It’s easy to give up all hope in the skincare department. There are cream cleansers, oil cleansers, exfoliators, vitamin-c serums, essential oils (like rosehip), AHA’s, glycolic peels (you get the point) – many of which promise the world, but leave you hanging.

But if there’s one thing that absolutely delivers the goods, it’s retinol. Some of these serums completely changed our skin overnight (but more on that in a minute).

There are a lot of misconceptions about retinol, and after writing this, we know why. First things first, there are ‘Retin-A’ products, and ‘retinol’ products… and both are ‘retinoids’. It’s all vitamin A, but the first kind are heavy duty (i.e. need a prescription) and the second type you can buy over the counter.

Unlike standard exfoliators, retinoids work at the cellular level (ok, we’ve maxed-out our geek quota for today) to increase collagen, smooth-out annoying fine lines and even-out the tone. We’re talking a mini miracle, here. If you’re a first-timer, believe us when we say, it’s unlike anything else you’ve ever tried.

So the question isn’t really if you should be using retinol, but when, which one and how much?

Before we give you the lowdown, a word of warning: if you’re considering retinol, make sure you play by the rules. Do wear sunscreen, and don’t use during pregnancy.

By Carmen Hamilton.