Chances are, you’ve heard about the wrinkle-reducing benefits of retinol, but might not understand exactly what this hero ingredient is—or everything it can do for your skin. In essence, retinol belongs to the class of ingredients known as retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A. Retinol works to stimulate collagen production and accelerate skin turnover, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and fading acne marks, discoloration and blemishes in the process. You’ll find retinol as a star ingredient in many anti-aging serums and creams.
Given retinol’s impressive benefits, it’s a favorite among many dermatologists. To help you understand retinol and how best to use it, we asked top dermatologists to dig deeper into how to make retinol work for your skin.
How to Apply Retinol for Best Results
As effective as retinol is when it comes to reversing damage, how you apply it can affect the results you see. Because this product can cause skin to dry out and sometimes turn red, it’s best to talk to your dermatologist before starting a retinol regimen. Most dermatologists advise to start with products that contain a low concentration (0.25% or 0.3%) of the ingredient first and see how your skin reacts before moving to higher concentrations.
Here’s how to incorporate retinol into your skin care routine:
Step 1: Wash your face and apply eye cream. An eye cream will help protect the delicate skin around your eyes.
Step 2: Wait a few minutes until your skin is completely dry. This is important, because if your skin is at all damp, the retinol will be able to absorb more deeply into your skin and might cause irritation. We want to apply moisturizers and serums to slightly damp skin, but never retinol.
Step 3: Take a pea-size amount of your retinol and, starting at your chin, apply with your fingertips in upward and outward motions.
Step 4: Finish with your moisturizer.
Step 5: Remember to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen the morning after, as retinol makes skin more sensitive to the sun.