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Retinoids 101

Should you be using a retinoid? Yes, yes and yes. Let's better understand the science, importance, and impact of retinoids.

Two women holding Barefaced RetinAL Skin Therapy

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Barefaced RetinAL Skin Therapy Retinoid
Barefaced RetinAL Skin Therapy: Stronger than retinol but much better tolerated.
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What Are Retinoids?

Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that increase cellular turnover, which causes our skin to regenerate more quickly, thus making your skin look more youthful, vibrant, and refreshed.

The umbrella term “retinoid” is used for all vitamin A derivatives (ex: retinol, retinAL, prescription strength Retin-A). What differentiates them is their strength—i.e. how many conversions they must go through to become active and effective on the skin. The fewer conversions, the more potent and effective the retinoid will be.



How does age affect cellular turnover?

As we age, our cellular turnover decreases significantly. When we are babies, our cellular turnover is as quick as 2 weeks — but once you’re in your 20s-40s, it’s more like 1-2 months! 

Infographic Cellular Turnover As We Age 

What are the benefits of retinoids?

    Aside from SPF, retinoids are the #1 product for promoting long-term skin health across all skin types. They are fundamental in your skincare routine–they build the foundation for healthy skin by increasing cellular turnover. Here are just a few of their amazing benefits:

      • Reduces the appearance of fine lines + wrinkles by increasing collagen production
      • Improves skin tone + texture for smoother, firmer looking skin
      • Aids in fading sun spots and smoothing out rough patches on the skin
      • Increases cellular turnover, which can minimize breakouts
      • Stimulates production of new blood vessels on the skin, which improves the color of the skin


    Do I need to use a retinoid?

    Retinoids help keep our skin looking younger and healthier. We recommend that everyone over the age of 25 should use one. Plus, if you struggle with acne at any age, retinoids are one of our most recommended treatments!

    Infographic Do I Need a Retinoid

    So, how do retinoids work?

    In order for a retinoid to work its magic and actually induce change in the skin, it has to be in the form of retinoic acid.

    → Retinol must convert to retinaldehyde and then convert to retinoic acid before it can be utilized by the skin.
    → Retinaldehyde only goes through one conversion phase to become retinoic acid; making it an estimated 20x stronger than retinol and the closest and most-potent retinoid available without going into prescription-strength territory.
    → Retinoic Acid (Tretinoin, Retin-A) starts working immediately upon application, no conversions necessary, and is available through prescription only. Because of its strength, it can be quite irritating for certain skin types. Many users have a hard time establishing tolerance because of dryness, flaking, sensitivity, redness, and irritation. These reactions often cause people to take too many nights off, making it even harder for the skin to adjust, before giving up use completely.
    Retinoid Strengths infographic

    What Retinoid to Use and When to Use It

    The best retinoid is the one that you consistently use because consistency is what leads to change. But we do have a favorite... It's stronger than a retinol and a step down from a prescription strength, but very well tolerated by even the most sensitive skin types! Our favorite retinoid is RetinAL Skin Therapy! 



    To get the most of any retinoid, frequent use is key! The best retinoid is the one you will use consistently, which would ideally be 5-7 nights per week. Retinoids are the most highly researched “anti-aging” topical in the market (with over 70+ years of data) showing that the 5-7 nights range will have the most impact on your skin.



    This is exactly why we love the ingredient bakuchiol. We added it to RetinAL Skin Therapy and Overachiever to boost your retinoid tolerance and usage.

      • Bakuchiol has been shown to lengthen the time of a retinoid's effectiveness
      • Because bakuchiol has been shown to calm and soothe the skin, it has the capability to increase the tolerability of retinoids, which can cause sensitivity and flaking when used alone.
      • Bakuchiol increases the absorption of retinoids and makes it easier for the skin to absorb
      • Bakuchiol is an antioxidant that works together with your retinoid to protect the skin from environmental aggressors

    How to Use RetinAL Skin Therapy + Overachiever Together

    The key when starting ANY retinoid is to start it slowly and gradually. We recommend starting 3 nights per week on alternating days and gradually working up to 5-7 nights per week.

    Apply after your serums in your evening routine. You can apply moisturizer/facial oil after based on your skin’s hydration needs.

    Added bonus: RetinAL Skin Therapy is even gentle enough to be used around the eyes and on the neck & chest, which are areas that tend to be neglected with retinoid use because they are more sensitive/reactive.

    When in conjunction with Overachiever, use Overachiever in the morning and RetinAL Skin Therapy in the evening.

    If there is a night that you are not using RetinAL Skin Therapy—like evenings you use a high percentage chemical exfoliant—use Overachiever both morning and night. (Studies done with bakuchiol show best results with twice daily use!)

    If you’re using any other retinoid that’s not RetinAL Skin Therapy, you can use Overachiever 2x per day. We especially recommend it with Retin-A since it can help calm and soothe the skin after those more intense reactions.

    Times to Skip a Retinoid

    There may be instances when you are unable to use a retinoid, like when you’re pregnant or nursing. This is when you can use bakuchiol (Overachiever) as your retinoid alternative (but always get clearance from your OB first). Bakuchiol (when used twice daily) has similar long-term benefits as a retinoid, but with less irritation, sensitivity and redness that can occur from using a retinoid alone.

    More Usage Tips + FAQs

    For more tips and tricks for using retinoids, check out these other articles:


    Here are some tips on how to successfully incorporate a retinoid into your skincare routine.


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