The Dermatologist’s Guide To Retinol
The Dermatologist’s Guide To Retinol
The Dermatologist’s Guide To Retinol

Everyone’s talking about retinol, but with so much information out there it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. So, who better to cut through the noise than London-based dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth? Here, Dr. Wedgeworth answers some of the most common questions surrounding this skincare hero, aka the active ingredient in our bestselling Smart Clinical Repair™ Wrinkle Correcting Serum. Read on for our dermatologist’s guide to retinoids.

What is the difference between retinol and retinoids?
‘Retinoid is an umbrella term for all skincare ingredients which work in a similar way to vitamin A. These products help to exfoliate, smooth skin, boost collagen production and fade pigmentation. Retinol is just one type of retinoid, which needs to be converted by the skin into a more active form, whereas other retinoids, like the hydroxypinacolone retinoate in Smart serum, do not need to be broken down by the skin, meaning they work more immediately.’
When should I start using retinoids?
‘This really depends on when you start to need a retinoid, and this can vary from person to person. If you are using it for anti-ageing purposes, you may find that you start to notice fine lines in your early thirties. However, some people will need to use retinoids earlier, for example if they are using retinoids to tackle blemishes. Everyone is different, so my advice is to listen to your skin.’
What is the retinol purge? Do all retinoids cause skin purging or side effects, and how long do these usually last?
‘Purging is a temporary reaction to a new product that speeds up cell turnover, which can cause breakouts, dryness and peeling. Any type of retinoid can cause purging, particularly if there is a lot of congestion under the skin, however, most people will start a retinoid without any problems. If purging does occur, this can last for approximately two skin cycles, which is about eight weeks.’
How do I add retinoids to my skincare routine?
‘Once you’ve got the basics right in your skincare routine, then it’s super easy to add in your retinoid serum. A lightweight serum like Smart can be used after cleansing, before moisturiser.’
Can I apply a retinoid serum all over my face, or just on specific problem areas?
‘Use all over the face, neck and décolletage for maximum effectiveness, avoiding sensitive areas around the eyes and lips.’
What products pair well with a retinoid serum like Smart, and which ingredients or products should I avoid?
‘SPF is a must when using retinoids, partly because they can make the skin more sensitive, but also because there’s little point using something to tackle signs of ageing if we are not protecting against the sun – one of the main causes. Moisturisers are also great to help prevent dryness. Vitamin C works well as an antioxidant and can work alongside retinoids to help with pigmentation and signs of ageing. On the other hand, I generally advise against using AHAs and retinoids together, particularly if you have sensitive skin.’
Are retinoids suitable for all skin types?
‘Most skin types can tolerate retinoids if they are introduced slowly, such as every other night, in combination with a gentle, hydrating skincare routine. The retinoid contained in Smart is very well tolerated and ideal for sensitive skin. However, if you have an active flareup of eczema or rosacea, I would avoid applying retinoids for that time.’

Should I only use retinoids at night?

‘This actually depends on the exact retinoid you are using. The retinoid in Smart Clinical Repair™ Serum – hydroxypinacolone retinoate – is stable and gentle enough to be used both morning and night.’

Sound good? Meet the Smart™Clinical Repair family here. Plus, if you need a little help building an effective routine to tackle fine lines and wrinkles, book in for a Clinical Consultation, a series of four virtual consultations over the course of 12 weeks, where you can see both instant wins and results over time.

Words by Shona Wallace & Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, Dermatologist