Retinol: the key active ingredient against skin ageing

When people talk about retinol, they often use phrases such as “the best anti-wrinkle agent” or “the anti-aging miracle ingredient”. And although somewhat promotional and bold, these statements are no coincidence. The effect of retinol has been the subject of intensive research since the 1970s and its effectiveness has been proven when used correctly. Retinol can really reduce wrinkles, build up the skin structure and protect against free radicals. But that is by no means all. In the following article, I will explain how retinol works and which other ingredients enhance its effect.

What is retinol and how does it work in the skin?

Retinol is a particularly effective form of vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in cell division and renewal in the skin. Vitamin A is generally absorbed through food and stored in the body. With increasing age and due to external environmental influences such as UV radiation, vitamin A is removed from the skin and cannot be replenished sufficiently. The result: the skin loses elasticity, becomes thinner and wrinkles appear. The external application of care products containing retinol enables the skin to produce the necessary vitamin A from within. The retinol in the skin is converted into vitamin A acid and the connective tissue cells (fibroblasts) are stimulated. At the same time, the cells are stimulated to produce new collagen, collagen breakdown is reduced and the capacity of the epidermis to bind moisture is significantly increased. All these properties make retinol a breakthrough anti-aging and skin-improving ingredient. But retinol can do more than just reduce wrinkles. The miracle ingredient can do a lot more:


  1. Retinol is an antioxidant against free radicals
  2. Retinol regulates sebum production and helps in the treatment of acne
  3. Retinol supports the structure of the skin and refines large pores and scars
  4. Retinol helps in the treatment of hyperpigmentation

The different forms of retinol

The various vitamin A derivatives include the following retinoids:

Vitamin A acid (retinoic acid)

This is the strongest form of retinoid. Here the acid acts directly in the epidermis and does not need to convert. Retinoic acid preparations are rightly only available on prescription and their use is associated with severe skin irritation: Skin flaking, redness, dryness, burning and increased photosensitivity.


Retinol is much gentler on the skin, as it is converted to retinoic acid in the skin in two steps. The anti-ageing effect is scientifically proven and becomes apparent after 3 to 6 months of use. Wrinkles are reduced, the skin appears firmer, pores are refined and the skin tone is evened out.

Retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate

These esters are frequently used by the cosmetics industry because their irritation potential is very low. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these derivatives is also very low according to current knowledge.

The correct use of retinol

Retinol can visibly rejuvenate the skin. As a user, you are naturally particularly euphoric. However, skin rejuvenation does not take place in one day, but requires patience (at least 3-6 months) and professional, regular application.

As a general rule, since retinol can initially irritate the skin, it is advisable to gradually increase its use. If the skin is not yet accustomed to retinol, it should be applied every other day, preferably in the evening, with a lower concentration of max. 0.3 to 0.5% retinol. If the retinol is well tolerated for four weeks, it can be applied daily. If well tolerated, the active ingredient content can then be slowly increased.

At the beginning of a retinol application, the skin may initially flake or be irritated. These mild side effects are normal. If this initial irritation persists for more than 3 to 4 days, a lower concentration of retinol should be used or the product should be discontinued altogether.

The concentration of retinol required by the skin depends on the skin type, skin condition and tolerance to retinol. The latter can be found out by testing different strengths. Comprehensive professional advice is highly recommended.

The skin expert knows that it’s the mix that makes the difference.

An active ingredient alone cannot work miracles. The entire skincare routine, from cleansing, serums and boosters to day and night care, is crucial for optimum treatment results.

The basic rule for high-quality skincare products is always a balanced cocktail of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, powerful active ingredients such as retinol, regenerating components such as panthenol, moisturizers such as hyaluronic acid and particularly well-tolerated oils.

The combination with vitamin C in particular helps the retinol to develop even better in the skin, as it is additionally protected from oxidation. Reliable sun protection is essential during the day.

Retinol as a key active ingredient in ZO® Skin Health

The most important goal of ZO® Skin Health is to permanently stimulate the skin to renew itself. The key active ingredient here is retinol. After intensive research, ZO® has found a way to make optimum use of the positive healing effects of retinol. The result is a wide range of products for skin improvement and rejuvenation. The following 3 products are among the absolute highlights for me.

Ossential Growth Factor Serum Plus

The combination of retinol and amino acids stimulates cell function, reduces collagen breakdown and restores skin elasticity. The product has a preventive effect against fine lines, wrinkles and loss of elasticity.

ZO® Medical RetamaxTM Active Vitamin A

This unique formula contains a high level of retinol in an exclusively developed emulsion system to ensure rapid delivery of vitamin A to the skin. This innovative complex significantly supports the improvement of skin texture and firmness and helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Ossential Radical Night Repair

This product was developed to achieve rapid results in the fight against skin ageing and rosacea. It helps in the formation of healthy new skin cells for improved texture and radiant, healthy skin. Ossential Advanced Radical Night Repair is formulated with 1% retinol – encapsulated in a patented, slow-release delivery system.

Yes to retinol, no to self-experimentation

Retinol is an effective active ingredient for treating wrinkles, acne, pigment shifts, loss of skin elasticity, large pores and UV-damaged skin. However, I strongly advise against self-experimentation with over-the-counter retinol products. As previously mentioned, the entire care routine is crucial for visible success. That is why we attach great importance to a treatment plan that is personally tailored to your skin needs.

We will be happy to advise you in our clinic.