man with curly blonde hair

What Does Retinol Do?

Everything you need to know about what Retinol does and how to use it in your skincare

What Is Retinol?

Retinol is a form of vitamin A which is widely used in skincare to help with acne and anti-aging effects. The use of Retinol is becoming more popular as people are being drawn to the amazing skin results that it offers. 

Retinol is best introduced slowly and steadying into your routine, but even then, it is not for everyone’s skin. 

Here we take a look at how Retinol works, how to use it, its effects on the skin and the alternatives. 
man touching his face

Retinoid vs Retinol

Retinoids are chemical compounds and derivatives of vitamin A. It is a broad term that covers over the counter Retinol (such as those used in skincare products).

Retinoids are stronger and more concentrated than Retinol and, as a result, turn over skin cells at a faster rate. Retinoids are most often used in medicine to regulate epithelial cell growth. 


What does Retinol do?

Until your 30s, your body produces fresh skin cells every 28 days. But as you reach your mid-30s, the skin cells' regeneration slows down over time, until the cells only replace themselves every 50, 60, or 70 days. With the older cells lingering for longer the skin can look dry, dull, and dehydrated. 

Retinol stimulates cellular turnover in the skin, increasing the production of Collagen and Elastin, leaving skin feeling soft and smooth.

What Are The Benefits Of Retinol For The Face?

Retinol skincare offers a number of benefits, including:

  1. Reduces acne: Acne is something that a lot of people struggle with, whether it’s a heap of spots or that one pimple that keeps popping back up. What causes this are oils and dead skin cells that block your pores. So Retinol helps by preventing that from happening. 

  2. Brightens the skin: You could have dark spots for several reasons but the most common one is caused by sun exposure. UV rays from the sun speed up the production of melanin in your skin which results in dark spots appearing. Although it might take a while, it is said that using Retinol could help lighten up those spots.

  3. Fades wrinkles: When you age the natural oils, Elastin and Collagen that your skin generates start to decline which leads to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol can help slow down that process which helps retain that plump look.

  4. Minimises large pores: Pores are like tiny doorways on the surface of your skin and are important because they help your skin stay healthy and moisturised by letting out a bit of oil. When they become clogged with dead skin cells and oil it makes them more noticeable. So in order to help unclog them and shed those skin cells faster you could use Retinol.

man applying Nivea face cream

Retinol For Men

Retinol can benefit both women and men - besides the many skin benefits it has, it also can help men support the skin under the beard for men.

Keeping the beard looking its best doesn't just happen by shaping, trimming, and washing the hairs - the skin underneath is equally as important. Ingrown hairs, and hyperpigmentation are all signs that can occur if the skin under your beard isn’t properly cared for. With Retinol's exfoliating properties and its ability to restrain excess melanin, it can help promote a brighter and smoother complexion.

NIVEA MEN Anti-age Hyaluron Face Moisturising Cream SPF 15 with Hyaluronic Acid, pro-Retinol and SPF15 is designed for men’s face care product for healthy and younger looking skin.

Its instantly absorbing, non-sticky formula visibly reduces wrinkles and effectively firms the skin whilst providing deep moisture and strengthening the skin’s elasticity. SPF 15 helps to prevent sun induced wrinkle formation, for a healthy and younger look.

Facts Overview


Advantage: Enhances overall skin texture, reduces the appearance of wrinkles and acne and increases Collagen production.

Application: Treatment of symptoms such as acne and fine lines and wrinkles.

How to Use: Start off using products that contain Retinol up to twice a week then gradually increase as your skin becomes more comfortable.

Features: Retinol is an active form of vitamin A that your body can use directly, meaning that it shouldn’t be used during pregnancy as it could be harmful to the developing fetus. A safer alternative to use instead would be Bakuchiol, which has the same anti-ageing benefits of Retinol.

How to Use Retinol?

  • Start by using a Retinol product one to two times a week before working up to nightly
  • Apply only at night and use suncream in the day as it can make skin more sensitive to sun
  • Use no-more than a pea-sized amount 
  • Use a hydrating serum before you apply a product containing Retinol 
  • Apply a moisturiser to your skin after you apply Retinol product
  • Avoid using exfoliating acids such as AHA or BHA before or after a Retinol product as this can irritate the skin

Retinol comes in several concentrations and you don’t need to opt for full strength to reap the anti-ageing benefits - studies have shown low-strength Retinol continues to give as good a result as stronger concentrations, so you don’t need to continually scale up. 

Nivea retinol face cream

How often should you use Retinol?

When you first start using Retinol, you may want to start slow as it can irritate your skin. This happens because Retinol gets rid of skin cells faster making new skin cells come to the surface before they’re fully ready. Start off with using it once or twice a week to give your skin a chance to get used to it. If your skin seems to be tolerating it well, then you can gradually use it more often. It is not uncommon for Retinol novices to experience excess dryness and some irritation when first using Retinol and, if it is not painful, experts recommend pushing through this stage. Using hydrating serums and calming moisturisers as part of your skincare routine will help soothe irritated skin. 

Introducing Retinol to your routine does require patience. Don’t expect results overnight; it can take two to three months of consistent use to notice brighter, firmer-feeling skin.

If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly or pregnancy-safe solution to gain the anti-ageing benefits of Retinol, opt for products containing Bakuchiol

NIVEA Cellular Expert Lift range containing Pure Bakuchiol offers a great alternative to Retinol by plumping, smoothing and hydrating the with SPF30 protection. 

Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol Together?

Yes! You can absolutely use and Retinol together in your skincare routine. Whilst Retinol promotes skin renewal and reduces the signs of aging, Hyaluronic Acid keeps your skin hydrated and plump, preventing dryness. Hyaluronic Acid's soothing properties can also reduce the risk of irritation from Retinol. 

There are products available which combine both Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol. This makes using them together easy and convenient. However, you can also use them separately. Here is how you would generally do so:

  • Step 1: Hyaluronic Acid 
    Start with a Hyaluronic Acid serum, such as the NIVEA Cellular Expert Filler Replumping Hyaluronic Acid Serum. Apply a small amount to your clean, dry face in the morning and evening. Gently pat it in and allow time for it to penetrate your skin. This lightweight yet powerful serum can help plump up your skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines, and give you a radiant, more youthful complexion with consistent use.
  • Step 2: Retinol 
    After the Hyaluronic Acid serum has been absorbed, apply a small amount of Retinol and gently rub it in. This step can help to promote skin cell turnover, fading wrinkles and reducing blemishes.

Whether you opt for a product that combines the two ingredients or use them separately, the goal is to keep your skin hydrated and happy while enjoying the skin-renewing benefits of Retinol. 


Retinol in a Nutshell

Retinol is a powerful skincare ingredient used to address various skin concerns. However, if not used properly, it can result in sensitivity and dryness. Its benefits include:

  • Reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Improves skin texture
  • A brighter and healthier skin complexion
  • Unclogging pores


How does Retinol work?

Retinol works by promoting the shedding of old, dead skin cells and stimulating the production of new skin cells. It also boosts collagen production, which helps reduce wrinkles and improve skin elasticity.

Is Retinol suitable for men's skin?

Yes, Retinol is suitable for both men and women. It can benefit all skin types and genders.

How often should I use Retinol?

It's recommended to start off using it once or twice a week and gradually increase usage as your skin becomes used to it..

Should I use sunscreen when using Retinol?

Yes, it's essential to use sunscreen during the day when using Retinol. Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation, so sun protection is crucial to prevent sun damage.

Are there any side effects of using Retinol?

Some people may experience side effects such as redness, peeling, or dryness when using Retinol but this reduces as your skin adjusts. If you experience severe irritation, it's best to talk to a dermatologist.

Can I use Retinol with other skincare products?

Retinol can be used alongside other skincare products, but it's important to be cautious when using products that may cause additional irritation, such as strong exfoliants. It's best to introduce new products gradually to see how your skin reacts.

When will I start seeing results with Retinol?

It’s different for everyone but improvements in skin texture and reduction in fine lines may become noticeable within a few weeks to a few months of consistent use.

Can Retinol help with specific skincare concerns for men, like shaving irritation or ingrown hairs?

Yes, Retinol can help improve skin texture and reduce the likelihood of ingrown hairs. It can also help with shaving irritation and redness.

Can Retinol be used on sensitive skin?

Retinol can be used on sensitive skin, but it's crucial to choose a lower concentration and introduce it slowly to minimize the risk of irritation. Patch testing is also recommended to ensure compatibility.

Are there any age restrictions for using Retinol?

There are no specific age restrictions for using Retinol. It can be beneficial for individuals of various age groups, from those looking to prevent early signs of aging to those addressing more mature skin concerns.

Is there an ideal time of day to apply Retinol?

Retinol is typically applied at night because it can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. However, some formulations are designed for daytime use with the addition of sunscreen.