if you’re looking for the #1 anti-aging ingredient on the market, look no further than retinoids (AKA retinol and retin-A). they’re derived from vitamin A, and considered the superheroes of turning back the clock. they also fight acne, fade hyper-pigmentation, and resurface the skin’s texture for a smoother, even-toned look. however, they can be very damaging if use incorrectly, so before you pick your poison, there are a few things to be aware of…

what it does
the purpose of retinoids is to encourage old and damaged skin cells to turnover into new cells. think of them as “cell communicators”- they tell aging cells to speed up their renewal process, and stimulate the production of healthy, younger cells

there are 2 versions: retinol and retin-A

retinol: is found over-the-counter and typically sold in concentrations of 0.05 to 2 percent (the highest strength you can buy without a prescription). once applied to the skin, it converts into retinoic acid (AKA retin-A) and starts working its magic. however, the conversion process can take several weeks to months before it becomes effective, so stay patient

retin-A (AKA tretinoin): is the prescription version as it’s already been formulated into retinoic acid. it’s much stronger than retinol and the results are more immediate because it doesn’t need to convert. however, just because it’s more potent, doesn’t mean it’s right for your skin type. if you have dry or sensitive skin, it could be too irritating, which is why it requires a consult with your derm

the adjustment period

for the first couple weeks your skin might experience peeling, dryness and redness. don’t quit. this is normal and part of the transition period, which is referred to as retinization. on average, it takes around 1 month for your skin to adjust, so if you stop in the middle of the retinization process, you’ll just have to start it all over again

how to use

only use at night. retinoids break down with sun exposure and also make your skin extra sensitive, leading to quicker and easier burns, so refrain from applying during the day. we recommend starting out 2x/wk with a lower concentration to see how your skin reacts. once you’ve built up a tolerance, you can start using more frequently or increase your percentage strength. but remember, the higher the concentration, the more likely you are to experience irritation

for more on retinoids and how to apply, watch Rylie’s video here