When it comes to skincare, I think we all know the blockbuster ingredients. Vitamin C. Hyaluronic Acid. CBD.
But one ingredient stands out among the rest. Retinol. It is the anti-aging superstar. But what do we know about it beyond the name? Let's take a deep dive into the world of retinol and what exactly it can do for you and your skin.
For starters, retinol (and its cousin retinoids) is a type of Vitamin A. In easy-to-understand terms, this vitamin links arms with your skin cells and makes your skin cells start acting like teenagers. The cells start acting younger, so they increase collagen production, which is vital for the structure of our skin. This increase in cell turnover can also lead to brighter complexions, tightened pores, diminished fine lines and wrinkles, and a decrease in active acne. I'd say that's quite an impressive resume!
The only downside to retinol is that it can irritate the skin if you go too heavy too quickly when starting out. The cells can become irritated at the increased turnover and cause redness, dryness, and other irritation. It is suggested to ease into using retinol in your routine to give your skin time to adjust to it.
Should full-strength retinols cause your skin too much irritation, there are also great alternatives for them on the market. Essentially, Vitamin A heavy skincare, such as rosehip oil, or bakuchiol serums, can offer a gentler Vitamin A delivery to the skin, without the sensitivity that heavy active retinol may have. These alternatives can be very useful, but they will not be a potent or fast-acting as true retinol.
When shopping for skincare products containing retinol, it's important to remember that price does not always indicate efficacy. Skincare these days is available to all budgets, so don't feel like you have to splurge to get results. Another thing to note, retinol is often indicated for use at night, as it can break down in the sunlight. Why not have your skincare work for you while you're sleeping?
Here are a few of my favorite retinol and retinol-alternative skincare products:
Overall Best Retinol Retinol: Kate Somerville Retinol Vitamin C Moisturizer ($98)
This is my personal favorite in way of a retinol-containing moisturizer. It's a thicker cream, so it's meant to be used overnight. I love that it combines my favorite ingredient, Vitamin C, with retinol to really pack a punch of moisture and wrinkle fighting. I always feel like my skin looks more radiant and wrinkle-free with this one. My face isn't without its flaws, but this moisturizer is so effective at combating fine lines, discoloration, and dullness. It also has hyaluronic acid included, so hydration stays top notch while using.
Best Drug Store Retinol: L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum with 0.3% Pure Retinol ($35)
L'Oreal combines pure retinol with hyaluronic acid to keep skin hydrated while getting right to business. I've tried this retinol previously and found it was very effective. I would start off slow on this serum as it does have a good concentration of retinol, so newbies should use it every other day or every few days to give your skin time to adjust. After just ten days I noticed my skin looked much smoother and younger. I used this up to the last drop and am so glad it is such a good price, so I can replenish my stocks on my next trip to Target.
Best Retinol Packaging: Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask ($49)
Another favorite of mine is the adorable Glow Recipe sleeping mask. It comes in a green, lumpy jar that is very reminiscent of an avocado. Beyond aesthetics, it is a very hydrating formulation. Read the reviews on any beauty site and you'll see many happy users of this mask. I prefer it for times when I'd rather my retinol be a little more gentle. They also have a matching eye mask that can help target those fine lines around the eye area.
Best High-End Retinol: Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream ($250)
Sulwhasoo is a high-end Korean beauty brand that is making waves in the skincare community. They combine natural and highly-concentrated ingredients to make potent and effective skincare. Their Ginseng Renewal Cream is one I've had the pleasure to sample (certainly not the full-size) and it has so many wonderful qualities. It smells incredible and absorbs like a dream onto the skin. The brand suggests warming it in your palms and then gently pressing it on the skin. I found my skin looked smoother and brighter after one use. I don't know if it's because I bought into the hype, or if it truly works that quickly. I guess I need to try the full size to give an honest comparison.