Retinol is one of the most popular and most effective ways to treat acne and acne scars. It’s safe and easy to apply, and you can find it over the counter or get a prescription from your dermatologist clinic. You may have heard this term used before but aren’t sure what exactly it is or whether it will help in your case. Here are the basics of what you need to know.

What Is Retinol?

Retinol is part of a larger group of retinoids, which are chemical compounds related to Vitamin A. Retinol is the one you’ll encounter most frequently, since it’s used in many over-the-counter products. Some retinol is actually produced naturally in the body, but some people’s skin may require more to achieve the desired results.

If the over-the-counter version isn’t enough to get rid of your acne, you can try a stronger retinoid such as Retin-A. These are by prescription only, and are used to treat more severe acne or skin damage.

How Does It Work?

Retinoids stimulate skin cell growth. The old cells die off and fall away rapidly, getting replaced by new, healthier cells. This helps acne in two ways. First, it removes dead cells that can get clogged in the pores, forming acne in the first place. It can also remove scars by sloughing away the dead tissue and replacing it with new growth.

Retinoids don’t work instantaneously. Most take several weeks to several months before you start to achieve the effects you want. Over-the-counter types like retinol will take a little longer to work than their prescription counterparts.

How to Get Started

If you’re considering using retinoids, talk to your dermatologist consultants in San Diego, CA, to see which type will be most effective for you. Although retinol is safe, it can cause some minor skin irritation and redness as the dead skin falls away. This is especially true when you first start using it.

Your dermatologist can give you other tips to make the process go more smoothly, as well. For instance, you shouldn’t use it before spending time in the sun, since your skin will be more susceptible to damage.