When applied topically, retinol is absorbed into the skin and converted into retinoic acid, which is the active form of the vitamin. Retinoic acid binds to specific receptors in the skin, which triggers a cascade of events that ultimately leads to increased cell turnover and shedding of dead skin cells. This process helps to unclog pores and prevent the buildup of sebum that can lead to acne.
Retinol is particularly effective in treating adult hormonal acne because it can help to regulate the production of sebum, which is often overproduced due to hormonal imbalances. By promoting the shedding of dead skin cells and reducing inflammation, retinol can also help to prevent the formation of new acne lesions.