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Here’s everything you need to know about retinol, according to a dermatologist

Ellie Conley
·3-min read

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On In The Know’s “The Wellness Lab,” we bust common health myths and learn about the best products for keeping your health in tip top shape with our host, Dr. Alok Patel.

You may have heard of retinol, the skincare product that’s touted as an anti-aging miracle worker. Retinols can do a lot of things for our skin, from unclogging pores to improving breakouts to reducing fine lines and wrinkles. But which retinols are really the best for your skin?

Dr. Caroline Robinson joined Dr. Alok Patel on this episode of “The Wellness Lab” to talk about retinol and break down which products are best to purchase. Keep in mind, retinols are different from retinoids — retinoids are usually prescribed by a dermatologist (but not always), while retinols are a little bit weaker and are always available over-the-counter.

However, people with sensitive skin can still be irritated by retinols, Dr. Robinson says. You’ll want to choose your products wisely and be cautious when using a retinol for the first time.

In regards to when you should start using a retinol, Dr. Robinson said to start by the age of 25 or as you start to notice some fine lines creeping in around your eyes or mouth. (It’s important to note that retinol is not safe for use during pregnancy.) But no matter your age, it’s never too late to start using the skin product. Here are some of the top retinol products you can try if you want all of the anti-aging and clear skin benefits.

Shop: The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2 Percent Emulsion, $5.80

Credit: Sephora
Credit: Sephora

The Ordinary is known for creating really good skincare at an even better price. This product is specially formulated in an oil-free, alcohol-free serum that’s hydrating rather than irritating. “If you’re brand new to retinols, this is great place to start,” Dr. Robinson said.

However, this serum is so popular, it sells out pretty frequently. If you can’t wait for a restock, people rave about the brand’s retinol serum, especially for first time retinol users.

Shop: CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum, $16.97 (Orig. $17.99)

Credit: Amazon
Credit: Amazon

This retinol serum by CeraVe is a moisturizer and a retinol in one. “I really love this one because CeraVe, like all CeraVe products, incorporates three ceramides in it. Ceramides are these things that really, really hydrate the skin. When we talk about retinols and retinoids, we really need to talk about moisturizing. This is like a one-two step,” Dr. Robinson said. “This is great for the lazy retinol user.”

Shop: Biossance Squalane And Phyto-Retinol Serum, $72

Credit: Sephora
Credit: Sephora

Biossance is a Belgian company that makes top-quality skincare—and this serum is no different. It contains an ingredient called bakuchiel, which is a plant-derived retinol. “It’s going to give you the benefits of a retinol without the irritation,” Dr. Robinson said.

For more questions on retinols, talk to your own board-certified dermatologist and check out this episode of “The Wellness Lab” posted above.

If you enjoyed this article, check out what Dr. Robinson had to say about choosing the right sunscreen for your skin.

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