Why Now is the Perfect Time to Start a Retinol Routine

Why Now is the Perfect Time to Start a Retinol Routine

There's no better product to kickstart a new beauty regime with than retinol, the holy grail of skincare. Here are 8 over-the-counter buys we're currently loving.

See recent posts by Megan Wood

Retinol is the holy grail of skincare. Dermatologists prescribe the vitamin A derivative because it does triple duty and delivers fast results. When applied topically, retinol stimulates collagen production and cell turnover to reduce the appearance of fine lines, lightens acne scars and sun spots, and unclogs pores to minimize acne. If you can’t get to your derm right now for a full-strength retinol prescription, there are several high-quality over-the-counter retinoid products (with a lower dose of retinol) that work exceedingly well.

Retinol Tips and Tricks

Sadly, retinol does have its drawbacks. “Retinoid uglies” are a real thing. As the skin adjusts, side effects can include dryness, peeling, and skin irritation, and some people may see their acne flare up during the initial purge process. That’s why quarantine is the prefect time to start a retinol routine. You’re seeing fewer people, wearing less makeup, and not in the sun. But before you start applying this miracle product to your face, you’ll want to keep a few tips in mind.

  • If you have sensitive skin, look for retinol products with .25 percent. One percent is the highest concentrate you can buy without a prescription, and it’s pretty powerful stuff.
  • Don’t skip the sunscreen! Even if you’re staying indoors or it’s a cloudy day, protect your face with SPF while using retinol (though, if we’re being honest, you should always protect your skin with SPF).
  • Use a pearl-size amount for the entire face. Using more than directed will definitely cause irritation.
  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser, like Cetaphil. Avoid anything with salicylic acid or scrubbing ingredients.
  • After you apply retinol, moisturize with a thick and gentle moisturizer, like CeraVe.
  • Start slow. Use a retinol product every third night for the first few weeks, and increase to every other night once redness and irritation subside.
  • Stick with it. You’ll get the best results after two or three months of regular retinol use.

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Face Serum

Developed with dermatologists, CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum is a gentle way to incorporate retinol into your skin care routine. The formula features three essential ceramides that also help to repair the protective skin barrier.

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Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream

Drunk Elephant has a cult following, and we love their A-Passioni Retinol Cream for its powerful one-percent vegan retinol. It improves the look and texture of skin and prevents damage done by daily exposure to UV rays, pollution, and free radicals.

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The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

Want to try retinol on a budget without sacrificing results? Turn to The Ordinary. For around five bucks, you’ll get a water-free serum that contains 0.2 percent of pure retinol. That’s way less than the cost of an insurance copay. 

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SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex .25

If you want to avoid (or at least reduce) the redness and peeling that comes with retinol, check out SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex .25. The low dose of retinol works to renew the skin’s tone and texture with minimal irritation. 

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Olay Regenerist Retinol 24Night Serum

Looking for retinol results in a gentle night serum? Check out Olay Regenerist Retinol 24. It’s a fan favorite for incorporating Vitamin B3 into the overnight formula — and delivers hydration that lasts a full day. 

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Paula's Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Acne sufferers have long turned to Paula’s Choice products for skincare relief, so it’s no surprise that the beloved brand has a powerful one percent retinol product. It goes on like a lotion, and licorice and oat extract work to soothe skin. 

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La Roche-Posay Pure Retinol Face Serum

High-end French skincare at drugstore prices is what makes La Roche-Posay a go-to. Their retinol serum is infused with Vitamin B3 and comes in a sanitary dropper bottle. 

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Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinol Serum

Sunday Riley goes above and beyond with a six-and-a-half percent solution of stabilized retinoid blends and botanical retinol-alternative extracts. You’ll want to go slow with this one, but the anti-aging results will come fast. 

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