Retinol refers to a compound derived from vitamin A and is available over-the-counter (OTC) in low dosages. (Retinol falls under the umbrella term “retinoids,” which includes all vitamin A derivatives, both over-the-counter and prescription.) It has several key benefits noted by dermatologists. For starters, it can encourage collagen production. “Retinol binds to retinoid receptors in skin cells,” says a board-certified dermatologist. Joshua Zeichner, MD on retinol in our ingredient guide. This “turns on genes that up-regulate collagen production.”
It also stimulates cell turnover, making the skin look brighter and more youthful: “In addition to stimulating the production of new collagen, retinol improves cell turnover,” explains Zeichner. “This means it removes dead and damaged cells that make skin look dull.” And while retinol thickens the lower layers of skin (a good thing), it thins the top layer, which creates dewy, clear skin, he says.
These benefits are the same whether applied to the north or south jaw. Thus, a retinol body lotion may be appealing to those who suffer from body acne, an overall rougher texture, or signs of aging, such as a frizzy quality, sagging skin, or dark spots.
However, retinol comes with warnings. Notably, those with sensitive or reactive skin find it difficult to tolerate it, if they are even able to use it at all. Just as we advise to proceed with caution on the face, we encourage the same with this category of body care. If you start to experience flare-ups of inflammation and extreme dryness that lasts for weeks without improving, this may indicate that this is simply not the ingredient for you. And that’s OK! There are many healthy aging ingredients on the market that will help your skin look soft and supple, such as coenzyme Q10, aloe vera, plant oils and targeted biotic ingredients, which are also suitable for sensitive skin.
Finally, there is another group of people who will not be able to use retinol body lotions. In general, many dermatologists agree that you shouldn’t use retinol if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Although the main concern is the ingestion of oral retinoids, doctors and dermatologists recommend also discontinue topical use—as a precaution because it is not yet known how much is absorbed into the blood, especially when used on a large surface.