These 4 Products Were My Intro to Retinols 101

I wouldn’t touch the stuff for fear that my face would essentially peel off if touched by its superpower cellular turnover strength.
Publish date:
December 6, 2016
murad, retinol, dr. dennis gross, skincare products, Pestle & Mortar, Karyng

For some, retinol is a really scary word in skin care. And I’m not going to lie, there was a time in my life where I wouldn’t touch the stuff for fear that my face would essentially peel off if touched by its superpower cellular turnover strength. But I can also admit that most of that fear came in being uneducated about the ingredient and what it could really do for my skin type, besides prevent premature signs of aging.

A few years later, I’ve changed my mind about retinol, and regularly incorporate it into my nighttime beauty routine. And no, not once have I dealt with any skin peeling or irritated skin disasters. But that only came after understanding what it truly does and how to use it if you have sensitive skin or rosacea. "The common misperception is that patients with rosacea or sensitive skin cannot use a retinol or retinoic acid,” explains Suneel Chilukuri, M.D., a board certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained Mohs Micrographic, cosmetic, and laser surgeon, who is also the founder of Refresh Dermatology in Houston, Texas. "Retinoids actually improve skin texture, tone, and quality, and over time, decrease many of the symptoms of rosacea,” he told me.

In addition to tone and texture, Dr. Chilukuri also says that retinol can be responsible for enhanced collagen production, improved skin elasticity, and decreased acne, and he sites that PCA SKIN Retinols are among some of his favorite product formulations, in case you want to know what he digs. But before jumping in and making your face a guinea pig for product testing, he recommends talking to a derm or a skin-care expert about what retinol is right for you.

"Typically, the patient can avoid complications such as dry, irritated skin. As a result, the patient will continue on the regimen and achieve long-term effects,” he says. While he reiterated the importance of talking to a professional, if you’re just starting out on a retinol, he says you should start by using one twice a week. "As your skin adjusts to the use of the retinol benefits, you will be able to slowly increase the frequency of application to daily.”

You can usually find in the ingredient in the form of an oil or a cream, especially when it comes to products meant for PM. As a newbie in the world of retinol, I’ve been particular about what I use but have found that my skin feels and looks more smooth and even. And while I don’t generally have acne-prone skin, the amount of breakouts I have had are far less than before. While I would take Dr. Chilukuri’s advice about talking to a pro before trying any new product with retinoid, here are a few that I, a retinol newbie, have tested out over the past few weeks and love.


In my opinion, this serum feels more like a lightweight moisturizer than a serum. Still, it absorbs in seconds and will make your skin feel incredibly soft. In addition to increasing cellular turnover, it helps with firmness and decreasing the apperance of frown lines, something I'm super insecure about.


Retinol in peel pad form seems scary, no? Well, guess what? These are the complete opposite, providing you with just the right amount of exfoliation and protection against wrinkles.


With hyaluronic acid spheres included in the formulation, I find this retinol serum ultra-hydrating.


A retinol oil?!?!! Um... That's what I originally thought when I met this product, but after a few weeks of use, I find that it gives me the perfect balance of exfoliation and hydration. It takes a little longer to absorb than your standard nighttime facial oil, but it's worth it if your cheeks are rather dry.

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