Skin Science, Aging Skin

Real Talk: What is Retinol?

by Neutrogena

At Neutrogena®, we're not anti-aging, we're anti-wrinkles. Retinol reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and renews skin’s surface for radiant, younger-looking skin. Here are all your questions about dermatologist-recommended retinol, answered.



What is Retinol?

Simply put, retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and a powerful ingredient. Formulas containing it help fight against signs of aging skin. It's the #1 dermatologist-recommended non-prescription skin-aging solution for its ability to improve the appearance of collagen-depleted skin, complement skin’s natural renewal process and fight the signs of aging. Accelerated Retinol SA is a unique combination of retinol, glucose complex and hyaluronic acid and works in our formulas to renew the look your skin and deliver fast, effective, visible results.




How Does Retinol Work?

Retinol is your secret weapon in complementing skin’s natural renewal process, allowing radiant-looking new skin while sloughing off dead skin. As you age, skin renewal begins to slow. This skincare staple works by boosting the skin’s surface renewal process and helps to strengthen skin’s foundation to minimize the look of age spots, improve skin texture and help resist the look of lines and wrinkles.

Retinol can be found in multiple steps of a routine in the form of a night cream, oil, serum or other forms. Find these retinol products here.



The Neutrogena® Difference

We believe in our ability to impact the skin as it ages and for that reason, are constantly pushing ourselves to understand skin even more dynamically. 25 years ago, Johnson & Johnson Scientists were the first to perfect the process of stabilizing and then introduce pure stabilized Retinol to the US. To-date Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health has more than 20 patents on stabilization enhancements and new ways to improve efficacy, tolerance and aesthetics (this includes more than 100 clinical studies on 5,000 patients).



Accelerated Retinol SA Formula

Accelerated Retinol SA, which stands for sustained action, includes our uniquely stabilized retinol along with complementary anti-aging ingredients Hyaluronic Acid and a Glucose Complex, or Myrtus Communis leaf extract. Through years of research, our scientists developed a patented emollient blend to help optimize and slow the retinol delivery within skin’s surface. We’ve scientifically tested our formulas to ensure the retinol gets delivered where it needs to go to be effective.

Our studies indicate that after one-week, people begin to see improvements from our formula, in the visible signs of aging – smoothness, texture, hydration and fine lines. And because we have built a gentle formula suitable for daily use, with continued use, the benefits become even greater.



The Best Time to Start Your Anti-Wrinkle Routine

While aging is a natural part of life, you can keep your skin looking and feeling its healthiest for longer by adding effective products to your anti-aging skincare routine at the right time — which may be sooner than you think! We recommend helping to prevent future signs of damage rather than trying to undo it.

As you age, your body's natural production of collagen slows down. Although you may not see the effects until later, this process can begin in your mid-20s and leaves skin with a thinner texture, wrinkles and less elasticity over time. Counteract this decline in the signs of aging by introducing a retinol into your routine in your late 20s.

An anti-aging routine lays the foundation for healthy looking skin before the damage has set in.



How to Use Retinol in Your Skincare Routine

Here's when to incorporate tried-and-true anti-aging powerhouses into your daily routine.

  • Sunscreen
    • The first step to keeping skin looking healthy and radiant for a very long time? Sunscreen. Sun damage breaks down naturally occurring collagen, promotes hyperpigmentation and causes fine lines and wrinkles. The correct time to start using a broad-spectrum sunscreen is right now, no matter your age. Your future self will thank you.
  • Retinol
    • Retinol is one of the anti-aging ingredients most recommended by dermatologists. It complements skin’s surface renewal process to minimize the look of age spots, improve skin texture and help resist the look of lines and wrinkles.
      Introduce a retinol-based formula into your routine in your late 20s, such as our Accelerated Retinol SA Formula, which delivers visible improvements in just one week, while our Regenerating Cream assists with hydrating and smoothing skin.
  • AHAs
    • As cellular renewal slows down with time, dead cells can build up on the skin's surface, making skin look dull, rough and uneven. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) loosen the bonds that hold dead skin cells together. With an AHA's help, dead skin can shed off more easily. In their place, fresher, newer skin rises to the surface. Depending on the product and concentation, you can use an AHA daily, or 1-2 times per week.
      Make AHAs a part of your anti-aging skincare routine in your early 20s, starting with glycolic acid. Its small molecular size allows it to penetrate deep within your skin’s surface to tackle both blemishes and signs of premature skin aging simultaneously. If you're in your 40s or 50s, your skin may be drier and more sensitive. Try a lower concentration formula or switch to mandelic acid, whose larger molecules are gentler on skin that's easily irritated.
  • Antioxidants
    • Your skin is constantly subjected to environmental stressors, like pollution and sun damage, that speed up the aging process. Opt for products that contain antioxidants, which fight against skin damaging free radicals. Vitamin C makes a good choice, as it also packs a powerful punch for evening tone.
  • Moisturizers
    • Absolutely everyone needs moisturizer — For oily skin, look for a lightweight formula like hyaluronic acid. For drier skin, switch to a richer cream moisturizer that contains emollients such as ceramides or shea butter. These nourish and hydrate the skin, leaving it soft, supple and healthy looking. Find your best moisturizer here.




The Retinol Rulebook

Learn the do's and don'ts of retinol and using it with other ingredients.

  • Apply products with retinol first
  • Use hyaluronic acid & retinol together for intense hydration
  • Slowly add retinol to your routine to help reduce irritation
  • Slowly combine retinol with acne treatments (AHAs, BHAs) to see how your skin adjusts
  • Space out your application of benzoyl peroxide, skin care acids, and retinol by alternating use in the morning and evening
  • Protect skin with Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ during the day



Frequently Asked Questions


  • Will using retinol during the day increase my risk of sunburn?

    Studies have shown that topical retinol skin care creams do not increase your risk of sunburn. With or without retinol, always remember to wear sunscreen daily.

  • What should I look for when shopping for retinol products?

    Look for a retinol that has been stabilized so it won’t break down.

  • Can retinol irritate my skin?

    When you start with retinol, minor skin irritation may occur—that's normal. Begin with a small amount every other day for about two weeks. Then, gradually increase usage. Once your skin adjusts to this effective ingredient, you'll be able to incorporate it into a daily skin care regimen with little chance of flaking or redness.

  • Does retinol stop working after a while?

    Remember that not all retinol and not all retinols products are created equal. Our scientists have studied the effects of our retinol and have shown that results continued to improve even up to 1 year after.

  • Can I use retinol if I don't have wrinkles?

    Yes, retinol can be used to help fight signs of skin aging before they become apparent.

  • When should I start using retinol?

    Early use of retinol products can actually help to fight the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles before they become apparent, so you can help your skin stay looking younger and healthier. It’s a good idea to introduce retinol slowly into your regimen. Slowly build up your tolerance level—begin by applying a product containing retinol every other day.

Results You Can See

Before & After

Accelerated Retinol SA helps this formula reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone and sun damage. Users, who had been using retinol for a year, found that Accelerated Retinol SA in the Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Night and Regenerating Cream products was nearly twice as effective.

In fact, a 1-year Retinol study1 that proved this, after 52 weeks, a stabilized retinol formula showed:

  • Improved the look of crow’s feet fine lines by 44%
  • Helped reduced the look of dark spots by 84%
  • Significant improvement


  1. One-Year Topical Stabilized Retinol Treatment Improves Photodamaged Skin in a Double Blind, Vehicle Controlled Trial
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  • Best Seller
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  •  
    Allure Best of Beauty 2018
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    $22.49
  •  
    Cosmetic Executive Women Beauty Award Finalist
    Award Winner
    $28.49
  • $22.49
  •  
    CEW Insider’s Choice Beauty Award
    Award Winner
    $28.49
  • Best Seller
    $22.49
  • Best Seller
    $22.49
  • $22.49
  • $22.49
  • $22.49
  • Best Seller
    $28.49
  •  
    Allure Best of Beauty 2018
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