Retinol demystified

What it does, its side-effects, and its (even better?) alternatives 

OK, it’s time to admit the worst-kept secret in beauty: most of us have no idea what the ingredients on our skincare bottles mean (if we can even read the teeny tiny print). Science has made rapid advances in the last decade, allowing us to treat conditions like aging, acne, sensitivity and much more in ways our mothers couldn’t have imagined. But there’s also a mind-boggling amount of marketing speak, misinformation, and mixed messages out there.

Tocopherol. Peptides. Hyaluronic acid. Squalane. WTAF?

We want to demystify the jargon, unpack the science, and empower you to make the right choices for your skin.

So, let’s start with explaining retinol – what it does, how you should use it, what side-effects you should beware of, and what alternatives are out there. 

One of the most widely used anti-aging and acne treatments on the market, retinol should not be confused with retinoids (tretinoin), which are only available on prescription and are much stronger.

Derived from Vitamin A, it works by penetrating the outer layer of skin, to your dermis, where it tackles free radicals and boosts the production of elastin and collagen, reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores. It also has an exfoliating effect, improving the skin’s texture and tone, and helps treat sunspots and hyperpigmentation.

Don’t expect results overnight – one survey found that it took 12 weeks for participants to see a significant reduction in wrinkles. And many people report side-effects including irritation, redness, itchiness, and peeling skin, so start by using every other night and work your way up to nightly. Also take note: it’s best used at night because retinol makes your skin extra sensitive to the sun. For the same reason, always combine with a daily SPF.

If you’re a retinol newbie, start with a concentration of 0.5%. If you don’t experience any nasty side-effects, you could consider increasing that, though it shouldn’t be necessary, and most studies show that higher concentrations are no more effective … but often result in increased dryness and inflammation. And if you have a darker skin tone, stick with the low percentage – anything higher could actually CAUSE hyperpigmentation.

Never combine retinol with other exfoliating ingredients – things like AHA, BHA, glycolic, salicylic, and L-ascorbic acids. And if your skin is already red and irritated – for example, if you have eczema or rosacea – or if you’re pregnant, retinol is not for you. But fear not: there are many other safe, proven ingredients out there that can achieve the same effects. Look out for peptides, bakuchiol, niacinamide, and AHAs … as well as a ton of natural, super-effective alternatives.

Knowledge, is power, my friend. Use it wisely. And if in doubt, consult a dermatologist.


Priori’s 24-hour moisturizer delivers visibly apparent results you’ll see. Rich yet lightweight, it’s a targeted antioxidant complex for enhanced protection and correction, containing 15% lactic acid for advanced hydration and multi-layer skin renewal, plus retinol for skin resurfacing and renewal. You’ll be glowing!




An intensive night cream that feeds the skin with ingredients designed to combat the negative effects of aging and improve the appearance of environmentally stressed skin. Matrixyl, an amino peptide, helps reduce surface-depth wrinkles and offers active collagen-building properties. Studies show it is as effective as a cream containing 0.07% Retinol, but without any of the irritation. 




This beauty from Founders Formula works like a retinoid, but is four times more effective than both retinoic acid and retinol at stimulating collagen. It combines a unique Australian botanical with cutting-edge biotechnology to deliver healthy-looking, dewy skin. Clinical trials show that, after 28 days, there was a 42% improvement in wrinkle count, skin radiance improved by 47%, and hydration improved by 27%. 





When we select our brands, we apply demanding criteria so that you don’t have to. Mission-driven founders, highly efficient products formulated using safe ingredients, strong values such as sustainability, cruelty free, female leadership, inclusivity and social responsibility are among the key qualities we look for in our brands.