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Ingredient Decoder: Retinol

Photo: All Women Stalk

I started using retinol creams at the ripe old age of 21. It wasn’t because I had a lifetime’s worth of wrinkles to erase; I had just read a slew of magazine articles touting retinol as a miracle skin saver for all sorts of issues. A quick refresher: retinol is Vitamin A in its purest form, and dermatologists call it the topical gold standard for anti-aging, reversing sun damage, and refining skin.Since my brown spots and visible pores pushed me into the category of early adopters, I picked up a pricey cream with a portion of my textbook allowance.

That night, in the temporary privacy of an empty dorm bathroom, I slathered the cream all over my face. I didn’t see any results the next morning, so I repeated the slathering process. Ditto with that night. A day later, I suddenly woke up to red, flaky skin that made me look like the victim of a bad chemical peel. Luckily, this story ends happily—I learned how to use retinol cream the right way, and you can too.

Here are my essential retinol tips:

  •  If you’re new to retinol, or if it’s been a while since you last used the product, start off by using it every other day, in the mornings or evenings. Gradually increase the frequency as your skin adjusts.
  • Check the ingredient list. The further down you see retinol listed, the smaller the percentage there is. Who wants to pay for a bunch of fillers?
  • Air and light are retinol’s worst enemies since they cause it lose potency. Look for a package that’s opaque and as airtight as possible. Tubes and pump dispensers are better bets than jars. I like RoC Deep Wrinkle Serum, Philosophy Help Me, and Skinceuticals Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream.
  • Use retinol as a spot treatment by dabbing it on sun spots and fine lines.
  • Retinol can dry out skin, so always layer it under a moisturizer like Philosophy Hope in a Jar or Jurlique Purely Age-Defying Night Lotion.
  •  When you’re using retinol products, never go outside without wearing SPF 30 or higher.

Follow these guidelines, and your skin will thank you!

-Mai

When it comes to wrinkles, prevention is key. Find out which anti-aging products you should be using in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.

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