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New year, new you—and a new skincare routine. With a new year just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to reevaluate our skincare and consider incorporating powerhouse ingredients that stand the test of time. Enter retinol: the tried-and-true anti-aging superhero that continues to make waves in the beauty industry. If you're contemplating adding retinol to your regimen in 2024, here's everything you need to know.

Understanding Retinol

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, has long been celebrated for its ability to promote skin renewal, boost collagen production, and combat the signs of aging. It's a versatile ingredient that addresses concerns ranging from fine lines and wrinkles to uneven skin tone, texture, and acne.

Retinol is just one option in the umbrella term “Retinoids,” which is readily available and most commonly found in drugstores and offered by luxury skincare brands. There is also a stronger version, tretinoin, that requires a dermatologist’s prescription and is used to treat more severe instances of acne or hyperpigmentation, or even simply as a more powerful anti-aging product. 

Some of the benefits of using retinol include:

  1. Smoother Texture: Retinol aids in shedding dead skin cells, leading to a smoother complexion and refined texture.
  2. Diminished Fine Lines and Wrinkles: By stimulating collagen production, retinol helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, leaving skin looking more youthful.
  3. Improved Skin Tone: Uneven pigmentation and dark spots are targeted by retinol, resulting in a more even and radiant skin tone.

The Right Routine

Incorporating retinol into your skincare routine requires a bit of strategy. You shouldn’t apply it in the morning, or in large amounts. Always apply retinol at night, and use a pea-sized dollop, tapping it into your skin in an even layer. 

If you’re cautious about side effects (more on those in a bit) or have sensitive skin, try the sandwich method. Take a richer moisturizer and smooth an even layer on your skin. Once that dries down, apply your retinol. After your product has sunk in completely, add a final layer of moisturizer on top. 

Even if you don’t apply your retinol using this method, it’s still wise to add a barrier in spots the skin is more delicate and where irritation is likely to occur, such as around the folds of the nose, mouth, and eyes. 

A good rule of thumb is to apply retinol once or twice a week and gradually increase the frequency as your skin builds tolerance. Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day, as retinol can increase sun sensitivity. It’s a good idea to wash your face in the morning after using retinol as well to further reduce interactions with sunlight. 

To maximize the effects of your retinol and see even better results in your skin’s tone and texture, try skin cycling. Coined by dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowen, skin cycling is a four-day routine that you repeat, consisting of exfoliating the first day, using retinol the second day, and then applying hydrating, healing products on the third and fourth “rest” days. Dr. Bowen claims that using a chemical exfoliator the night before you apply retinol removes the skins's layer of dead cells so the product can penetrate more easily, enhancing its beneficial effects.

Potential Side Effects

While retinol is praised for its efficacy, it's important to note potential side effects. Some individuals may experience redness, dryness, or peeling when first introducing retinol. These effects are often temporary and can be managed by adjusting the frequency of use.

To help minimize these side effects, remember to only apply retinol on dry skin. After using retinol and in the days following, be sure to load your skincare routine with hydrating products like hyaluronic acid and calming ingredients such as ceramides.

@drwhitneybowe Skin cycling for beginners: how to get started. And how to layer with Bowe Glowe #skincycling #thatboweglow #dermatologist #skintok ♬ original sound - Dr. Whitney Bowe

Choosing the Right Product

Today, the beauty market is flooded with various retinol formulations. From serums to creams and even masks, the options can be overwhelming. Consider your skin type and concerns when selecting a retinol product. Those with sensitive skin should start with a lower concentration and gradually increase over time.

If you’re looking for your first retinol or even a new one, we’ve noted some of the best from affordable to luxury:

  1. The Ordinary’s 1% Retinol in Squalane
  2. CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum
  3. Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment
  4. La Roche-Posay Pure Retinol Face Serum with Vitamin B3
  5. Shani Darden Retinol Reform
  6. Sunday Riley A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum

Retinol Alternatives

If you’re curious about the benefits of retinol but still a bit iffy on fully committing in fear of your skin’s reaction, consider retinol alternatives that are potent but have less potential for painful, itchy skin. 

  1. Caudalíe Resveratrol-Lift Instant Firming Serum
  2. Beekman 1802 Dream Booster Bakuchiol Serum
  3. Herbivore Moon Fruit 1% Bakuchiol + Superfruits Retinol Alternative Sleep Mask Cream

Consult a Professional

Before diving into the world of retinol, we recommend you consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional. They can assess your skin's needs, recommend the appropriate concentration, and provide further guidance on incorporating retinol into your routine.

Caudalie USA

As we embrace 2024, adding retinol to your skincare routine can be a transformative step toward healthier, more youthful-looking skin. With the right product, routine, and a dash of patience, you'll be well on your way to enjoying the benefits of this timeless skincare ingredient. 

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