Discover Why Retinol Is A Must-Have In Men's Skincare

Retinol can have a powerful impact on our skin; particular when used as an anti-ageing tool. Read on to discover why you should be using it in your skincare routine. 

retinol in men's skincare
Words by Rebecca Loades
Mar 31, 2023 

In recent years, one ingredient that has gained significant attention in men’s skincare is retinol. Long hailed as a skincare powerhouse for its ability to address various skin concerns, retinol has become a go-to ingredient in many skincare products, including those targeted specifically for men. In this article, we are going to look into the benefits of retinol in men's skincare, understand how it works, discuss its effectiveness in addressing common skin concerns, and provide practical tips on incorporating retinol into your skincare routine.

What is retinol?

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is a potent skincare ingredient that offers numerous benefits for men's skin. One of the main reasons retinol has gained popularity in men's skincare is its ability to stimulate collagen production. Collagen is a protein that provides structural support to the skin, helping to maintain its firmness and elasticity. As men age, the production of collagen naturally decreases, leading to the formation of wrinkles and fine lines. Retinol can help counteract this by promoting collagen production, resulting in smoother, more youthful-looking skin.

In addition to its collagen-boosting properties, retinol also exfoliates the skin, unclogs pores, and helps to regulate sebum production, making it effective in managing acne-prone skin. Men, like women, can struggle with acne and other skin imperfections, and incorporating retinol into their skincare routine can be beneficial in reducing breakouts and improving overall skin texture.

Skin Generics Anti-Ageing Night Face Serum Retinol 20% Active Complex-skincare_face-serum-Humanery
Skin Generics Anti-Ageing Night Face Serum Retinol 20% Active Complex-skincare_face-serum-Humanery

Skin Generics Anti-Ageing Night Face Serum Retinol 20% Active Complex

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How does retinol work?

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is a class of compounds derived from vitamin A. It works by penetrating the skin's outer layer and interacting with skin cells at a cellular level. Retinol has the ability to accelerate cell turnover, which means it helps to shed dead skin cells and promote the growth of new ones. This exfoliating action helps to unclog pores, smooth the skin's surface, and reveal a fresher, more youthful complexion.

Retinol also stimulates collagen production by binding to specific receptors in the skin, which triggers a cascade of events that ultimately results in increased collagen synthesis. This collagen-boosting effect helps to improve skin firmness and elasticity, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time.

The relationship between retinol and ageing and acne

Retinol has been proven to be effective in addressing common skin concerns that men may face, such as ageing and acne. When it comes to ageing, retinol can help to diminish the appearance of fine lines and age spots (source). As we get older, the amount of collagen in our skin depletes. This causes skin to weaken in structure which forms folds and wrinkles. Fortunately, retinol can help to stimulate collagen production; making our skin feel and appear firmer. Wrinkles will also look 'softer'. Skincare containing retinol can also help to increased blood flow and improve skin tone. 

For men with acne-prone skin, retinol can be especially beneficial. It helps to unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and regulate sebum production, which are all key factors in managing acne breakouts. Regular use of retinol can help to clear up existing acne and prevent future breakouts. If you suffer from severe acne, you might want to talk to your doctor or dermatologist about using a topical retinoid. This is a potent form of retinol which has proven to be successful in targeting acne (source)

bottles of men's skincare

Are there side effects of using retinol?

Retinol, like other retinoids, can cause side effects, especially when used in high concentrations or applied improperly. Some potential side effects of retinol may include:

1. Skin irritation: Retinol can cause redness, dryness, peeling, and flaking of the skin, especially in those with sensitive skin.

2. Sensitivity to sunlight: Retinol can increase the skin's sensitivity to sunlight, making it more prone to sunburn and damage from UV rays. It's very important to use sunscreen during the day and avoid prolonged sun exposure when using retinol.

3. Initial purging: Retinol can cause a temporary initial worsening of acne breakouts, known as purging. This occurs due to the acceleration of the skin's natural exfoliation process, which can bring underlying acne lesions to the surface.

4. Stinging: Some individuals may experience discomfort or stinging sensations upon application of retinol, especially if the skin is already compromised or irritated.

5. Dryness and peeling: Retinol can cause excessive dryness and peeling, particularly when used in higher concentrations or combined with other potentially irritating skincare products. This is not something to be worried about, unless it becomes uncomfortable. It might be a case of you needing to lower the concentration of retinol you are using. 

6. Skin discoloration: In rare cases, retinol may cause temporary skin discoloration, such as hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation, which can result in uneven skin tone.

It's important to remember that these are potential side effects, and so do not effect everyone who uses retinol. If you are unsure about using retinol, speak with a dermatologist. 

Gentlemen's Tonic Mayfair Brightening Face Serum-skincare_face-serum-Humanery
Gentlemen's Tonic Mayfair Brightening Face Serum-skincare_face-serum-Humanery

Gentlemen's Tonic Mayfair Brightening Face Serum

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Incorporating retinol into your skincare routine:

To effectively incorporate retinol into a men's skincare routine, it's crucial to follow a few essential tips:

• Cleanse and exfoliate: Begin by cleansing your skin thoroughly and exfoliating to remove any dirt, oil, and dead skin cells that may hinder the absorption of retinol.

• Start slow: If you're new to retinol, start with a lower concentration and gradually increase over time to allow your skin to adjust to the ingredient. This can help minimise potential side effects such as redness, peeling, or dryness.

• Apply at night: Retinol is best used at night as it can increase sensitivity to sunlight. Apply a pea-sized amount to clean, dry skin, and avoid the eye area.

• Moisturise and protect: After applying retinol, follow up with a moisturiser to lock in hydration and soothe the skin. During the day, always use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

• Be patient: Results from retinol may take time, so be patient and consistent with your usage. It may take several weeks to see visible improvements in your skin's texture, tone, and overall appearance.

Common misconceptions about retinol

1. Myth: Retinol is too harsh for men's skin.

Reality: While retinol can cause initial side effects like dryness, redness, and peeling, it is not inherently too harsh for men's skin. However, individual skin types and sensitivity levels may vary, and some men may experience more sensitivity to retinol. Starting with a lower concentration and gradually increasing usage can help minimise potential side effects.

2. Myth: Retinol makes the skin thinner.

Reality: Retinol does not make the skin thinner. In fact, retinol promotes collagen production, which helps to strengthen the skin's structure and thickness over time. Collagen is a protein that provides structure and elasticity to the skin, and its production naturally declines with age. Retinol can help stimulate collagen production, resulting in firmer, plumper skin.

3. Myth: Retinol should only be used for ageing skin.

Reality: Retinol is often associated with anti-aging skincare, but it can be beneficial for various skin concerns, regardless of age. Retinol can help improve skin texture, unclog pores, and reduce acne breakouts, making it suitable for men of all ages who may be dealing with issues like acne, uneven skin tone, or rough texture.

4. Myth: Retinol should not be used with other skincare products.

Reality: Retinol can be effectively used with other skincare products, but it's important to be mindful of potential interactions. Combining retinol with harsh exfoliants, strong acids, or other potentially irritating products can increase the risk of skin sensitivity and irritation. It's best to use retinol as part of a simple skincare routine and avoid using other potentially irritating products at the same time.

5. Myth: Retinol can be used in the daytime.

Reality: Retinol is best used at night as it can increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun. Applying retinol before bedtime allows the product to work overnight without the risk of sun exposure, which can cause further sensitivity or damage to the skin.


Retinol can be a game-changer in men's skincare, providing numerous benefits for skin health and appearance. While it may cause some side effects, with proper usage and management, retinol can be a highly effective ingredient in addressing various skin concerns. By starting slow, using it at night, moisturizing, protecting from the sun, and seeking professional advice if needed, men can harness the power of retinol and achieve the desired results for their skin. So, incorporate retinol into your skincare routine wisely, be patient, and enjoy the remarkable benefits it can bring to your skin's health and appearance.

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