What if you could get your skin to produce more collagen, improve blood flow, decrease pigmentation and reduce acne and the appearance of wrinkles? According to dermatologists and decades of research, using a retinol product can make your skin do all of that and more.
But shopping for retinols can leave you overwhelmed, and if your derm can prescribe you a stronger version, shouldn’t you just use that? The world of retinols can be confusing, but some products come more highly recommended than others.
Over-the-counter retinols come in gels, creams, oils and serums, ranging in strength from 0.01% up to 2%. Board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor Michele Green told HuffPost it’s all about choosing the right strength and formula for your skin type.
“For fine lines you can use a product that contains 0.01% retinol if you have dry or sensitive skin. You want to see how your skin reacts to the product, so it’s best to start at a low percentage,” she said. “The product’s form does not make a difference; the patient’s skin type makes a difference. Most creams contain some moisturising ingredients. These may clog pores, but if your skin is dry or sensitive, a retinol cream would be a better option. A serum retinol is better suited for people that have oily or acne-prone skin, as most serums are water-based.”
Also, pay attention to whether the product you’re interested in says it contains a retinol or retinoid.
“Retinol is a little weaker, but the advantage to using a retinol is it’s a lot more tolerable,” said Payam Saadat, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Burbank, California, and on staff at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. “If someone has sensitive skin, it may be better to start with a retinol and graduate to a retinoid once their skin gets used to it. Prescription-strength tends to be 10 to 100 times stronger than OTC (over-the-counter) retinol.”
Kristen Stewart, a board-certified dermatologist at Total Dermatology Care Center in Jacksonville, Florida, added that you should only purchase retinol products that come in opaque, lightproof packaging. Be sure to snag some SPF while you’re at the store, too.
“The reason we use retinol at night is because it’s not photostable, so it needs to be packaged in lightproof aluminum packaging. Even check the opening to the tube. A pump would help the shelf life because it allows less oxidation, or a small size to the opening of the tube is also good,” she said. “For both anti-aging and acne, you need to pair it with sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. If you’re not using sunscreen, don’t spend your money on the retinol.”
Here are the products four dermatologists from around the country send their patients out to buy after their appointments, and where you can get your hands on them.
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Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne TreatmentDifferin
RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night CreamRoC
Piel MD Age-Defying Night SerumPiel MD
The OrdinaryThe Ordinary
Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Anti-Wrinkle Deep Wrinkle Night MoisturizerNeutrogena
Colbert MD Illumino Face OilColbert MD
Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol CreamDrunk Elephant