What Does Retinol Do For Your Skin

Retinol and what it does for your skin

If you’re hoping to reveal younger, brighter skin, I’ve got just the product. It’s Retinol. You’ve probably heard of it. You may have even heard some really bad things about it. But I’m here to break it all down for you. Why? Because I love retinol. I think its a miracle worker and it’s the one thing (besides a moisturizer with SPF) that I would want with me on a deserted island. It’s THAT GOOD.

But what the heck is retinol? It’s a Vitamin A derivative that’s used in anti-aging products. It’s a Retinoid and there are many types of Retinoid out there. There are weaker strength ones that are usually in drug store brands and for sensitive skin. Then you can get much stronger ones from more clinical type brands like Cosmedix. And lastly, there are prescription strength Retinoids as well that a dermatologist can prescribe.

What Does Retinol Do For Your Skin

The question often is though, what exactly is retinol doing for your skin? Why is it the miracle product? Retinol will reduce fine lines and wrinkles, encourage cellular turnover for a boost in collagen and elastin production and can even skin tone. It’s basically the only anti-aging product you need. It does it ALL. Retinol can be used for other skin concerns too like acne and reducing the appearance of large pores. It is your answer to aging skin. Period.

Retinol does all of this good stuff because it works on the cellular level versus simply topical. It helps to trick your skin into thinking it needs to turn over its cells (which your skin naturally does anyway) but just faster. As we age, your skin turns over more slowly. Insert a Retinol regimen and you’ll be revealing younger-looking skin faster than ever.

Is Retinol Bad For Your Skin?

There’s a lot of “clean beauty” talk about retinol and here’s the deal. It really isn’t bad for you. Just like any other vitamin for us to be human, you don’t want to overdose. But studies show that topical absorption is minimal at most. And the over the counter versions are already weakened unlike the prescription Vitamin A. The thing that people tend to be worried about is the sun sensitivity.

Because Retinol is encouraging cellular turnover and forcing your cells to divide and create new skin cells, your new skin is well, new. It’s super new. And sometimes it can take a little while for cells to develop to fully protect you from the sun.

The Pros and Cons

The list of Pros for Retinol goes on and on. Since your turning over cells, you’re revealing younger looking skin. The only true con to this pro, is that since the skin cells are so new it can be sensitive to light. This is one of the main reasons you may want to stay out of the sun when using retinol products. A good SPF will help to protect this newly visible skin. The process of cellular turnover may cause some redness and irritation. But that’s because retinol is an active ingredient that WORKS. Many people shy away from any sort of redness or tingling because it scares them and they think its a terrible side effect. But rest assured, that just means your product is WORKING. Don’t you want something that works?!

  • Boosts collagen production
  • Increase cellular turnover
  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines, scars and hyperpigmentation
  • Improve skin texture
  • Tighten pores and minimize the look of them
  • Slow down your skin’s aging process by increasing collagen production and decreasing collagen breakdown – source
  • Better absorption of skincare products – Ingredients can be absorbed better to the new skin caused by the cellular turnover (in turn making your other creams and serums work better)
  • Flaking and dry skin
  • Redness
  • Sun sensitivity

To help combat some of these cons, it’s recommended to use retinol as tolerated. No, you shouldn’t be miserable flaking, red mess. So dial it back a bit. Start with once a week, then twice a week. You don’t HAVE to use this nightly at all. A little bit is normal and over time your skin will probably get used to it. It’s also recommended if you’re getting super dry from retinol, to add in a moisturizer as well.

Shop More Retinols

Natural Alternatives

There may not be anything on the planet I can tell you or that you may read that will convince you retinol is in fact safe to use when done properly. And that’s a battle I’m not willing to fight. You do you, girl. So I do want to provide a “natural” alternative to retinol. I also hate that this is even a thing. Retinol is Vitamin A. Retinol is in your fruits and veggies people. It IS natural. Obviously, most retinol in skincare isn’t derived from our fruits and vegetables and are instead manmade. Sure there’s preservative and stabilizers in it that people may argue are dangerous. But I digress.

If you want an alternative to Retinol that isn’t retinol but has similar results of cellular turnover and reducing fine lines and improving texture, Beautycounter just came out with their Countertime product line. The line uses plant-derived Retinatural Complex that combines bakuchiol and Swiss Alpine rose to provide retinol like results. The products help to fight the appearance of wrinkles, tighten skin and improve hydration. Personally, I haven’t tried it because I’m a retinol user and lover. But I have several friends who have been testing out this new collection for months and have been loving the results. There’s definitely nothing wrong with it and it does in fact work.

Shop The Countertime Collection
The Countertime's retinol and creams
Countertime's retinol and creams
Countertime's products
Check out Countertime products

Another product from the Beautycounter line that has similar results is the Overnight Resurfacing Peel. I personally use this and love it. I use it inbetween the retinoid nights. It helps to reveal brighter skin that’s less dull. As well as minimize the appearance of fine lines.

Beautycounter has done a wonderful job of creating safe and effective products. But for me, I’m choosing my Retinol from Cosmedix. But if you want to try something that isn’t Retinol, definitely check out this newly launched anti aging skincare line here.

Why Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is having a serious moment right now. What exactly is it though? It’s a plant-derived ingredient from the psoralea corylifolia plant,” aka the “babchi” plant. Bakuchiol is the only retinol equivalent that’s “been scientifically studied and proven to function the same way as retinol“. The thing we look for in retinol performance is collagen production. Why? Well, collagen production is what actually improves skin texture, fine lines and more. This IS the secret to anti-aging. Bakuchiol does this without the dryness that retinol has gotten such a bad reputation for.

And for the record. The dryness doesn’t affect EVERYONE. And it all depends on the potency of the retinol as well. Pure Retina from the pharmacist will dry you out for sure but also give you insane results. My Cosmedix retinol products cause NO dryness for me. But everyone is different.

Which anti-aging superstar will you try?

Photo by Hannah Lozano

Jessica is an Atlanta life and style blogger. Aiming to bring practical tips to your every day life. Tips that you can easily tackle and make your life feel just a tad more 'put-together'.

Leave a Comment


  1. 7.31.19
    Lura Leigh said:

    Super informative post. Thank you for sharing lady! I have to say, I’m one of those people that is all CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN when it comes to my beauty products so I’ll probably go the BeautyCounter route – so thank you for including that as well.

    xo Laura Leigh

    • 7.31.19
      Jessica said:

      Love to hear that! The bottles are also SO darn pretty, pretty enough to leave out on your countertops!

  2. 7.31.19
    Rachel said:

    Oh my god, I’ve never needed a blog post more in my life than this one!!! I’ve heard so many things about retinol and bakuchiol lately but have been so confused! This breakdown was so helpful!


    • 7.31.19
      Jessica said:

      Honestly retinol isn’t dangerous especially if you’re getting it from more clean beauty brands like Cosmedix and Mara who are so ingredient focused. I’d be careful with the crap at the drugstore!

  3. 8.1.19
    Lisa said:

    I’m using – and loving – a “clean” product by Biossance, so that’s another alternative if anyone’s looking – it’s pricey but does the job with no dryness: SQUALANE + PHYTO-RETINOL SERUM

  4. 8.2.19
    Lisa Autumn said:

    Oh I just love Retinol products!

    x Lisa | lisaautumn.com

  5. 9.5.19
    Emily said:

    Retinol is a superstar in the anti-aging world! I’m currently using the Beautycounter nigtht cream as an alternative, and I love it! Thank you for sharing this!
    Xoxo- Emily from fabulouslyoverdressed.com