What Is Pro-Retinol | Expert Insight

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With beauty brands, like Boscia and Glossier, releasing serums spotlighting pro-retinol, I couldn’t help but wonder if it is a professional while the retinol I’ve been using all along is simply an amateur? After chatting with board-certified dermatologists and cosmetic chemists, I learned that’s not the case at all. Turns out, pro-retinol, which is offered over the counter, eliminates the most hated side effects of retinoids while packing all the same collagen-stimulating, skin-smoothing results we’ve come to know and love from them. 

Wait, so what exactly is pro-retinol? 

To be more specific, pro-retinol is a fat-soluble ingredient derived from retinol. Retinol, for those unfamiliar, is a potent form of vitamin A that reduces the look of wrinkles and hyperpigmentation while firming, brightening, and plumping skin, according to cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson of BeautyStat.com

Pro-retinol is no different, offering the same anti-wrinkle and skin-regenerating properties. “It also been shown to improve skin moisture levels, altogether working to enhance the appearance and texture of one’s complexion, fine lines, and wrinkles,” Minneapolis board-certified dermatologist Jenny Liu tells Allure. Unlike retinol, though, this trending ingredient is milder and less irritating, Robinson adds. Your skin is less likely to freak out when you start incorporating pro-retinol into your skin-care routine. (When first implemented, retinol notoriously wreaks havoc on complexions with redness, flaking, and general discomfort before clearing them up.) 

In the past, pure retinol was combined with a fatty acid called palmitic acid to formulate pro-retinol, giving it the scientific name retinyl palmitate. However, recent iterations of pro-retinol incorporate sunflower fatty acids aka retinyl sunflowerate instead. 

Combining pure retinol with the gorgeous yellow flower makes pro-retinol more gentle than other retinoids and adds anti-inflammatory benefits to the collagen-building powerhouse, Connecticut board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara says. Teaming retinol up with sunflower fatty acids also makes pro-retinol a great option for people working their way into the world of retinoids or those who have skin too sensitive for pure retinol, she adds.

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