A guide to what’s what
Google retinol and you’ll inevitably come across the word retinoid. It’s the official umbrella term for Vitamin A in all its forms (including retinol). To help you break it down: here’s the list of the most popular retinoids and what they do.
These are the gentlest but also the weakest types of retinol, says Dr Kenneth. Consider them ideal for anti-ageing newbs and sensitive-skin types. Look for retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate on the label.
So this technically isn’t a retinoid, but it’s used in a tonne of products as a natural retinol alternative. The plant-based ingredient has been shown to work similarly to retinol, but with photo-stability and fewer irritating side effects.
It’s in many OTC anti-ageing creams and serums. Unlike stronger retinoids, once absorbed by the skin, retinol needs to be converted into retinoic acid to bind to the skin’s retinoid receptors and work its magic.
This medication is most commonly used to treat acne, says Dr Kenneth. It’s available over the counter at 0.1 percent (check out Proactiv), but for something stronger, you’ll need to see your derm for a prescription.
You’ve probs heard about this under one of its prescription brand names, Retin-A. It’s retinoic acid (a superpotent form of Vitamin A), which is supreme at fighting ageing and acne (seriously, this sh*t is powerful).
Find your perfect formula
Just answer the Qs and we’ll get you where you need to go.
Okay, so what’s going on with your skin?
‘I’m Getting Older, SOS.’
‘Hyper-pigmentation is taking over my face.’
Retinol 2.5%, ₹1,799
Featuring the purest form of Vitamin A, it reduces fine lines and plumps up skin. This product promotes skin cell renewal and repair, and works on a molecular level to correct discolouration and improve texture to brighten skin.
‘My pores are huge and my skin just looks...meh?’
Perfectionist Pro Rapid Renewal Retinol
Treatment, lookfantastic.com, ₹5,525 approx
Apply this nightly to give your skin a major glow-up. In the first month of use, you can expect to see smoother texture, teenier pores, and less dullness.
‘I’m seeing lines (like, a lot of them).’
Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Oil, caretobeauty.com, ₹1,799
No, you do not need Botox right this second. Instead, massage this wrinkle-fighting oil onto dry skin before bed to help soften the appearance of lines while you snooze.
‘Whiteheads, blackheads, cysts (you get the idea...).’
Are you willing to make a trip to the derm?
‘Yep, I’ll truly do anything for acne-free skin’
Tretinoin Lotion 0.05%, price on request
Like other retinoids, Altreno effectively clears up acne by speeding cell turnover, but it’s less likely to cause irritation thanks to hydrators like glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
‘No, I’m more of a diy girl!’
Adapalene Gel 0.1%, proactiv.com, ₹1,250 approx
NBD, you still have a solid option. This over-the-counter adapalene gel keeps pores clear of dead cells and excess sebum, and reduces the redness associated with breakouts.
For your eyes
ROC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream, strawberrynet.com, ₹1,832
This oil-free anti-ageing cream is formulated with pure ROC Retinol and an essential mineral complex, which visibly reduce appearance of crow’s feet, dark circles and puffiness.
Shiseido Benefiance WrinkleResist24 Pure Retinol Express Smoothing Eye Mask, ₹3,600
Pop on these patches before bed for brighter eyes in the AM. These eye masks with Pure Retinol Micro-Infusion Technology help reduce the appearance of wrinkles in as little as one application, are better than a full night’s sleep.
Have questions? Dr Kenneth’s got answers.
Q: Can I use it if I have sensitive skin?
A: “It depends. If you have eczema or rosacea, consult your derm. If you’re just prone to redness, try layering your retinol over your moisturiser—think of it as a protective buffer—until your skin adjusts.”
Q: Tell me more about these side effects...
A: “Some initial redness and peeling are common, and if you’re acne-prone, you may have a brief flare-up. If those issues don’t lessen around week two, cut back on your usage or try a lower-strength formula.”
Q: Wait, does it work preventatively too?
A: “Yes, absolutely. I tell my patients it’s never too soon to be using a retinoid.”
Q: Can I use it all through summer?
A: “As long as you’re religious about SPF, go for it. Otherwise, the brightening and skin-smoothing benefits of retinol are pretty much negated by UV damage.”