What is Retinol?

When pressed with the best way to prevent aging skin, the answer is almost always the same: Botox and dermal filler can do wonders when administered properly, but they’re a personal choice.

But what is nonnegotiable, however, is retinol. A favorite among beauty editors, the much-hyped ingredient is often touted as an anti-aging miracle worker. Slather on retinol before bed to let it work its fine-line curbing, acne soothing, and skin firming magic, then wake up to a glowing complexion. Most dermatologists suggest starting in your mid-to-late 20s, and yet many quickly abandon their retinol regime entirely when confronted with the dreaded “retinol burn,” a flaky affliction that’s all too real for those with sensitive skin. So, why we tapped the experts to discover the best retinols for sensitive skin.

As magical as retinol can be, striking the right balance with the powerful ingredient is crucial for achieving those glowy, optimal results. Continue reading below for the answers to all your burning questions, from buffering for sensitive skin to the best retinol for every concern.

So… what is Retinol?

Retinol is a type of retinoid, a class of chemical compound derived from Vitamin A, which increases the production of collagen and promotes cell turnover. Simply put: retinol is a form of Vitamin A that’s available in over-the-counter skincare products.

How does Retinol work & why?

One of retinol’s superpowers is the ingredient’s ability to speed up cell turnover, which keeps sluggish skin cells from becoming trapped in pores (which can cause inflammation), leading to brighter, fresher skin. It’s anti-aging benefits are due to repair of cellular damage and normalization of the cells in the top layer of the skin. When cells are turning over at a healthy rate, skin appears smooth and glowing instead of rough and dull.

Is Retinol safe to use on sensitive skin?

Ultimately, retinol is safe to use on all skin types, but little adjustments—like starting slow or buffering your retinol—may be helpful for first-timers. Retinol gets a bad reputation for causing irritation to sensitive skin. While this can be true, it’s all about formulation. Prescription-strength Retin-A or tretinoin can be a little intense, which is why it’s very important to start slow.

For more sensitive skin types, we recommend looking for Retinal/Retinaldehyde. This derivative usually offers amazing results while causing less irritation. If you’re still nervous, you can start by buffering your Retinol product by applying it after your moisturizer.

What are the side effects of Retinol?

Though flaking is never pleasant, it’s important to remember that a little bit is completely normal when you begin using a product as strong as retinol. Your skin needs to adjust to retinol. In the beginning, some may experience drying, flaking, and maybe some redness. This is temporary, but like previously stated, always start slow (one to three times a week) in the beginning.

How often should you use Retinol?

As your skin adjusts, you can work up to using retinol daily, as long as you’re not seeing side effects. Of course, this depends on what kind of formulation of retinoid you’re using. The best plan of action is to adhere to what your esthetician or medical professional suggests. Also, be sure to only apply retinol products at night, and remember to wear plenty of sunscreen during the day.

Are there delicate areas to avoid when using Retinol?

The neck and chest area tend to be more prone to irritation when it comes to things like retinol or exfoliation says Miller but those areas can still receive the ingredient. After applying retinol to your face, he recommends using any leftover product on your neck and chest to slowly introduce the ingredient. For the delicate skin under the eyes, look for formulations of retinol that have a lower potency and a moisturizing base.

Keep scrolling for the best Retinols for every stage & concern

The product contains a retinol that is slow release, allowing gentle penetration into the skin with fewer side effects.
The best retinol take for first-timers and those with sensitive skin into consideration, but Osmosis MD’s Calm formula for its patented, non-inflammatory Vitamin A and moisture-boosting nature.
One of our favorite drugstore lotion brands offers an anti-aging serum (infused with ceramides for a little extra boost) that’s perfect for those looking to dip their toes into retinol.
With a unique formulation of five peptides, which have similar firming effects to retinol without the harshness, the Eye Doctor tackles dark circles and fine lines gently, making it one of the best retinols for sensitive skin.
Designed for oily skin types, this potent retinol breaks up clogged pores effectively and contains other ingredients to treat and prevent discoloration from pimples.
One of the best over-the-counter products for treating acne, Differin has a bit of a cult following for those who have regular brushes with acne. We recommend the gel for both treating acne and restoring the skin’s texture and tone.
Delivering Vitamin A in its acidic form (and just a touch of Vitamin C), this product for its highly effective nature making it one of the best retinols for sensitive skin.
This product combines retinol and niacinamide for resurfacing with potent brightening effects.
This product contains a gentle retinol and exfoliating lactic acid to smooth uneven texture without dryness.
This gentle serum comes highly recommended for first-time retinol users. Formulated with sensitive skin in mind, the VERSED product delivers all the positive effects of the “holy grail” ingredient without leaving your skin in a panic. It’s definitely one of the best retinols for sensitive skin.

Protecting your skin is very important because it acts as barrier to protect the body from invasion by bacteria and other possible environmental hazards that can be dangerous for human health. It’s never too late to start protecting your skin and hope these serum products will help keep your skin feeling refreshed, moisturized, and glowing!

Stay safe, healthy and live life to the fullest.

Xoxo, Messycafe.


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