Everything you need to know about retinol: over-the-counter and prescription products

Retinol, better known as vitamin A, is great for your skin. But because there are so many different retinol products available, we can imagine you have questions and find it difficult to choose between them. Our information will help you.

Retinol is found in over-the-counter skincare products (for example in the form of retinyl palmitate) and in products you need a prescription to buy. Pure retinol is usually more effective than retinol derivatives. Products prescribed by a doctor that contain retinol (also called retinoids) contain more active properties and are therefore more effective. But they do increase the risk of skin irritation.

Why is retinol good for your skin?

Vitamin A is important for activating your skin cells’ recuperative abilities. When dermatologists or medical specialists talk about retinol, they mean vitamin A on prescription. All forms of retinol are effective against wrinkles, an uneven skin tone and acne.

Is retinol on prescription better for me?

Prescription retinol is not necessarily better. Important things to know when choosing a retinol product:

  • Retinol products on prescription are more powerful and work faster. Retinol in cosmetic products takes longer to work, but does give the same results over time.
  • Prescription retinol increases the risk of skin irritation. These irritations can be so persistent for some that they can no longer use the product.
  • Cosmetic products with retinol have a lower risk of skin irritation.
  • It is a question of experimenting to see the how often you should use retinol for the most effective and attractive results.

Can I use a product containing retinol in combination with AHA or BHA?

It is fine to use a retinol product in combination with AHA or BHA. AHA and BHA exfoliate the dead cells on the skin surface and improve skin damaged by the sun. Retinol is an ingredient that ‘tells’ your skin cells how to repair themselves by creating new, healthy cells. For the best and most beautiful results, when it comes to anti-ageing and anti-wrinkles, it is therefore ideal to use an exfoliant and a product with retinol. Build up both products and their combined use carefully and always keep an eye on how your skin reacts to the products (or combinations of products).

How do you use prescription retinol?

A prescribed retinol product (or retinoid) should be used in your evening skincare routine as follows:

  • Use your cleanser, toner and exfoliant with AHA or BHA as you usually would.
  • Then apply the prescribed product.
  • If you use a brightening product, apply it after the retinoid.

Apply a serum and/or night cream.

More tips for using retinol or retinoid products:

  • Apply the prescribed retinoid product (which is more powerful) every other day to start with to allow your skin to get used to it. You also need to give your skin time to get accustomed to cosmetic products with a higher concentration of retinol.
  • Once your skin has got used to it and responds well, you can gradually increase the frequency to once a day, in the evening before going to bed.
  • A prescribed retinoid product can be combined with a product containing benzoyl peroxide against spots. Make sure that you first allow the benzoyl peroxide to dry thoroughly before applying the retinoid product.
  • You can use products containing retinol under your eyes, but not on your eyelids.
  • You can use a cosmetic retinol product alongside a retinoid product prescribed by a doctor. You decide in which order you apply them. Do keep in mind that more is not always better.
  • If your skin becomes irritated (flaking, redness, sensitivity), then stop using multiple retinol products or reduce the frequency.

Take note:

  • Never miss a day of applying a cream with a SPF of 30 or higher! Even the most effective, scientifically proven products against ageing skin will not work if you do not protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.
  • For best results, use retinol products with other skincare products that contain antioxidants, skin-repairing ingredients and various cell-communicating substances, such as those containing niacinamide.