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A Guide to Retinol

A Guide to Retinol

In 2019, both Freda and I got on the Retinoid bandwagon (i will get into the difference between Retinol and Retinoid later in this post)! Boy, it was one hell of a rollercoaster for the both of us. If you don't already know this, i am always trying different skincare ingredients on my own face to be able to share if the ingredient is helpful for me before listing the product on Fickle Beauty.


Both Freda and i have different skin types and skin concerns and because Retinoids and Retinols target almost every skin concern there is, it was a suitable ingredient for both our skin types.


Here's some skin concerns we had and wanted Retinoid/Retinol to fix:



Skin Type :Dry

Skin Concern: Large Pores, Uneven Skintone, Dullness



Skin Type: Combination - Acne Prone

Skin Concern: Clogged Pores, Dark Spots, Hyperpigmentation, Uneven Skintone, 


Retinoids and Retinols were the last on my list because based on my research on it, it is a strong ingredient. After testing it on our own skin, we now have first hand experience and results to share from using this powerful anti-aging ingredient.


Retinol and Retinoid

Both retinol and retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that ultimately get converted into retinoic acid. They are some of the most well-researched skin care compounds available to-date. Both retinol and retinoids have been shown effective in fighting the signs of aging and in controlling acne. Retinol is available in over-the-counter products and is less potent than Retinoids which have to be prescribed by a dermatologist or a medical practitioner. 


Why do so many people love this ingredient in skincare?

Retinol, such as retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate, and Retinoids are  essentially a derivative of vitamin A, which is one of the body's key nutrients for boosting cell turnover. It's added to skincare products to promote skin renewal, brighten skin tone, reduce acne, and boost the collagen production.


The skin naturally sheds dead skin cells through a process called desquamation. Every 28-40 days, on average, a new skin cell is "born" in the deepest layer of the epidermis. Our cell turnover rate changes throughout our life. Babies and young children have a faster cell turnover rate because they're growing quickly. That explains why young children have such bright, soft, luminous-looking skin - their cell turnover rate is twice as fast as adults which means they always have new skin cells on the surface.


As we age, our cell turnover rate slows down. That's why our skin never looks quite as "bright" as it did when we were younger. Which is why we want to add this powerful anti-aging ingredient into our routine to speed up the our cell turnover rate to prevent signs of aging. 


-Reduces Fine Lines & Wrinkles

-Improves Skin Texture 

-Helps Fade Hyperpigmentation & Dark Spots

-Pores Appear Smaller as Skin is Plump

-Increases Collagen Synthesis


Here are some Before and After pictures we have found of people who have had success using Retinols and Retinoids:

Credits: x


Credits: x


The Difference between Retinol and Retinoids

Retinol works more gradually than what your doctor dispenses, due to their differences in molecular structure. Retinols are in ester forms, which are then converted to the active retinoic acid. The enzymes in your skin must convert to retinoic acid before it can be put to use. This means the effects are slower and more subtle than from products that do not require this conversion—products like Retinoids (Retin-A/Tretinoin). The ‘weaker’ the product, so it typically takes longer to see the same results from retinols as it does from a prescription Retinoids. 


Based on our own experience with prescription Retinoids, we will recommend our customers especially those under 30 to start with Retinols first as Retinoids can be VERY irritating (we will share our pictures later) and if not used properly can cause more harm than good. It is very important to follow the instructions of how to use Retinoids carefully - take a less is more approach and take it very, very slowly. However when it comes to Retinols, because it is not as powerful, it is less irritating and the side effects are not as intense.


The Side Effects

Both Freda and I started with Retin A 0.025, a prescription only tretinoin cream.  It is one of the lowest percentage available at our dermatologist office.

We both followed the instructions to a T to avoid any possible skin irritation however we still experienced irritation. 


How did we apply Retin A?

Step 1: Cleanse Skin with a low PH gentle cleanser,

Step 2: Apply a thick moisturizer and wait 20 min (this moisturizer is not necessary but we did so because we wanted to prevent irritation of the skin so the moisturizer acts as a buffer)

Step 3: Apply a pea size of Retin-A all over face. (when i say pea size, i really mean PEA SIZE to cover your entire face because any more than that, the irritation is going to be more severe- that is how powerful this cream is!)

I really need to show you a picture of how a pea size looks like so if you are jumping on the Retinoid bandwagon, you know how to apply it!

Dispense a pea size on the back of ur hand and using ur finger, pick up a bit of it and dot it all over your face. The spread the product on your skin - it gets absorbed immediately and leaves a smooth finish. DO NOT APPLY IT ON WET SKIN. Always have a wait time of at least 20 min to ensure your skin is completely dry before you apply Retinoids as water is going to help the product get absorbed more quickly into your skin and you dont want that with retinoids as it is too powerful. Retinol and Retinoids are to be used at night only. Also, NEVER FORGET SUNSCREEN IN THE MORNING.


Retinoids are more potent than retinol, the side effects are also more pronounced. They may include:

  • Redness
  • Scaling
  • Dryness
  • Itching

In rare cases, topical retinoids can cause sensitivity to sunlight, swelling, blistering or stinging and acne or eczema flare-ups.


Look at our down time pictures:

Side Effects of Retin A Freda: Dryness, Scaley, Peeling

Skin Type :Dry

Skin Concern: Large Pores, Uneven Skintone, Dullness



Side Effects of Retin A for Tammy: Purging of Acne, Redness, Dryness, Itching

Skin Type : Combination - Acne Prone

Skin Concern: Clogged Pores, Hyperpigmentation, Uneven Skintone


If you are super acne-prone, one side effect which i experienced was A LOT OF BUMPS APPEARED. Because retinoids help accelerate the skin renewal process, everything is pushed up to the surface, this is also known as a "Purge". It was an absolute NIGHTMARE. Well i thought i could handle it, but it was just not as easy as i thought it would. Well i normally get break outs if i use a product that is too oily or occlusive, so i could always cut that out of my routine and revert back to using products my skin enjoyed. However with the usage of Retin A, my skin was extremely DEHYDRATED. I couldn't use the lightweight moisturizers i was using prior to Retin-A and it was tough finding a good enough moisturizer to prevent my skin from drying out without causing more clogged pores. :( Really learnt so so much during the process and learnt that this was probably not for me, not at this point of my life.


We both have different skin concerns and skin types and experienced completely different side effects after 2 weeks of usage despite following the instructions carefully. After 2 weeks, we decided top stop and focused on hydrating our skin and repairing our damaged moisture barrier. We had to repair our severely damaged skin barrier before we were able to use any form of actives. Always target one skin concern at a time, despite the fact that i had breakouts and clogged pores, i could not target that without causing further irritation to my skin as its moisture barrier was compromised and everything i applied felt like it was burning. 


In the process of focusing on hydration and repair, i discovered SO MANY new brands and products which work well for Sensitive and Sensitized Skin. You can check out the post ive written and the recommended products for such a skin type and concern! Read it (here).


Here's a list of what Freda (Skin Type: Dry) recommends from Fickle Beauty to repair her damaged moisture barrier:

Cleanser: Fickle Gentle Cleanser

Toner/Essence: HD Skin Activating Essence

Serum: Dr Ceuracle Vita Propolis Ampoule


Soon Jung 2x Barrier Intensive Cream (Night)

SkinRX MADECERA Cream (Day & Night)


Here's a list of what Tammy (Skin Type: Combination-Acne Prone) recommends to repair a damaged moisture barrier:

Cleanser: Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion

Toner: Pyunkang Yul Mist Toner

Serum: Ebanel Hyaluronic Peptide Serum

Serum: Benton Snail Bee Ultimate Serum

Moisturizer: Suubalm Cooling Itch Relief Facial Moisturizer (Day & Night)


My Retinol/Retinoid journey stopped there as i was extremely down during the "purge" and "recovery" phase. I am acne-prone so i had to deal with a lot more than Freda as i had to deal with the rough skin texture, bumps, redness, hyperpigmentation and on top of that the dryness and itch. On the other hand, once Freda fixed her moisture barrier, her skin was in a good enough place to start including skincare active ingredients again. So she decided to hop back on the Retinol/Retinoid journey, this time round, with a Retinol




The Ebanel Retinol Peptide Serum + Ebanel Retinol Moisturizer has been sitting in our office for almost a year! We didn't push or share much about this product as we both haven't tried it and did not want to falsely advertise the product on social media. However, we have it in the office and on Fickle Beauty as Fickle Beauty is the Sole Distributor of Ebanel Skincare products in Singapore and we wanted to carry the whole line of product from this brand so customers in Asia need not wait so long and pay for shipment as the brand is based in USA. We already sold a couple of bottles and have customers who do like it but we couldnt say too much about it personally until we have tried it ourselves! So Freda did! 


Retinol is gentler, so while it’s benefits are less potent, it may be one solution for people with sensitive skin. Freda gave it a go and look at her skin now! 


Her major skin concern which was Large Pores and Dull Skin has been resolved after a month of using Retinol with a good skincare routine.


Freda's Skin Type is DRY hence she isn't as acne prone as i am and she can use very occlusive products.


This is her current Skincare Routine after incorporating Retinol and also ensuring her skin is always sufficient hydrated and moisturized.


Night Time 

Make Up Remover: Ebanel Alpha to Omega Sherbet Balm

Cleanser: Fickle Gentle Cleanser

Toner/Essence: HD Skin Activating Essence

Retinol Serum: Ebanel Retinol Peptide Serum 

(2 drop on the palm of your hands, rub together and gently pat into your skin. avoid using the dropper to dispense the serum directly on your skin as you can risk applying too much - remember, when it comes to Retinols and any skincare product with chemical exfoliants, take a "less is more" approach and don't overdo it.)

Retinol Moisturizer: Ebanel Retinol Moisturizer

(2 pumps on the palm of your hands, rub your hands together to warm it up and gently pat into your skin. remember, when it comes to Retinols and any skincare product with chemical exfoliants, take the "less is more" approach and don't overdo it.)

Moisturizer 2: Pyunkang Yul Ato Cream Blue Label


Day Time 

Cleanser: None, just splash water!

Toner/Essence: HD Skin Activating Essence

Hydrating Serum: Dr Ceuracle Vita Propolis Ampoule

Moisturizer: SkinRX MADECERA Cream 

Sunscreen: Purito Comfy Water Sunblock


As for me, i hope to be able to overcome my fear of the purge and be able to start using Retinol and Retinoids soon because of its anti-aging benefits! Right now, i am focusing on just hydrating my skin and using more gentle approach to fade hyperpigmentation and dark spots.



Feb 25, 2021

Thanks for sharing your wonderful posts 👍. You are doing great work! I just want to share my success story. Hope this helps. I’ve been using Retin-A (Tretinoin). Very happy 😊 I found ‘Qacne365’ in google and got retin-a ❤️. It is hands down the most effective anti-acne, anti-dark spot, anti-whatever skin flaw you may have. It is the only thing that has actually helped with my acne. People comment on my skin daily.


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