AHC Ultimate Real Eye Cream for Face: Encapsulates high-concentration retinoids in capsules to penetrate deeply and target aging signs.
  4. LANEIGE Perfect Renew Regenerator: Features a unique triple-layer packaging that separates three active ingredients to maximize their potency.
  5. StriVectin Advanced Retinol Intensive Night Moisturizer: Combines retinol and retinal with peptides to enhance skin texture and reduce wrinkles.

By following these guidelines and incorporating the right products, you can effectively use retinol to achieve smoother, firmer, and more youthful-looking skin.


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