My introduction into skin care was around the age of 12 when my mom would give me her free gift with purchase (which was typically a bag of travel-sized products) after buying a powder or concealer at the Clinique counter. Since then, I've been fascinated with trying any new product I can get my hands on. However, when it comes to retinol, I've always been a tad apprehensive toward the intense formula. But after turning 25 a few months ago, I figured it was finally time to give the beloved ingredient a whirl. My pick: SkinCeuticals' Retinol 0.3. With a slew of iterations on the market, I went with a brand that has a good reputation among beauty enthusiasts and a product with a low percentage.
A few months after I entered my mid-20s, I started noticing fine lines forming on my forehead under my hairline. After hearing about all the wonders retinol can do for fine lines, I was confident this product would do the trick. Additionally, I decided to try the ingredient out to reduce the appearance of my acne scars and bumpy skin texture.
According to Dr. Tess Mauricio, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, 25 is an appropriate age to begin using retinol. "I am a big believer in incorporating retinol into your skin care regimen early," the dermatologist says. "If you ask any dermatologist what their favorite skin care product is, they will most likely say retinol for good reasons." She says the ingredient is proven to help with skin discoloration, texture, pore size, acne, fine lines, elasticity, sun damage, and overall skin quality.
If like me, you're new to retinol, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the different percentages available on the market. First off, Dr. Mauricio notes that retinol is a specific type of retinoid. "Retinoid is an umbrella term for the entire family of vitamin A derivatives, including over-the-counter products, which are the gentlest, and prescription treatments, which are the most potent." That said, there are various brands of retinol (like No7 and Drunk Elephant), and each can come in different strengths. "For the same brand of retinol, like SkinCeuticals, the higher the percentage, the more potent," she explains. "So, 0.3 is less potent than 0.5, which is less potent than 1.0. When you look at the evidence for retinols with higher than 0.3 percent, the skin benefits do not significantly increase, but the risk of irritation does become much greater."
For those dipping their toes into retinol, Dr. Mauricio recommends starting off by using it every other night for two weeks. "As long as your skin feels normal after initial usage, you can increase to every night," she says. If your skin is sensitive, she suggests applying the product two to three times a week on non-consecutive days. Those with more mature skin can use use retinol daily as tolerated. (One thing to note: If you have a condition that causes skin sensitivity such as rosacea, atopic dermatitis, or eczema, or have a history of allergies to retinols, Dr. Mauricio says you should stay away from the ingredient.)
I've been applying the SkinCeuticals formula consistently over the past two weeks, which Dr. Mauricio says is around the time it takes to start seeing changes in the skin. And with continued use, the dermatologist notes that the results will keep improving over time. "Retinol is not meant for spot treating, it truly is meant to be used long-term for best results," she explains.
I wouldn't say my skin was irritated by the product, however, in my first few days of retinol use I felt a slight tingly feeling after applying it. By the second week, however, that sensation was gone. Additionally, my face is prone to redness when it encounters certain products (like some at-home chemical peels), but that didn't occur after using this retinol.
Now, I'm not shy when it comes to talking about my long journey with acne and experience with prescription medication Accutane. Though I'm happy with how my skin looks now, I still have insecurities, particularly in regards to texture. Even after trying everything from a vitamin C serum to various exfoliants, I still have tiny bumps on my forehead and acne scars on my cheeks. However, after two weeks of using this retinol, I've seen some small improvements in these skin concerns. Both of these problem areas appear smoother and more even overall. Around that two-week mark, the fine lines on my forehead also became a bit less noticeable. Plus, I'm seeing a subtle glow to my complexion (proof above).
For my fellow retinol newbies, consider trying SkinCeutical's 0.3 percentage, too. I promise you won't be disappointed with the outcome.
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