Why it’s an anti-aging super-star: “Retinol is derived from pure, bioactive vitamin A, and is a cell-communicating ingredient that can increase cell thickness, affect gene expression, increase the production of collagen from within, and thin the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin consisting mostly of dead cells),” Rouleau explains. “With continued use, retinol can dramatically improve the appearance of the skin and encourage a healthy maturation process. It helps smooth out the skin, while also reducing visible wrinkles, lines, enlarges pores, brown spots, and even scarring from acne.”
How to use it like a pro: Always use retinol at night, and apply a thin layer to your face after you cleanse and tone and before you add your moisturizer. Since retinol can trigger irritation (especially if you have sensitive skin), skin professionals recommend starting with twice-per-week usage, gradually increasing to three or four days a week as your skin grows more tolerant. “Patients with darker skin tend to be more prone to skin discoloration, so retinol needs to be introduced into their regimen slowly to allow the skin to accommodate to avoid irritation,” Spann clarifies.
Additionally, Libby suggests opting for a “retinol sandwich” for anyone who is especially concerned about irritation or sensitivity. First apply moisturizer, followed by your retinol, and then your moisturizer again.
Helpful hint: “Some initial dryness can occur in formulas with concentrations of 1% or higher, but not all formulas are made equally,” Rouleau clarifies. If you notice sensitivity or irritation, she recommends looking for a gentler formula and also reminds us that retinol is not recommended if you’re nursing or pregnant. (For more helpful tips regarding retinol, check out Rouleau’s blog post, here.)