Best Blog Design

Retinol: the secret to your best skin ever

This is not a paid for or sponsored post

There’s lots you can do to get good skin – cleanse well, eat well, sleep well and drink lots of water etc – but if you want great skin, you’ve got to hit retinol.

If you’ve heard of it but aren’t exactly sure what is is, hopefully this post will help. I’ve cut back on the waffle to summarise what I think matters most – what it is and what it can do for you. Here goes…

So what is it?
It’s a pure form of Vitamin A, widely regarded as the gold standard in anti-ageing. Whether you’re in your twenties, thirties or beyond, it’s ability to speed up skin cell turnover and minimise collagen breakdown is second to none. If you’re looking to see an improvement in fine lines, dryness, dullness, pigmentation, blemishes, large pores, acne, sun damage or rough texture, retinol’s your answer. This super-star ingredient basically attaches itself to badly-behaving skin cells to make them better, younger, healthier versions of themselves. Kind of like a ninja-warrior-MOH swooping in to slay every skin baddie that gets in it’s way…

How do you use it?
Immediately after cleansing and around ten minutes before applying any other skincare at night to your cheeks, forehead, nose, chin, chest and hands. Steer clear of your eyes as the skin there is more fragile. Scroll down to find a special retinoid-laced eye cream. Back to the main event though, start with a lower strength, say 0.1, 0.3 or 0.6 twice a week for two weeks and work up to more regular applications. Once your skin has learnt to tolerate it you can move on to higher strengths. You’ll probably have some peeling which is good and will stop. Retinol is a bit of an attention seeker in that you may have to wait up to three months before seeing results so it’s worth cracking on well before your wedding day. One last thing, because retinol makes your skin more sensitive to UV, make sure you use an SPF during the day.

Is it expensive?
It was but lots of brands have made it more affordable by dosing creams, serums and oils with different strengths to suit all skin types. You can spend a fiver or drop your entire beauty budget on one night cream but obviously the quality and more importantly, the strengths will differ.

My top 5 retinols
These are the ones I’ve tried:

Skin Ceuticals Retinol 1.0 Maximum Strength Refining Night Cream, £75.50
So this is what’s left of my tube. 1% is a massive dose and I want to stress that I’m a seasoned retinol user so my skin can take it. I also sought advice from a dermatologist before I began but would definitely credit it for giving me plumper, smoother skin. I rarely get a breakout and some tell-tale sun damage is a distant memory. As a first-time user I opted for Skin Ceuticals’ less potent 0.3 cream. It didn’t aggravate in the slightest and my skin looked way clearer, brighter and less tired than before. As I mentioned at the top, it’s all about baby steps…

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules, £42
It was a sad day (or night actually) when I popped the last of these capsules. Delivering the perfect dose every time – and great for travelling – the velvety texture is an absolute dream to apply. My skin felt pampered and definitely looked more glow-y and pillow-y plumped up. I’ll definitely buy them again.


Skin Republic Hydrogel Face Sheet Mask Retinol, £5.59
A home facial only truly happens when a mask is involved (in my beauty book.) This one shot sheet mask forces you to relax for thirty minutes while it does its thing. Okay, so the retinol level is low but you‘ll still notice a new softness straight away. Once the mask is off, you can massage the leftover serum into your face, chest and backs of hands. Instant silk appeal.

Philosophy Anti-Wrinkle Miracle Worker+ Anti Ageing Eye Cream, £32.50
As I mentioned at the top, applying a retinol around your eyes is a risky business. That said, this eye cream is as gentle as it is effective thanks to its formula which packs in a retinoid less powerful than pure retinol. I can vouch that it lived up to its Miracle Worker name tag. Use it morning and night and watch it shrink the look of under eye bags, lighten dark circles and improve lines and wrinkles. I love an eye cream that works hard and this one gets my two thumbs up.

Medik8 Retinol 10TR Serum, £40
This is the only product I’ve not tried myself but I want to mention it because a former Beauty Ed pal swears by it. She jokes that it bulldozes through dryness and no spot remains un-blitzed to oblivion. A powerful 1% dose means it’s not right for novices but Medik8 offer 3TR and 6TR versions worth trying before upgrading to the big guns.

Have you tried retinol yet? I’d love to know your top buys.

Sarah x

Follow on Bloglovin


  • I think the retinol market has exploded recently. certainly there seems to be lots more affordable choice. But cheap doesn’t always bring results. i want skincare that makes my skin look better. i think you need to pay for that.

    4 months ago : shannon
  • I find skincare – or what to buy – so confusing. Thank you for ths. I feel confident to buy and use a retinol product now

    4 months ago : Harriet
  • My skin has been playing up big time. After reading your post I ordered a low retinol product by The Ordinary from Look Fantastic. And it is really good. A little bit of flaking happened at first but that disappeared and since I’ve got a definite glow. A much needed glow too!

    1 year ago : saffie
  • Impatiently I used my retinol serum every night. My chin in particular felt sore but I carried on. Only when my skin started peeling off did I hold back. Let thus be a warning to any brides whose big day is nearing. Retinol is great but do read the instructions!!!!!

    1 year ago : Meg
  • I’m learning (mainly through daytime tv during lockdown) that retinol is the best thing to use once you hit a certain age. Thank you for the recommendations – some are actually affordable!!!! x

    2 years ago : Hettie
  • Boots are doing a half price offer on a retinol range from Olay. I found this post while researching whether or not i should be trying it. At 36 I think i’m gonna give it a go. Thank you

    2 years ago : Riley
  • Thank you for explaining this in such an easy to understand way. I see products touting retinol on tv all the time. I wondered whether it was a real thing or just a made up science ingredient designed to sell products. You definitely tempted me to try one.

    2 years ago : bella
  • I’ve read so much about retinol but it does seem the more you pay the better quality you’ll get. I’ve taken advantage in the january sales and bought a few from allbeauty and look fantastic. I can’t wait to try them

    2 years ago : Fi
  • I’m a week into skin ceuticals and am so far impressed. The peeling did alarm me at first but I like that it shows it’s working. I’m sticking with twice a week at the moment until I’m confident to step it up. Pip x

    3 years ago : pippa
  • skin ceuticals and medik8 come up a lot in retinol round-ups. I’ve love to try one but am half way through Super Facialist Retinol+ Anti-Ageing Night Cream. It’s lovely to use – a blissful texture and no peeling (so far). Too early to see results but my fingers are crossed for pigmentation patches to disappear.

    3 years ago : Holly
  • You have actually answered my questions – what is it and what can it do for me. it sounds too good to be true but when i google product reviews they do scream loud and clear that they make a difference. I wondered why the prices can differ so much too so thank you for explaining that. It’s actually nice to think that as a newbie I can buy a cheaper product and still see some results. Sabrina

    3 years ago : sabrina