The Top 3 Myths About Retinol

If you have any interest in skin care (which we assume you do since you’re reading this), then you’ve almost certainly heard about retinol. 


According to Google’s Year in Search, retinol was the most searched skincare ingredient in 2020 and continues to be in 2021.


Retinol is often used as a catch-all name for a family of ingredients called ‘retinoids’ (including retinyl palmitate and retinaldehyde), which are a set of molecules derived from vitamin A. With its numerous claims to fame — from reducing acne and wrinkles, improving texture, and providing protective and regenerative benefits — retinol almost seems too good to be true. But the fact is, the hype is real! 


Did you know that vitamin A is the only clinically-proven active ingredient to create long-term, physiological improvements in the skin’s structure? That’s why it’s been a secret weapon of dermatologists and skin therapists for decades.


So why is this tried and tested ingredient only now becoming widely recognized as the all-around skin health marvel it is? Well, we have a pretty good theory… 


You see, for almost as long as retinol has been available, it’s gotten a bad rap for having some irritating side effects. Think: sensitivity, “purging,” and skin flakiness — conditions that are less than desirable for anyone looking to improve their skin. 


The thing is, this reputation was built on retinoid formulas of the past, the outdated school of thought that higher concentrations yield better results (hint: they don’t), and just plain old misinformation. 


Lucky for you, at RÖ, we have a knack for being ahead of the curve when it comes to skin. If you’ve been a RÖ loyalist for any amount of time, you’ve heard us talk about the benefits of using vitamin A in your skincare routine (and your daily supplements). And over the years, we’ve heard every misguided reason not to use vitamin A. 


So today, we’re helping you to STOP holding yourself back from potentially the best skin of your life — by debunking the top 3 myths about retinol…




This first myth originated from the common side effects of going from 0 to 100 with your retinol routine (in other words, too much too soon). When you introduce a powerful active like retinol at too high of a concentration, irritation and sensitisation is likely to occur. The short-term result is skin that appears dry, red, flaky, or even breaks out — the opposite of the youthful, hydrated, and plump complexion you were going for.  


When used effectively (aka introduced slowly and moderately) retinol actually “resets” and optimises the growth rate of our skin’s basal cells. Further, it stimulates collagen synthesis, the protein responsible for skin density, and “banks” it for future use as your skin ages. Both of these actions build “thicker,” more dense skin for a reduction in lines, wrinkles and uneven surface texture.   


It’s only human to want the fastest results, but in the case of retinol, a “low and slow” approach has shown to be the most effective route to real results. That’s why we’re diehard fans of ENVIRON’s AVST Step-Up System™ — the largest range of retinol moisturisers on the market of varying concentrations to help your skin slowly acclimate to the essential nutrients of vitamin A. So you can achieve your most radiant skin, without the side effects. 




This myth is often even repeated by skin therapists and professionals — and this is because there is a misconception that using retinol “exfoliates” your skin. While retinol will provide you with some of the same great benefits as exfoliation (for example, increased cell turnover), there’s one big difference. While exfoliation assists in removing the outermost, “dead” skin cells to unveil fresh new cells, retinol works from the inside out. 


In the most simple terms, retinol speeds up the life cycle of our skin cells, so that they are younger and healthier by the time they reach the surface of the skin — what we can see! So while over-exfoliation has the potential to cause barrier dysfunction (or the sensitisation we mentioned above), this same risk isn’t true of retinol when used properly. 


In fact, some forms of vitamin A are actually photo-protective.  


Specifically, retinyl palmitate (the primary vitamin A derivative we recommend here at RÖ), provides antioxidant protection that actually strengthens the skin’s natural defences against UV damage. 


With that said, the sun does rapidly deplete the natural vitamin A we already have within our skin, allowing for collagen loss and abnormal cell growth. According to Dr. Des Fernandez, a revolutionary in modern vitamin A formulation, ageing skin is a direct result of sun-induced vitamin A deficiency. Correct the deficiency, and you’ll have more radiant skin!


The take-away:  SPF is always non-negotiable, whether or not you’re using vitamin A. Vitamin A only helps correct UV damage and can even provide further protection. 




By now you know that retinol is derived from vitamin A, a natural and integral nutrient for so many functions within the human body. Although the form of vitamin A we apply to our skin is created in a lab, these molecules are bioidentical to the forms of vitamin A that are found throughout our bodies. 


In fact, part of the reason that retinoids are the most effective clinically-studied ingredient is because they are so “natural” to our bodies. Each individual skin cell actually has its own specialised receptor to assist in maintaining healthy levels of vitamin A. This is what makes it bioactive, which means it is recognised by our bodies and vital for overall skin health and functioning — just as your body uses the antioxidants ingested in your diet.


Over the past several years, there’s been a trend of “natural” retinol alternatives: typically plant-based ingredients that claim to produce similar results to those of retinoids. The truth is though, there is no reason to seek a “natural” alternative to vitamin A. Sadly, many “natural skincare” marketing strategies are to create fear around results-driven or clinical skincare (such as effective retinol formulas) when there needn’t be any. 


That’s why vitamin A is found in so many natural nutrition supplements (like what we offer here), and even in the natural fruits and veg you are recommended to eat every day. 


And there you have it — the three most common myths told about vitamin A, debunked. Still interested in learning more about vitamin A and retinol? See our Vitamin A 101 post here


Or if you’re ready to get started on your vitamin A journey, explore our skin-changing options here. [link to vitamin A products?]


Love the RÖ Team    

“Vitamin A aka Retinol is the only ingredient in skincare that both increases collagen production and stops collagen breakdown, It tricks your cells into thinking they’re younger than they are, so they work faster to create fresh, healthy and non-wrinkled skin.”
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