You shouldn’t be using retinol products – here’s why.


There is no doubt that retinol, a form of vitamin A, is an effective anti-ageing product in the short term. In fact, you can notice the benefit of smoother skin and reduced fine lines in an as little as a few days. However, with the benefits come some scary side effects which are enough for us to reconsider using our retinol creams and treatments.

Historically a script was required to purchase creams containing retinoids however it has become so easy to acquire skincare containing retinol that editors, influencers and skincare enthusiasts are jumping on the retinol bandwagon, encouraging its use!

However, there are some dermatologists, skincare lovers and those who have experienced the adverse effects of retinol that warn against its widespread use.

Before I delve into how retinol works and why I do not recommend it, I wanted to share my experience of using it. I got hooked on an over the counter retinol oil which of course made my skin look incredibly smooth, supple and started to soften the fine lines around my eyes. After 3-4 weeks of use, I got an intuitive feeling the oil had run its course and that I should stop using it. Unfortunately, I kept going and within the space of a few weeks, I had developed very sensitive cheeks, pigmentation and redness which was exacerbated after I became pregnant and only now has settled down after experimenting with various serum and oil formulas that I was creating to repair the skin barrier.

In order to understand why retinol is not the wonder skincare product we think it is, it’s helpful to understand why it provides such dramatic results when it comes to anti-ageing.

How does retinol work?

Retinol works by works by encouraging basal cells (in the lowest layer of the skin) to divide, and as a result, you get more new epidermal cells that migrate up to the skin’s surface and eventually become the top layer of the skin.  The more retinol you put on the skin, the more these new cells appear at the surface, which stimulates an exfoliation process in the skin.

The side effects of retinol

The following skincare concerns are linked to retinol use, which ultimately undo any of the anti-ageing benefits.

  • Weakened skin barrier - When skin cells are being forced to rapidly reproduce they are not formed properly. This means they are do not produce the lipids (fats) required to adequately protect the skin from external factors. The skin barrier, therefore, becomes very thin and susceptible to damage from internal and external damage which ultimately accelerates the ageing process.
  • Sensitive skin – With a weakened skin barrier comes ultra-sensitive skin and redness. The external layer of the skin has become compromised so things will more readily irritate the skin.
  • Increased predisposition to hyper-pigmentation – Skin becomes more sensitive to UV light when the top layer of the skin is weak. This means pigmentation can become a real concern. Whilst sunscreen can protect our skin from UV damage to some extent, most of the time it is not adequate and dark spots will start to appear on the skin with retinol use.
  • Dryness and irritation – Retinol is supposed to fast track skin cell turnover. With this can come very dry and flaky skin! Disrupting the lipid balance of the skin can make the skin lose moisture which of course means sallow and sagging skin.
  • Accelerated ageing – According to cosmetic doctor Meryvn Patterson, skin cells have a finite amount of times they can replicate. According to Patterson, “if you plaster way too much retinol on in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, you could be depleting all of those healthy cell divisions that you really should be storing for cell divisions further down your lifetime.” We don’t really know the side-effects of prolonged retinol use – marketers are keen to have us purchase retinol for everyday use, but without any studies on the long term side effects, we really need to be more precautious.
  • Lack of safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding – Use of retinol during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects. It can also exacerbate pigmentation which can be an issue when we are pregnant with a surge of hormones that are linked to dark spots. Use is also contraindicated during pregnancy.

Retinol alternatives

I have been incredibly passionate and determined to find a product that I can recommend to my customers that is as effective as retinol and without the side effects. I have been able to do this thanks to the incredible “natural molecule of youth”, Bakuchiol.

This compound is a natural extract derived from the Babchi plant. Bakuchiol is isolated from the leaves and seeds of the plant and is commercially purified. In studies, it has been shown to mimic the actions of vitamin A with similar gene regulating and collagen regulating properties. It can visibly soften fine lines, even skin tone and protect the skin without the side effects of retinol.

One study comparing the results of both retinol and Bakuchiol had participants applying either 0.5 per cent bakuchiol twice per day or 0.5 per cent retinol once per day, over 12 weeks. There was no statistically significant difference between their results which implies that using Bakuchiol twice a day is as effective as using retinol once a day.

It is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding and has been even shown to dampen the UV sensitivity linked to retinol when used alongside it (not that we are recommending that you do this). Using this along with my Probiotic Radiance Serum has improved my skin barrier, reduced redness and really helped to soften the fine lines I had started to notice across my forehead and eyes.

I am proudly recommending that all of my customers trial our Beauty Reset Drops and experience the incredible benefits of Bakuchiol!

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Anna Mitsios

Adv. Dip. Naturopathy. Adv. Dip. Nutrition. B.Com (Honours)

Anna is a certified naturopath and nutritionist and founder of leading Australian natural skincare and wellness company, Edible Beauty Australia. Anna has been featured in various publications including Mind Body Green, Women’s Health and Allure. She is committed to the natural transformation of her client’s skin using proven botanicals, nutrients and herbal formulations, both on the inside and out.  

Anna’s career began in the corporate sector, where she specialised in corporate finance and private banking for over ten years working in Sydney and New York for a large Australian bank. Anna’s career change was sparked by her own health journey, following a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes at 18 years of age.  Her diagnosis triggered her intense study of botanicals and nutrition to manage auto-immune condition and assist others in attaining optimal health. Anna’s naturopathy career has included working as a naturopath within a reputable natural fertility clinic in Sydney, within a pharmacy and health food store and running her own naturopathy practice. 

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