retinols post

Retinol Guidelines


Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A which are absorbed mainly through foods in the form of retinyl esters which are then hydrolysed to yield free retinol.

Retinol along with retinal, tretinoin, isotretoin and alitretinoin form a class known as first generation retinoids.


An active ingredient for sophisticated cosmetic skincare products. Contrary to popular belief one of the mechanisms of retinoids is an increase in the thickness of the skin. Even though retinoids actually thin the stratum corneum, they thicken the epidermis and the dermis underneath it.The end result is a thicker more youthful looking skin.

Products containing Retinol, a pure form of vitamin A, help to fight and diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol is proven to improve mottled pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, skin tone and colour, and the skin’s hydration levels. Retinol exfoliates the skin, and stimulates collagen production, improving the skin’s appearance. The two challenges to retinol users is dealing with sensitivity on the skin and ensuring fresh supplies given the inherent instability of retinol as a chemical.

The beneficial effects of retinol on the skin depend on its concentration and presentation. All retinoids have chemical and photochemical stability issues and selecting the correct formula is vital to ensure clients receive active retinol products.

Ideally one should select a fresh formula (made less than 12 months ago) that has been stored in cool conditions and in a low oxygen environment (eg. in an oil serum format rather than a cream). The primary packaging should have a robust construction and exhibit natural UV filtration properties as does brown glass or aluminium tubes. A secondary packaging carton to block light completely is recommended while the product is in the supply chain.

Medik8 retinol meets all these challenges head on. The all trans­retinol active is batch-tested for potency. Medik8 retinol is stored only in nitrogen filled aluminium cans at low temperatures before production. Medik8 retinol is bottled into brown glass and inserted into cartons immediately. Medik8 researchers also add the antioxidant vitamin E in production to help increase the shelf life still further.

The bioactive isomer of retinol is called all-trans-retinol. Medik8 only uses all-trans retinol and all batches are independently assayed to guarantee that only the correct isomer is used and to the correct minimum quality level. Medik8 retinol must be assayed to at least 95% all-trans-retinol concentration in order to meet our strict criteria and be included in a production run.

Whatever technology is used to help stabilise retinol, from encapsulation to temperature-control to inert environments to using antioxidants, ultimately, the time to instability is relatively short compared to other cosmeceutical ingredients (with the possible exception of L-ascorbic acid). Standard retinol becomes quite useless after as little as two months —sometimes much less. Medik8 retinol will remain active for 12 months or more. Given the complexity of modern supply chains, meaning product can sit in various supplier warehouses for months, Medik8 ensure no unnecessary time is lost by manufacturing retinol to order or forecast from main distributors. We call this “batch-fresh-retinol”.

In addition to this criteria Medik8 time-release delivery system uses an elegant approach utilising polymer reservoir technology. Our polymer system allows the retinol to slowly pass down to the deeper layers of the skin.

This “linear encapsulation” method works in parallel with the skin instead of surrounding the retinol molecules (eg, liposomal) allowing it to both control the penetration and give an even dispersion of the active. This prevents a spike of retinol reaching receptors which is the primary cause of adverse effects associated with vitamin A.

The effects of vitamin A on the skin (after topical application of derivatives) have been confirmed in a number of studies.

In a clinical study involving 30 test persons, Bertin demonstrated that Retinol applied in a cream increases the biological elasticity of the skin and reduces the depth of wrinkles (C. Bertin et al. Retinol + Melibiose: An Innovative Anti-Ageing Association, 20th ISFCC Congress, P 058,1-7 (1998)).

A study utilising human skin samples found that topical 1% retinol inhibits the increase in metalloproteinases and stimulates collagen synthesis in both intrinsically aged and photoaged skin. Varani et al. also used tissue specimens to show that retinol may be able to re-stimulate fibroblast growth potential, which seems to decrease with increasing age. Varani J. et al. Vitamin A antagonizes decreased cell growth and elevated collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinases and stimulates collagen accumulation in naturally aged human skin. J of Investigative Dermatology 2000; 114: 480-86

Another study showed that topical retinol does increase epidermal thickness in human skin, but without the irritation of RA. Kang 5, Fisher G. Voorhees J. et al. Application of retinol to human skin in vivo induces epidermal hyperplasia and cellular retinoid binding proteins characteristic of retinoic acid but without measurable retinoic acid levels of irritation. J of Investigative Dermatology 1995; 549-56

In the latter two studies, it was shown that 1% retinol produced results equivalent to prescription strength retinoic acid.

Medik8 retinols


Simply put how much retinol the skin needs really depends on the condition of our client’s skin type, the skin issues needing improvement and how the skin is able to tolerate this unique and highly beneficial ingredient.


Don’t think that starting on a low strength retinol won’t benefit the skin – it will! Research published in the’Journal of Investigative Dermatology’, (2009) has shown that a concentration of 0.01% retinol and upwards are very effective for improving the overall health and appearance of the skin. Keep in mind that this research doesn’t include the additional benefits derived from combining retinol with other powerful antioxidant skin repairing ingredients such as vitamin C.

The research also indicated that low amounts of retinol paired with other antioxidants helps protect the skin against UV damage when further enhanced protection of a broad spectrum sunscreen is included.

Our Medik8 Retinol 3 TR professional strength advanced night serum is a light super fast absorbing vitamin A serum that rejuvenates skin at its most optimal time – at night. Supported by the super star of antioxidant, vitamin E, to help stimulate the production of collagen and increase levels of epidermal hyaluronic acid, improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in target areas. Skin sagginess, roughness and hyperpigmentation are also improved; leading to a more youthful skin appearance.

Therapist Tip: Remember to move through the retinol range to provide optimal results for your client’s skin needs. Take full advantage of the wonderful range of retinol strengths available to you in the Medik8 range and look to Retinol 3 TR as your client introduction to retinol products. This is also a super maintenance alternative for clients who’ve received optimal results with the higher strength retinols and as an alternative for clients travelling into hotter climates. 


When dealing with more stubborn concerns like dark spots of pigmentation, loss of firmness, deep set wrinkles and / or stubborn red marks that linger after breakouts it might be time to consider a more moderate strength percentage of retinol.

These strengths of retinol treatments perform even better when combined with other beneficial ingredients as mentioned previously.

Retinol concentrations at 0.4% demonstrated visible improvements to sun damage as collagen production was stimulated helping to strengthen an ageing, thinning skin (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 2010).

Retinol 6 TR visibly regenerates the epidermal layer of the skin, smoothing away fine lines and wrinkles through the stimulation of collagen and elastin production. Retinol 6 TR helps to refine skin tones and brighten up darker patches on the skin by accelerating natural skin cell turnover. Our all trans-retinol unblocks pores and regulates sebum production leaving a brighter more even skin tone.

Therapist Tip: 6 TR is the next stage in your client’s anti-ageing journey and will help you retain their custom. Look at stepping up their treatment regime in the winter months with Retinol 6 TR.


If the skin has tolerated moderate strength retinol treatments well but you feel in conjunction with your client that the improvements have plateaued, then it may be time to consider maximising the retinol percentages being used.

Our Retinol 10 TR is a powerful and rich vitamin A balm that targets an ageing skin with visible signs of photodamage helping to stimulate the production of collagen and increase levels of epidermal hyaluronic acid, improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. An improvement in skin tone and texture is generated to create a more youthful skin appearance.

Therapist Tip: An excellent opportunity to convert clients who are used to prescription based products to the Medik8 range but always remember your retinol ladder to build up skin tolerance.


Retinol in itself is sensitive to sunlight which is why it should be applied before bed at night but the reality is a retinoid based product shouldn’t make the skin any more vulnerable to UV rays than it would be after exfoliating with a facial scrub.


Retinoids can cause the skin to become more dry, red and in some cases flake and that’s why we always recommend introducing retinol into any skincare routine over a period of five weeks to build up skin tolerance.

For the first two weeks apply a retinoid every third night. If the skin isn’t showing signs of irritation for the next two weeks apply every other night. If the skin is not dry, red or flaking after this time it’s time to apply it every night.

Always advise clients to give their skin a 15 minute break after washing the face before applying any of the retinol range to avoid general irritation. Once it has been absorbed, advise clients to apply their favourite Medik8 moisturiser for hydration.

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