Retinol has been perfecting skin for years, and it's largely because of its effect on collagen. That's right, the multifaceted power of retinol is directly linked to collagen deep in the skin. The visible results everyone raves about when they use retinol have a hidden collagen connection. In fact, retinol and collagen aren't at odds at all; they work hand-in-hand to help improve skin health and longevity.

Though the actual fountain of youth remains elusive, retinol is one of several ingredients that seem to have tapped into it. It's also conveniently available in face creams, serums, and more at your dermatologist or favorite beauty retailer. Even researchers support retinol's glowing skin effects.

Turning back time

Since it first debuted on the market in the 1970s, retinol for skin has been a dermatologist darling. It is a type of retinoid and also known as vitamin A. After retinol or a prescription retinoid is applied on skin, skin enzymes convert it into retinoic acid. In the form of retinoic acid, it can get to work at the cellular level, including stimulating collagen production.

Collagen keeps skin glowing, firm, and smooth. It is found in the skin, deep in the dermis, as well as in connective tissues like tendons and ligaments. As we age, we slowly lose collagen and elasticity and, as a result, wrinkles, sagging skin, and more, emerge.

What collagen and retinol can do

Name a skin concern, and it's likely collagen and retinol serums can fix it. Uneven texture? Check. Wrinkles? Check. Discoloration and uneven skin tone? Check. Dry skin? Check. Acne? Check. You get the gorgeous, glowing picture.

These results aren't limited to rave reviews from happy customers. There is solid research from randomized, controlled, double-blind studies to prove it works. And, retinol works very well maintaining glowing and firm skin.

Topical retinol in serums and face creams is effective because it is a key component in healthy skin. As retinoic acid, it increases cell turnover, which means it reduces breakouts and improves skin tone. The result is a glowing complexion.

Collagen is another key component in healthy, youthful skin. Unfortunately the collagen molecule is too large to penetrate the dermis. That means the skin can't actually absorb it from topical products. As a result, collagen-packed serums don't pack as effective a punch as those with retinol.

Instead, retinol serves as the topical shortcut to influence collagen production. It simultaneously increases collagen production and protects the skin from future damage. That combination means skin looks and acts younger.

What's more, it reduces visible wrinkles and brown spots, both tell-tale signs of aging. Retinol also increases glycosaminoglycans in the skin. That results in stronger, better-hydrated skin. The dream team of retinol and collagen produces a dreamy complexion.

Side effects to watch out for

All the power retinol unleashes on the skin also brings along some pesky side effects. As skin adjusts to a new retinol regimen, it can get dry, flaky, and tight. Annoying, yes, but these problems are temporary and aren't truly harmful.

Side effects are most noticeable with more concentrated retinol and prescription retinoic acid when first starting out on a retinol regimen. As your skin acclimates, it slowly builds a tolerance to retinol and the side effects subside.

However, no matter how long you've used retinol, the skin will always be more vulnerable. As a result, it's susceptible to UV damage. Plus, retinol makes certain facials and laser treatments are off limits.

Though collagen face creams and serums sound like a smart way to enhance collagen in the skin, they simply aren't as effective. If you want to kickstart collagen, a retinol serum is the way to go. Retinol has the power to impact collagen and maintain healthy, glowing skin. So which one, retinol or collagen, is better for promoting youthful skin? Quite simply, both.

About the Author

Jennifer is a New York City-based contributing writer focusing on wellness, spa, and travel. Her work has appeared in BudgetTravel.com, ApartmentTherapy.com, American Spa, GoodHousekeeping.com, and more. Jennifer previously worked at American Spa, American Salon, and InStyle magazines. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she earned a a degree in Journalism and minor in Psychology.