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Whether you’re a first-time Retinol user or you’ve been taking advantage of this skincare ingredient’s anti-aging benefits for a while, it’s time to know your facts about Retinol. Discover the truths and myths about Retinol to learn how to minimize Retinol side effects and upgrade your anti-aging skincare routine!


Fact: Retinol Helps Visibly Firm Skin and Diminish Wrinkles

Retinol is touted for its visible anti-aging benefits for skin largely because Retinol helps to build collagen reserves, which in turn helps to delay the look of wrinkles and to keep skin looking firm for a supple, smooth feel and youthful appearance.

Fiction: Retinol is Only Recommended for Visibly Aged Skin

Retinol is a potent anti-aging ingredient, but it is not only for visibly aged skin! This potent ingredient can be incorporated into a skincare routine to help delay visible signs of aging including fine lines and wrinkles, loss of firmness or other signs of aging to help maintain a youthful appearance. This is precisely why we recommend incorporating our upcoming anti-wrinkle serum with Retinol (launching soon) into any skincare routine even before visible signs of aging appear to see anti-aging benefits while minimizing the risk of discomforting Retinol effects, which include visible redness, dryness and peeling.

Fiction: Retinol Thins the Skin

The idea that Retinol thins the skin is another myth about Retinol. This is a common misconception which likely comes from the fact that one of the Retinol side effects is causing the skin to peel due to its skin-renewing effect. Retinol actually stimulates skin renewal, which can help the skin create and bring more fresh, new cells to the skin surface more quickly, thereby causing the older skin cells to flake or peel away from the surface for a visibly smoother texture. Retinol is also shown to support skin’s collagen reserves. This is what allows Retinol to help keep the skin visibly firm, smooth and younger-looking.

Fact: It’s Not Uncommon to Experience Visible Retinol Side Effects

While Retinol won’t thin the skin, it’s not uncommon to experience Retinol side effects when you incorporate some Retinol skincare products into your routine. Potential discomforting effects include peeling, dryness, tightness and redness.

However, Kiehl’s chemists have expertly designed a Retinol formula that minimizes these discomforting effects! Launching this summer, our Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum is precisely formulated to deliver the amount of Retinol your skin needs to gradually accelerate skin renewal with a daily-strength Retinol dosage for a serum that delivers visible benefits with minimal discomfort.

Fiction: If You See Side Effects, You Should Stop Using Retinol

Retinol side effects, such as redness, dryness and peeling, aren’t inherently a bad sign, in fact — there’s a time period known as the retinization period where it’s common for skin to experience discomfort while your skin adjusts to the Retinol, especially common within the first two weeks of use. However, you also don’t have to experience these Retinol side effects to know that your Retinol formula is working:

Our Formula for Minimal Discomfort

For example, our upcoming anti-wrinkle serum with Retinol is clinically-demonstrated to visibly improve skin and 90% of usersi agree skin feels comfortable throughout use. This is thanks to our patent-pending micro-dose formula that delivers visible anti-aging benefits while minimizing discomforting effects.

Fact: There are Different Forms of Retinoids

Pure Retinol is a type of Retinoid, which is a derivative of Vitamin A. Topical Retinoids come in two different forms: prescription and over the counter. The main difference between prescription and over the counter forms are the type of Retinoid and the level of potency, which plays a role in the level of results you’ll see, but also the possibility of Retinol side effects.

Prescription vs. Over the Counter

The prescription forms of Retinoids prescribed by a dermatologist include Tretinoin, Isotretinoin and Adapalene. These are potent, readily active and used to treat a variety of skin conditions, such as acne, in addition to treating anti-aging concerns and photodamaged skin.

Over the counter options are more popular and easily accessible. These include Pure Retinol and Retinol compounds, which are mild forms of Retinol that require conversion by the skin to become active, such as Retinaldehyde (Retinal) and Retinyl Palmitate. Within the over the counter category, you can find formulas with different percentages of Pure Retinol or combinations of Retinol and Retinol compounds. Consult your dermatologist if you have questions about the best form of Retinol for your skin!

Fiction: Only Higher Percentages of Retinol are Effective

When searching for the Retinol formula for you, keep in mind that the percentage of Retinol in a formula is not all you need to pay attention to. It's important to note that Retinol formulas with higher percentages don’t necessarily deliver the highest results, as the formula could be made up of combinations of Retinol and Retinol compounds as opposed to Pure Retinol.

Pure Retinol vs. Retinol Compounds

Instead of simply looking at percentages, you should also be mindful of the type of Retinol and other active ingredients within the formula as these will help ensure you’re able to incorporate Retinol into your daily routine with minimal discomfort.

Pure Retinol is the most efficacious form of Retinol to look for as opposed to more mild forms such as Retinol compounds, but, especially for first-time Retinol users, higher percentages of Pure Retinol can also increase the likelihood of Retinol side effects including visible redness, dryness and peeling. At Kiehl’s, we’ve developed a technology that delivers a precise dosage of potent Pure Retinol for visible improvement in skin aging without the discomfort:

Kiehl’s Advanced Micro-Dose Pure Retinol Technology

With our micro-dose Retinol formula, you’ll see improvement in the key signs of skin aging the longer you use the serum with minimal discomfort, even during the first two weeks when discomfort is typically the most common.

Our micro-dose Retinol formula works by topically delivering a small amount of highly potent Pure Retinol to skin to steadily renew skin and gradually address signs of visible skin aging. The patent-pending formulation makes it easy for you to incorporate our Retinol formula into your daily routine with minimal discomfort. The Pure Retinol in our formula is bolstered by efficacious ingredients working synergistically to deliver optimal results. Our formula with Peptide helps complement skin’s elastin reserves while Ceramides within our formula fortify the skin barrier, buffer skin against dryness and minimize discomfort.

Fiction: Retinol Isn’t Safe for Daily Use

Due to the Retinol side effects, it’s commonly assumed that Retinol shouldn’t be used daily from the beginning for first-time Retinol users. Typically, once the retinization period has passed and you’ve built up your skin’s tolerance to Retinol, it’s safe for daily use. Our formula with Retinol is precisely formulated to work well within your daily skincare routine so you can start using it daily from first use to see skin-renewing results while minimizing the discomfort that can occur during the retinization period.

Fact: You Can Use Kiehl’s Retinol Micro-Dose Formula in a Daytime Skincare Routine

Unlike other Retinol formulas, our micro-dose anti-wrinkle serum with Retinol is safe for use during the daytime! Retinol brings fresh, new skin cells to the surface, which can make your skin a little more sensitive to the sun — so, it’s important to use a sunscreen when you add a formula with Retinol to your skincare routine. Our unique micro-dose Retinol formula is safe to use day or night:

Your Daytime Retinol Routine

For your daytime routine, we recommend following our anti-wrinkle serum with Retinol with an ultra-hydrating moisturizer such as our best-selling facial cream and an efficacious facial sunscreen such as our facial sunscreen with SPF 50+. We always highly recommend you finish your daily skincare routine with a sunscreen!

Your Nighttime Retinol Routine

If applying our anti-wrinkle serum with Retinol at night, we recommend following with one of our moisturizers or facial oils such as our Lavender nighttime facial oil.

Fiction: Sensitive Skin Types Shouldn’t Use Retinol

Those with sensitive skin types can use Retinol, especially if starting with our micro-dose formula, which is designed to help skin tolerate Retinol with minimal discomfort typically experienced during a retinization period.

Our Retinol serum was formulated to be suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin and first-time Retinol users.

Fiction: You Can’t Use Other Active Ingredients with Retinol

It’s not entirely true that you can’t use other ingredients with Retinol. Vitamins C, E, Niacinamide and Hyaluronic Acid pair well with Retinol as do Ceramides and Peptides. Typically, using exfoliating acids with Retinol should be implemented carefully and used as part of your nighttime routine, as exfoliating acids can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. For instance, once your skin is tolerant to your Retinol dosage, a gentle acid at a low concentration, such as Glycolic Acid or Lactic Acid may be incorporated a few times a week to help remove flaky skin to supply a smooth skin surface for Retinol application.

Our Retinol Formula & Other Active Ingredients

Our Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum is suitable for pairing with our targeted serums with effective ingredients including our dark spot corrector, Vitamin C serum, skin-strengthening serum and skin plumping serum, even when used daily in a daytime and nighttime routine.

As always, don’t forget to incorporate the best sunscreen for your skin type into your daily routine!

Discover Our Solution for Visible Retinol
Benefits with Minimal Discomfortii

Our Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum is specifically formulated to deliver a daily-strength dosage of Retinol so you can start using Retinol and seeing improvement in skin firmness and wrinkle reduction with minimal discomfort including visible redness, dryness and peeling. It’s easy to incorporate into any skincare routine for visible skin renewal! Our advanced micro-dose anti-wrinkle serum with Retinol is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin and first-time Retinol users.

Formulated with Retinol, Peptide and Ceramides, our formula works to ensure skin tolerates a micro-dose of Retinol so there’s minimal discomfort throughout usage.

Your Complete Anti-Aging Routine

After applying our upcoming anti-wrinkle serum with Retinol, you can complete your routine with our efficacious anti-aging cream and one of our sunscreens for skin that looks and feels youthful!


i Based on a consumer study of 135 panelists after 12 weeks of usage.

ii Minimizes visible redness, dryness and peeling.

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