A staple ingredient in many Western skincare formulations, retinol is a powerful vitamin A derivative that, if used correctly, can completely transform the texture of your skin. Despite its copious benefits, Korean skincare products tend to utilise retinol far less frequently. Undoubtedly the biggest pitfall of retinol is the temporary adjustment period that comes with it, in which the skin has a thinner barrier and is therefore more susceptible to sensitivity, dryness and irritation. In general, Korean formulas gravitate towards gentler, natural ingredients that feel comfortable on the skin. However, this does not mean retinol is completely excluded from the Korean market – in fact, Korean retinol products are often far kinder to the skin than their Western counterparts, including additional ingredients to negate the pesky side effects that many find themselves struggling with.
benefits of retinol
Fights acne: Clogged pores are a common cause of blackheads, whiteheads and other stubborn blemishes. By exfoliating dead skin cells, retinol cleanses the pores and treats any existing acne, while helping to prevent any further breakouts from occurring in the future.
Prevents signs of ageing: Retinol is renowned for its ability to stimulate collagen and elastin production, which helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Promotes even skin tone: Regular use of retinol can brighten and even-out the skin tone as well as improve its overall texture. It boosts cell production, shedding old, damaged skin cells to reveal healthier skin underneath.
how often to use RETINOL
If using retinol for the first time, it’s wise to apply it once or twice a week and then gradually increase usage depending on how your skin reacts to the product. However, it's best not to use it every day as it can have a negative effect on your skin barrier and increase sensitivity. Likewise, retinol should only be used as a part of your nighttime skincare routine and not applied in the morning, as it can be rendered inactive by the sunlight.
As previously mentioned, many experience redness, dryness and irritation for a while as their skin gets used to the product, but these symptoms usually desist after the first few weeks of use. This process is called “skin purging” – it’s incredibly common and nothing to worry about! Slowly easing retinol into your routine as aforementioned can minimise these side effects.
ingredients you should and shouldn't mix with retinol
Niacinamide is a versatile anti-inflammatory that is perfectly fine to use alongside most ingredients in your skincare arsenal, including retinol. It calms and brightens the skin, helping to further improve any uneven skin tones.
Hyaluronic Acid excels at retaining moisture in the skin which, when used alongside retinol, can counteract the dryness you may encounter while your skin is getting used to the new product.
Ceramides, which moisturise the skin and fortify the skin’s barrier, can help to minimise dryness and irritation when used in conjunction with retinol. On the other hand, peptides, amino acids which promote firmness and elasticity, can work in synergy with retinol to further combat fine lines and wrinkles.
AHAs and BHAs are both exfoliating ingredients, and are likely to cause dryness, flaking and irritation when used alongside retinol.
Vitamin C can be used with retinol, however it’s recommended to use vitamin C in your morning routine and retinol at night.
Our product picks
This multitasking eye cream is formulated with retinol, retinal and adenosine to effectively fight the signs of ageing and improve skin’s elasticity. Additionally, it benefits from the dual brightening powers of Niacinamide and tranexamic acid to illuminate the under-eyes, as well as the soothing benefits of centella asiatica to repair and nourish the complexion.
Packed full of anti-ageing ingredients, this powerhouse serum performs all the standard duties of a retinol treatment while protecting the skin from irritation and strengthening its barriers. Enriched with ceramide and panthenol, its mild, nourishing formula melts effortlessly into the skin, dousing it in moisture without leaving behind any lingering stickiness.
An innovative blend of retinol, swiftlet nest extract and EGF, this night cream visibly improves the appearance of fine lines while simultaneously regulating sebum production and locking in moisture. It improves skin elasticity for a complexion that looks supple, youthful and rejuvenated.
This transformative skin oil is made with 0.5% pure, stabilised retinol as well as squalane and vitamin E to protect the skin and amplify the product’s anti-ageing properties. It’s a great alternative to the standard, cream-based retinol formulas, and promotes a glowing, more youthful complexion.
An ideal choice for beginners, COSRX’s cream has a low-irritation formula designed to prevent and rectify early signs of ageing before they begin. It’s made with panthenol to hydrate the skin, alongside vitamin E and adenosine to further heighten the product’s anti-ageing properties.
Made with 10% Ginseng root extract, this potent eye serum smooths wrinkles and fine lines and evens skin tone while preserving moisture in the undereye area. It's infused with 2% Retinal Liposome and other skin-friendly ingredients like Niacinamide, meaning the formula is gentle enough to be used by all skin types.