LAST UPDATED: JAN 17, 2023 / By Nura / IngredientsLibrary

Retinol is a popular choice when it come to treating aging skin concern. It has scientifically proven ability to speed up the skin’s cell cycle, means new skin cell will move faster towards upper layer, than they would naturally. Retinol is a derivative from vitamin A and help neutralize free radical to increase the production of elastin and collagen at dermis layer. In consequence, it will bring firmness to the skin and at the same time reducing the fine lines, wrinkles and enlarged pores.

Retinol also can act as an exfoliating agent that can improve skin tone and texture. Retinol can act as comedolytic agent to prevent comedo build-up inside your skin pores, thus making sure your skin pores were unclogged. Main usage of Retinol includes:

  1. Acne
  2. Fine lines
  3. Wrinkles
  4. Dark spot due to excessive exposure to UV rays (photo-aging)
  5. Uneven skin texture
  6. Melasma or other type of hyperpigmentation
  7. Enlarged skin pores because of acne, oily skin, low collagen


Unfortunately, people that use retinol will get side effects such as dry skin or irritated skin. Other side effect might include redness, itchiness, and peeling skin. Please make sure that you only use one product that have retinol inside for every skin routine to avoid greater side effects. Please remind to use sunscreen when you apply retinol for skin routine because the effect of dry and irritating might get worsen when get exposed to the sun. Avoid sun exposure as much as possible especially during mid-day. At the same time, find active ingredients that can retain and strengthen your skin barrier such as ginkgo biloba or green tea extract, where it can renew the damaged lipid structure because of irritation and drying.

There are many types of Retinol form such as pure retinol, esters, etc. It doesn’t matter what many type of Retinol you applied to your skin, our skin will only accept active forms of vitamin A which is Retinoic Acid. Means those Retinol need to be converted to Retinoic Acid, before it can regenerate skin cells and stimulate collagen production. The sequence is “Retinol Esters > Retinol > Retinaldehyde > Retinoic Acid”. If there are too many steps it needed to convert to Retinoic Acid, means the effect will be much slower. That’s why Retinoid such as Adapalene & Tretinoin can bring more intense and punch impact compared to OTC Retinol since both Adapalene & Tretinoin is a pure Retinoic Acid.

Nevertheless, Retinoic Acid will bring unpleasant side effect such as drying and irritation. That’s why you can only be using Retinoid with a Doctor’s prescription.


OTC Retinol focusing on aging skin treatment such as reducing fine lines, increase skin firmness. There are many types of OTC Retinol such as “Pure Retinol, Retinol esters, Granactive Retinoid”. Normally OTC Retinol percentage is 1% and less drying/irritating compared to prescription (Retinoid).



Retinol should not be use by pregnant and breastfeeding mommy. Age 25 and above can start using Retinol with lower concentration.

Retinol Esters

This is the most mild and gentle form of Retinoid. If you are a beginner, you can start using this type of Retinol especially someone with sensitive skin. There are many subtype of Retinol Esters such as :

  1. Most effective

+ Retinyl propionate

+ Retinyl palmitate

  1. The weakest

+ Retinyl acetate

+ Retinyl linoleate


This form of Retinoid is the most popular among consumer. Retinol is the most researched form of Retinoid and basically it has been proven to be effective. Retinol also will give side effect to its user but our skin can develop tolerance to it from time to time. Always start with the lowest percentage, and the frequency should be once a week for the first month, twice a week for the second month and so on depending on your skin reaction, please made the adjustment depending on the ongoing result. Due to this careful application, please expect to get improvement around 6 months depending on the forms of Retinol or the concentration of Retinol that you apply.


This is the latest form of Retinol in the market. Retinal/Retinaldehyde actually can converts to Retinoic Acid 11 times faster than Retinol. Means the effect is more abrupt. Retinaldehyde is said to be effective as Retinoic Acid, but it still has the possibility to cause dryness and irritation.

Retinoic Acid Esters

It’s a new generation of Retinoids, so there still not much data about this ingredient. It has 2 types:

  1. Retinyl Retinoate
  2. Hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR)/ Granactive Retinoid

It is said to be more effective than Retinol but does not have side effect like Retinol. Its potent active percentage is not the same as Retinol because it is mixed with ‘Dimethyl Isosorbide’ (a solvent) in a 1:10 ration. So, 2% of a Granactive Retinoid is actually having 0.2% of the actual concentration and 1.8% of Dimethyl Isosorbide. If you are looking for a retinol product that is effective but with lowest side effect, look for a product that use Granactive Retinoid as active ingredients.