The history of Retinol in skincare

The history of Retinol in skincare

Having been knocked through the waves of popularity over the years, it’s fair to say that Retinol has had somewhat of a turbulent history in skincare. Although we swear by its anti-ageing prowess now, it’s taken decades of development and innovation to reach that point.

The use of retinoids in topical treatments dates back as far as the 30s and 40s, but many will remember Retinol as the aggressive anti-ager of 90s skincare. Even now, people are haunted by memories of flaky, irritated skin.

Thankfully, after years of refinement, Retinol has been crafted into a much gentler form that still packs the same anti-ageing punch without the skin-stripping side effects. This caused somewhat of a resurgence in Retinol usage throughout the 2010s with the New York Times reporting record sales of Retinol serums and Retinol creams in 2019.*

So, after all the ups and downs, it appears the currents have finally settled for the clinically proven anti-ager.

Retinol through the ages…

Retinol and retinoic acid belong to a family of compounds known as retinoids, and their history can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where liver (which contains retinoids) was used to treat night blindness. 


It was first isolated in the 1930s, but in a very unstable form that was easily broken down by sunlight and oxygen. In order to fix this, Retinoic Acid was developed and the first study using retinoids to treat acne was published in 1943.


Tretinoin, the retinoid most used today, was first used topically for skin conditions in 1958 and its use in anti-aging treatments was pioneered in the 1980s.

These days, Retinol is an essential in most anti-ageing skincare routines because of its ability to increase cellular turnover, create new collagen proteins, fade pigmentation, and soften rough patches of skin.

At 111SKIN, we use only the purest, most concentrated form of Retinol and always recommend building up your tolerance. We also pride ourselves on delivering safe and effective formulas, so all our Retinol products undergo thorough clinical testing.

Our Intensive Range is formed from a plethora of Retinol-rich formulas. For those looking to enhance their routine with a powerful anti-ageing product contains, our Celestial Black Diamond Retinol Oil is a potent overnight treatment. Made with 1% retinol, this luxurious formula boosts your skin’s natural cellular regeneration processes to reveal a brighter, smoother, younger-looking complexion.

And, because we understand that high-percentage Retinol serums and creams are often associated with irritation, we’ve suspended the Retinol in a blend of eight natural oils – including Poppy Seed and Sweet Almond Oils. This ensures you only experience the best of its effects.

As opinions surrounding retinol can be polarising, the rest of our Intensive Collection contains Retinyl Palmitate – one of the gentlest derivatives of Retinol. Perfect for those with sensitive skin, it boasts all the anti-ageing effects of Vitamin A that we’ve come to know and love without causing irritation.

PRO TIP: It’s best to introduce Retinol into your routine gradually and always use SPF. Retinol essentially creates new skin, so it is even more important to protect it against harmful UV radiation and oxidative stress.

*https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/14/style/retinol-questions-answers.html

Back to blog