Keep Your Skin Forever Young

Is retinol part of your beauty routine? It should be. It's the key to maintaining fresh, glowing, and supple skin without costly (and sometimes scary) procedures. Learn the basics of this powerhouse ingredient—from an all-knowing expert!—and see how you can integrate it at home.

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One of the very few disadvantages of having extremely funny friends? One day, you may have laugh lines. Those dreamy beach vacations? They could lead to sunspots. But these things can all be taken care of before they happen, thanks to the power of skin-firming and rejuvenating retinol.

For beginners, retinol only has to be applied a couple times a week. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images
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In fact, the mighty ingredient is composed of a nutrient we're all familiar with. "Retinol is pure vitamin A, which has been demonstrated to reverse both the signs of intrinsic aging, which is genetic, as well as extrinsic aging, which is environmental," explains Annet King, the senior director of global education for top skin-care brand Dermalogica.

"This ingredient will keep skin firm while replenishing cells to transform a tired, lackluster outer layer into a bright and radiant surface." — Annet King

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Although retinol is proven to perform age-defying tricks, it's a complicated ingredient that should be used with caution. That's why we asked King to outline a simple guide to understanding and applying it.

Read King's tips below and find out what retinol can do for you! 

You can find retinol in a number of anti-aging night creams and eye treatments. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

What It Actually Does  

Vitamins and minerals are known to impact skin's appearance, but none of them achieve results like retinol. "Studies have shown that retinol significantly restores the structural integrity of the skin, accelerating cell turnover and renewal, stimulating collagen production, and improving epidermal thickness," King says. 

Retinol also curbs early signs of sun damage, but make sure to always wear sunscreen! Photograph courtesy of Getty Images
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Don't be deterred if your skin has a reaction to initial treatments. "If someone hasn't used retinol, they may experience some sensitivity and peeling in the first two weeks," she says. "However, line smoothing, plumpness, and other noticeable improvements are seen by most users within just a few weeks of using."

Add a retinol product to your normal lineup of cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images
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Where to Start

Because retinol can cause irritation, you'll want to gradually integrate it into your routine. "Start with small concentrations of retinol application on alternating nights to build up natural retinoid receptors and a tolerance to the ingredient over time," King recommends. "Once a tolerance has been built, each person can take a personalized approach, depending on skin's comfort level, type, and condition."

"Retinol is pure vitamin A, which has been demonstrated to reverse both the signs of intrinsic aging, which is genetic, as well as extrinsic aging, which is environmental." — Annet King

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Sunscreen is an important part of any routine, but this is especially true when using retinol. "Only use [retinol] at night to ensure stability," King says, adding, "retinol breaks down when in contact with sunlight." That means the potent ingredient can weaken the skin's barrier, which in turn makes skin more vulnerable during sun exposure. King suggests using a formula that's SPF 30 or higher, and if you can, wearing a wide-brimmed hat while outdoors. 

Dab a small amount on your face for a couple days a week and watch your skin's appearance improve. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

When to Use It 

You don't necessarily have to be in a particular age group to reap the benefits of retinol. "There is no set age—it's all about when you notice the first signs of aging," King says. "A 20 year old who has had significant UV exposure might want to begin using retinol a few times a week or you might be in your late thirties before first using." 

Do your research on the different types of retinol-rich products out there. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

No matter where you are on the age spectrum, always consult your dermatologist first.

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Find your new favorite anti-aging wonder from the shopping list below. 

Eye Treatments

Age Reversal Eye Complex, $78, dermalogica.com.
Benefiance WrinkleResist24 Pure Retinol Express Smoothing Eye Mask, $63, shiseido.com.
Advanced Retinol Eye Cream, $75, strivectin.com.
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Serums

Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum by RoC, $20, target.com.
Retinol Fusion PM, $65, peterthomasroth.com.
Bio Retinoid Anti-Aging Concentrate by Ren, $60, spacenk.com.

Creams

Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer, $21, neutrogena.com.
Retinol 1.0 Maximum Strength Refining Night Cream, $72, skinceuticals.com.
Ruby Crystal Retinol Hydrocrème, $65, drbrandtskincare.com.
Retinol Cream 2.5%, $55, passporttoorganics.com.
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Special Treatments

RetAsphere Micro Peel Retinol Glycolic Treatment, $90, katesomerville.com.
Dark Spot Fix by Verso, $150, barneys.com.
Primed and Poreless Primer, $30, toofaced.com.
Advanced Retinol Day Treatment with Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $99, birchbox.com.
Vitamin C + Retinol Mask, $50, emerginc.com.

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