Retinol 101

Retinol 101

Retinol is an umbrella term for a topical chemical compound, derived from one form of vitamin A. Topical vitamin A is one of the most effective skin care ingredients to help slow, prevent and reverse the signs of ageing as well as treating a variety of skin concerns (hyperpigmentation, pore appearance, oiliness and acne). Retinol is an extraordinary molecule with many benefits that should not be ignored. Dr Sebagh and his team of chemist conducted a survey before launching the award-winning Retinol Night Repair with a view to dispel some of the myths surrounding this extraordinary ingredient and we have dedicated this edition of Skin Secrets to explaining the results and benefits. 


90% of people did not understand the different strengths of retinol. 


Retinol is a type of vitamin A the active skincare ingredient of which is retinoic acid (something already naturally present in our skin). All Vitamin A derivatives (aka retinoids) convert to retinoic acid at different rates which is what is meant by the ‘different strengths’ of retinol.

For example, the strongest retinoid is Tretinoin (Retin-A) which is essentially retinoic acid and only available if prescribed by a doctor. Retinoic acid is ‘bioavailable’: it doesn’t need to be converted to work in our skin cells.

All other retinoids, however, need to be converted to retinoic acid in order to work. Most over-the-counter Retinol products undergo a two-step oxidation process: retinol → retinaldehyde → retinoic acid. The higher the concentration of Retinol in the product, the higher the rate of conversion to retinoic acid, so the stronger the Retinol product.

(n.b. higher concentrations carry an increased risk of irritation which is why we recommend building up use of retinol over time as your skin develops a tolerance)

However, the weakest OTC retinoid products, retinol esters, require a three-step conversion process. Retinol esters, such as retinyl palmitate, need to be converted to retinol initially before the aforementioned oxidation process can occur resulting in retinoic acid: retinyl palmitate → retinol → retinaldehyde → retinoic acid. As such, retinol esters are considered to be of lower efficacy, or weaker, than other retinoid products.


How does it work?

Retinol products work to increase cell turnover and collagen production. Retinol has an exfoliating effect on the upper layer of your skin, removing dead skin cells and stimulating cell renewal so as to boost radiance. This 'exfoliation' is different from the effects provided by AHAs or BHAs, it is more gradual and related to retinol’s effect on skin cell turnover. 

Retinol is special insofar as it can penetrate the dermis, increasing the production of elastin, collagen and fibronectin which help improve firmness and elasticity, “plumping” the skin and reducing the appearance of wrinkles of fine lines.

Its benefits do not end there; retinol helps to fight free radicals induced by UV rays and acts on the regulation of melanocytes improving photo damage by removing sun damaged cells. In the same way, retinol can improve post-acne discolouration and pigmentation. 

Retinol also benefits acne-prone skin by creating comedolytic agents which prevent the formation of blemishes. What’s more, Retinol has been proven to balance skin hydration levels and its exfoliant effects control excess production of sebum in your pores.  


What are the skin benefits?

Retinol effectively delivers a multitude of amazing benefits. Listed below are the proven benefits of Dr Sebagh Retinol Night Repair.

Extra anti-ageing power

Dr Sebagh Retinol Night Repair is special not only because its formula is tolerated by sensitive skin but also due its inclusion of ‘Crystal Tears’. ‘Crystal Tears', or Lakesis, is an Active Oil extracted from the resinous sap of the Pistacia tree, native to the Greek island of Chios. It has been shown to have a powerful effect on FOXO proteins — anti-ageing regulating protein factors associated with cellular protection and longevity. In Retinol Night Repair, this Active Oil assists with cellular detoxification and repair, making it the ideal choice for Dr Sebagh’s first night time serum. It helps to increase collagen synthesis & firm and lift the facial contours.

How often should you use it?

Slow and steady is the best approach. Start by introducing retinol into your night-time routine gradually to avoid the risk of retinoid dermatitis (irritation of the skin caused by retinol). Start using Dr Sebagh Retinol Night Repair once a week at night, increasing to twice, and eventually five times a week as your tolerance increases.

You should only use Retinol Night Repair in the evenings. Retinol as a molecule is easily affected by sunlight and will break down when exposed in a process known as photodecomposition. Photoreaction of retinoids produces oxidized products and has been shown to produce reactive oxygen species (aka free radicals). As such, using retinol in the daytime will not only decrease its efficacy but increase the number of damaging free radicals on the skin.


Take advantage of the longer, darker nights of Autumn and Winter to supercharge your skin. It is important to note that there is a common misconception that you should break from using Retinol during summer. This is not true, and months without incorporating it into your routine can lead to pigmentation. Simply ensure you are using a high quality SPF alongside it during the day.


Only 30% of people are currently incorporating a retinol into their skin routine 

Although there is no set time to begin using retinoids, most dermatologists advise introducing them into your skincare routine in your mid-twenties (particularly for sufferers of breakouts and pigmentation) when skin cell turnover slows – retinol works to reverse this process.


50% of people were confused about which ingredients they could use alongside retinol 

Do not use retinol alongside Alpha or Beta Hydroxy Acids or antioxidant Vitamin C such as Dr Sebagh's Deep Exfoliating Mask or Pure Vitamin C Powder Cream. Instead, AHA'S should be used on nights where retinol is not applied, or in the morning. 

Make sure you apply SPF 15-50 (depending on skin type and climate) every morning as retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

Skin Sensitivity and Irritation


50% of people were concerned about experiencing irritation when using retinol. 20% of people said they wouldn’t use retinol if they had sensitive skin. 


One of the most common reasons people shy away from using retinol is due to the risk of irritation and dryness. This is often called the purging period. Hydrating skin alongside using a retinol is vital. Dr Sebagh Retinol Night Repair was formulated especially to minimise any risk of irritation, even for more sensitive skin. 


Retinol Night Repair is specifically formulated with a selection of non-pore clogging oils, vitamin E, and a super emollient Squalane to deeply hydrate the skin, reducing the risk of irritation caused by vitamin A —even for those with highly sensitive skin. However, you can also use a hyaluronic acid, such as the Dr Sebagh Serum Repair, as a further hydrating buffer to protect the skin barrier.

Apply one drop of Serum Repair to damp skin after cleansing. Hyaluronic Acid acts as a sponge, attracting and retaining water and thereby hydrating and plumping your skin. Applying it to damp skin allows it to attract a maximum amount of water. Follow with your application of Retinol Night Repair. For an even further moistursing boost, and to seal everything in, you can apply a moistursier of your choice as your final step. Dr Sebagh High Maintenance Cream is a good option, suitable for all skin types. Or indulge your skin with the luxurious Dr Sebagh Supreme Night Secret, formulated with biotech ingredients which work with the skin’s natural body clock.


Previous post
Next post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published