How does Retinol work and what is it supposed to do?

19 June 2023
Categories: Blog, Esthetic Education

The History of Retinol, Vitamin A Through the Eyes of a Licensed Professional.

Speaking as a licensed professional promoting and recommending retinol, tretinoin, and retinoic acid, either through a professional skincare line or through physician offices since 1990. Retin-A became the ultimate wrinkle cream. Everyone including physicians could not wait to prescribe it for everyone. It was a miracle for removing age spots, and wrinkles, as well as providing instant gratification. You couldn’t go wrong.

Everyone was jumping on the speed train, literally the A-Train. But as the British say, “Mind the Gap”. We got so busy seeing wrinkles and pigmentation marks disappearing, that no one thought of the repercussions of maybe “more is not better”.

As a professional, I was treating women either on birth control, in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, as well as treating acne conditions. Some cosmetic dermatologists were prepping the skin with Retinoic/tretinoin acid and a skin lightener “hydroquinone”. That was the formula used by so many before LASER, CO2, Erbium, or 35% TCA Peels (No one had post-protocols) doctors just winged it. Aquaphor was the answer to everything. It seems extremely archaic now but then that is what supposedly worked.

My experience example 1: Physician office

A 40-year-old woman from Ireland, living in Florida. Fitzpatrick II, freckles, marathon runner (must run every day, outside, avid runner), on birth control, and getting married in 3 months’ time. 

  1. Wants to eliminate her melasma mask 
  2. The doctor prescribes Retin-A with hydroquinone at night and hydroquinone for AM under her chemical (Avobenzone) sunscreen. She is to use Retin-A and hydroquinone at night and use the hydroquinone three times a week for day time.
  3. This routine was setting her up for a 35% TCA peel. Generally, she would have had plenty of time to recover if everything went as planned.

Can you see the train wreck coming…Everyone wants the speed train. Well, to summarize she was a train wreck. She was Irish (freckles, fair, and thin skin), a marathon runner (avid runner not going to give it up), wearing chemical sunscreen (not the best one), and just received a TCA peel. So what happened?


  1. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (melasma was more present than ever) discoloration patches were all over. There was nothing “even” about her skin. If you were her would you have freaked out? Why yes she did.
  2. The doctor came up to me and asked me to take over. This is how I felt at the time. It is like taking a 35 lb overweight Beagle to the Vet and asking the Veterinarian to fix it in one day. Well just like that veterinarian, I asked the same thing, “What do you want me to do with that?” and “What were you thinking?” “The damage was too great” to fix in 4-5 weeks.

How did I fix it? I didn’t, but I did make an impact. Therefore she was very happy.

  1. Saw her twice a week for 3 weeks performing these various steps:
    • First Week: RED LED Light 20 minutes (twice that week) after a very mild lactic acid (one-time that week) and after a papaya enzyme (the second time that same week) for additional brighteners the first week. 3 days apart.
    • Second Week: RED LED Light 20 minutes (twice that week) after a light, very little suction microdermabrasion (once that week). 3-days apart then after a papaya enzyme exfoliant.
    • Third week: RED LED Light 20 minutes (twice that week) after dermaplaning with papaya enzyme (one -time the last week) and finally Papaya enzyme (the last treatment). 3 days apart.

Giving her a total of “6 treatments”. Her skin was lighter, hydrated, and smooth, and all she needed was a medium-weight tinted foundation. Like I said she was happy.

How did I get involved?

This is when I learned about surface irritations and what happens to the skin dermally. How surface irritations enhanced photodamaging, cell degradation, and sensitivity to the skin’s immunity, thereby increasing skin aging. Yes, surface irritations promote skin stress. So why are we still using Retinols that cause surface sensitivity?

Well, frankly that is still the go-to for cell regeneration. It works. But what has evolved and changed is formulas. Formulas have become smarter, more thoughtful, and mindful of the skin’s health.

Retinol Level 1 and 2 are the grown-up of today.

This is why we asked our laboratory to develop a smart retinol taking the best of our Vita A Lift and Vita A + C and making it work smarter. So they did. After a lot of trials, we are extremely happy to announce the newest generation of Retinol.

We discovered three things:

  1. A retinol cream does not have to be used every day. In fact, it is much more beneficial to use it once, twice, or three times a week on a consistent basis. That is the key to consistency. Not overuse. The skin has a peak and a cool down, which is the key to skin building. Clients may use Retinol Level 1 and 2 (2-3 days apart) for skin building without the skin stress.
  2. Skin probiotics work, Lactococcus Fermet Lysate is a skin builder, that protects against cell degradation. Therefore protects the skin from cellular environmental damage.
  3. Building skin integrity from the inside out. You do not have to have skin irritation to activate cellular responses including collagen proteins. It is a fact. A day of peeling is no longer needed to wake up the activity of the skin. Nope, not at all.

So in a nutshell this product is tremendous, like no other retinol. Healthy skin is youthful skin, so exercise your skin with Retinol Level 1 and 2 from Skin for Life.

Click below to view the steps for morning and night. The client’s perspective.

Client Morning and Night Instruction Card


  1. kristen ruel says:

    I have been using the product and I am loving it. I have noticed a difference in the texture and the smoothness. Friends and family are asking what I am doing. I am excited to start with the Level 2 soon.

    • Freda Mills says:

      Thank you Kristen for sharing your experience. Yes, this is the most innovative retinol system in the esthetic industry today. Working the skin from the inside out, building strength and tone. It is possible with our new retinol to have a beautiful flawless appearance, everyday!

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Retinol Level 1 and 2 skincare kit