Skip to content Skip to footer

Series: Skincare ingredients

By Simone Limbu

It’s difficult enough to figure out your skin type and choose products from a vast array of options. To add to the confusion, brands have been incorporating active ingredients into their products to address specific issues. This skincare series will decode those active ingredients, as well as how to use them.


The first active ingredient we’ll delve into is retinol, which has become increasingly popular recently.

What is retinol? Why do we need it in our skincare? What is the benefit of this active ingredient? Few of the many questions I had before researching into it.

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is a vitamin A-derived ingredient family. The most well-known members of the family are retinoic acid, which is the most active form of Vitamin A and is usually only available on prescription, and retinol, which is more gentle and is usually well tolerated by the skin and can be purchased over the counter.

Retinol benefits include wrinkle reduction, collagen stimulation, increased elasticity, unclog pores and overall skin texture improvement. However, it can also cause skin irritation, dryness and peeling, so it is critical to follow the instructions when using retinol.

How does it work?

When applied, retinol or any retinoids converts into retinoic acid which works to stimulate your fibroblast cells- which creates collagen and elastin.

So, how can we start incorporating retinol into our skincare routine?

Begin with a low percentage of retinol and gradually increase as your skin becomes accustomed to the ingredient. Since retinol is absorbed by the skin, it is better to apply it to a dry face rather than a damp face to avoid irritation. For that very reason, it should be avoided during pregnancy.

If your skin is on the sensitive side, retinol can be applied mixed with your moisturiser or applied after moisturiser. It should be only reserved for night-time use as it makes your skin sensitive to UV rays and the sunlight degrades the retinol and hence minimises the effects.

Start using retinol a few times a week, monitor how your skin responds and use it more or less accordingly. When using retinol, avoid mixing other forms of active ingredients that is geared towards resurfacing of the skin.

Here are a few selections of retinol products that can be bought over the counter.

Skin Recovery Serum, 30 ml

Paula’s Choice offers a wide range of retinol-concentrated products to buy, including this 0.1 percent retinol serum, which is ideal for beginners. It hydrates and leaves skin looking radiant. Although it is quite costly at £33.00, the brand guarantees a refund within 60 days if the customer is unhappy with their purchase.

£33 (Shop Now)

La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum, 30ml

La Roche Posay is a French pharmaceutical brand that is well-known for its effective yet budget-friendly products. This serum contains 0.3 percent retinol, which is well tolerated by most skin types, as well as vitamin B3, a niacinamide that targets pores and acne without drying out the skin. Although this serum retails at £38, it is usually on sale most of the time. This serum is suitable for all skin types including sensitive types.

£38 (Buy Now)

Avene Triancneal Night Moisturiser, 30 ml

Avene is another French pharmaceutical brand that focuses on skincare products developed for sensitive skin. This moisturiser contains Retinaldehyde – another type of retinoid and is formulated with Thermal Spring Water- the brand foundation ingredient, to soothe and keep skin supple. X-Pressin- a gentle exfoliating acid that targets blackheads and smooths texture without causing irritation. It is suitable for blemish prone skintypes.

£23 (Buy Now)

Honest Beauty Pure Retinol Serum, 30ml

The clean beauty brand at Honest uses retinol in an encapsulated form, which allows the active ingredient to be released gradually into the skin rather than all at once on the skin’s surface, making it gentle yet effective. It is formulated with hyaluronic acid – a humectant that draws moisture into skin and squalene to calm and moisturise irritated skin.

£35 (Buy Now)

Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask, 25ml, 70ml

This South Korean skincare brand Glow Recipe will not only make your beauty counter look aesthetically-pleasing but it also contains encapsulated retinol, which releases the ingredient gradually throughout the night while you sleep. You wake up with plumped and illuminated skin. Avocado also contains a fatty acid called lineolic acid, which moisturizes and strengthens the skin’s barrier.

£23 (Buy Now)