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What Is Retinol and How to Use It: Best Retinol Products

She also says to stick with gentle cleansers (she likes CeraVe), and to always follow your retinol with a moisturizer, especially those with hyaluronic acid and ceramides. If your skin is really irritated, you can try buffering, where you apply moisturizer before retinol to reduce side effects. Most derms also recommend easing into retinol, starting with application once a week, and working up to every other or every night, depending on how tolerant your skin is.

No matter what, “a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ should be worn religiously every day of the year, not only to prevent skin cancers, wrinkles, and sun spots, but because retinoids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun,” says Marchbein.

When should you start using retinol?

Just because retinol is an effective ingredient for some, don’t feel like you absolutely need to use it. “Retinol is not for everyone, and it should not be considered something that is a must—some people cannot tolerate it, and some don’t want to commit to a complex skin regimen,” says Kant. “But for those who are motivated, I would say starting a retinol product in your mid- to late-20s is reasonable, as long as a daily moisturizer with sunscreen has been part of the plan since your teen years. Prevention comes first!” If you’re still new to daily skin care and sun protection, start by getting those basics in place for a few months before diving in to a more complex regimen.

How long does it take to see a difference in your skin?

Like any new skin care product, it takes a little time to see major results from retinol. Marchebin says around four to six weeks is average, and for acne, it can take up to 12 for full improvement. “When used for antiaging, in the short term, retinoids help open pores and give your skin a healthy glow by removing dead skin cells off the surface,” she says. “Over the long-term—six months and beyond—they help grow new collagen and elastin, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and lighten brown pigmentation.”

What are the best retinols to use?

Since getting the intel on retinol, I’ve begun using the stuff three times a week, and it’s now as essential to my nighttime routine as a tube of toothpaste (I stick with Shani Darden Retinol Reform, which is a godsend). After layering it on consistently for the past six months, the fine lines around my eyes have diminished, and the pesky acne spots around my cheeks and forehead have almost disappeared. Shop some of the other top-recommended retinols from experts below.

If you have sensitive skin…

CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Cream Serum

CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Cream Serum

$18

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Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil

Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil

$105

Buy Now

If aging is your top concern…

Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Facial Serum

Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Facial Serum

$39

Buy Now

Estée Lauder Perfectionist Pro Rapid Renewal Retinol Treatment

Estée Lauder Perfectionist Pro Rapid Renewal Retinol Treatment

$82

Buy Now

If you want to fight acne…

Kate Somerville EradiKate Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment

Kate Somerville EradiKate Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment

$58

Buy Now

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

$14

Buy Now

Ole Henriksen Glow Cycle Retin-ALT Power Serum

Ole Henriksen Glow Cycle Retin-ALT Power Serum

$58

Buy Now

Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum

Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum

$54

Buy Now

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