This Skincare Ingredient Treats Wrinkles, Dark Spots, and Acne (Yes, Really)

If there's one skin care ingredient that is most likely to be crowned, "most often seen on the vanities of people with really good skin," it's retinol. The once mystifying skin fixer is pretty well understood by the masses at this point (here's a comprehensive refresher), and almost every derm will co-sign its use from your 20s onwards. Additionally, it's now readily available on the shelves of every beauty retailer from Sephora to your local drug store - and in much more tolerable concentrations than its prescription strength counterparts. Retinol is established, baby, and we are here for it.
While many people have committed to including this multitasking ingredient in their routine to achieve every skin care goal, from smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, to refining skin texture and tone, to treating and preventing acne, the multitude is wide the wording is still a sticking point deserves a little more explanation. "Retinol can be confusing because it's marketed differently in different products," says state-certified dermatologist Elyse M. Love, MD. "Most retinols come in cream formulations, but they are typically presented in two ways. The first option is a specialty retinol that typically contains the percentage of retinol that is in the product. The other formulation is night creams that find that they contain retinol. "She explains.
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"The night creams found to contain retinol generally have lower levels of retinol than specialty retinol creams," continues Love. "Face creams that contain retinol are great multitaskers for those looking to step their foot into the retinol world and are likely the least irritating option, while retinol creams that explain the percentage are likely more effective products."
However you slice it up by adding a retinol cream to your nightly routine (countless professionals suggest labeling it as a nighttime ingredient due to its sensitizing properties that can lead to sunburn and worse) is a surefire way to get around getting closer to achieving a multitude of different skin care goals. As love puts it, the ingredient can "do a little of anything we want".
Long story short: Retinol night creams are worth a try. Keep scrolling to learn how Love can help you overcome wrinkles, dark spots, and acne. Then check out our edition of the 13 Best Retinol Night Creams (plus a few more publisher-approved products to round out your routine.)
How does retinol treat fine lines and wrinkles?
One of the most noticeable signs of aging is the natural loss of volume and collagen production that occur as we get older and wiser. "The loss of collagen with age and exposure to the sun is the main contributor to the development of fine lines and wrinkles," explains Love. Believe it or not, retinol can actually help the skin regain some of that collagen for youthful looking skin. "It has been scientifically proven that retinols increase collagen production with routine use. By increasing collagen production, retinol slows the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles," says Love. While this doesn't mean that retinol can magically remove deep wrinkles (no topical product can), it can certainly help slow their progression and the formation of new lines.
How does retinol treat dark spots?
"Retinols prevent hyperpigmentation and help certain types of hyperpigmentation go away faster," explains Love. "Retinols decrease pigment production by regulating tyrosinase and melanosome transfer, which are important steps in pigment production." Thus, retinol can significantly disrupt your skin's habit of overcompensating in the pigmentation department. "Retinols also increase epidermal exfoliation. This removes superficial pigmentation with continued use," adds Love.
How does retinol treat acne?
"Retinols reduce oil production and exfoliate the top layer of skin. These two things together help slow the formation of white heads and blackheads," says Love. "Retinols also reduce skin inflammation, which reduces the incidence of whiteheads, blackheads, and red inflammatory lesions." Sounds great, doesn't it? Well it is, but it's only fair to say that focus is really important here. "Although retinol and retinoids are equivalent in antiaging results, prescription retinoids are more effective for acne control results. Therefore, those with more than mild acne should seek prescription treatment, while those with mild acne can start with [an OTC] retinol . " No problem. Just don't expect your cosmetic retinol to clear away intense flare-ups.
Favorite retinol night creams of editors and experts
Obagi Clinical Retinol 0.5 Retexturizing Cream ($ 55)
"Obagi Clinical is the retinol I recommend to all retinol-naïve patients / friends. It has an effective strength (0.5% retinol), but is formulated with a slow-release formulation that is designed to be tolerated by sensitive skin." says Love.
SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3 Refining Night Cream ($ 67)
Just like the Obagi option Love suggests above, this option from the celebrity-recognized SkinCeuticals brand has their retinol concentration written right on the tube. It's the lowest of the brand's three strengths, and it's perfect for those who want to start slowly and slowly.
SkinBetter Science Alpharet Night Cream ($ 125)
Celebrity facialist Candace Marino recently told us that this potent night cream is one of her favorites for smoothing texture and combating fine lines and wrinkles. However, it is not for beginners. In addition to retinoic acid (the most active form of retinol), it contains glycolic acid for even stronger exfoliation.
Avène Retrinal 0.1 Intensive Cream ($ 70)
This French pharmacy classic has a huge following of dedicated users and for good reason. It's not technically a retinol cream, but instead uses retinaldehyde, which is a stronger retinoid that is comparable to the prescription material that you can only get from your derm.
Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Face Moisturizer ($ 47)
Love reminds us that creams like these are difficult to judge as they use proprietary formulations and unknown concentrations of active ingredients. However, this Olay retinol cream is considered to be one of the best drug store options out there. It contains both retinol and retinyl propionate - a retinol ester that is not quite as strong but is also less irritating to the skin. Given that retinol creams can easily cost three times the price of these creams, it's fair to call them a great buy, especially for the price.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream ($ 25)
The drug store conversation about the retinol cream is also incomplete without mentioning this popular Neutrogena formula. People seriously swear by this stuff to ward off lines and soften the appearance of wrinkles. Notable is the use of the company's proprietary Accelerated Retinol SA, a patented emollient blend designed to help the active ingredients perform better by prolonging their delivery into the skin.
Kate Somerville + Retinol Vitamin C Moisturizer ($ 90)
Here is another retinol night cream with killer reviews. It combines retinol, vitamin C and wild gooseberry extract into a rich, moisturizing cream that smooths the skin structure and leaves you looking more radiant.
Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream ($ 82)
This best-selling night cream contains a fast-acting retinoid, time-release retinol and a retinol booster in the same formula. Talk about covering all of your bases.
LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream ($ 23)
Amazon reviewers will tell you this cream is real. It's strong and effective, but it also contains hyaluronic acid to ensure the skin is adequately hydrated.
RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream ($ 18)
Here's another drugstore option that comes into the chat whenever the topic of retinol night creams comes up. It's one of those proven formulas that has always been around.
Origins Plantscription Retinol Night Moisturizer ($ 64)
This cream helps keep collagen production up to date via retinol and Swiss alpine flowers, which support this vital function.
Clark's Botanicals Retinol Rescue Night Cream ($ 98)
This night cream contains two different types of retinol and encapsulated vitamin C, which are slowly absorbed by the skin while you sleep, resulting in smooth, glowing skin in the morning.
Verso night cream ($ 90)
The main ingredient in this cream is retinyl retinoate, a synthetic retinol alternative that is considered to be less sensitizing than traditional retinol due to its slower conversion to retinoic acid in the skin.
Other publisher-approved products for use with retinol night creams
EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Wide Spectrum ($ 36)
Sunscreen is probably the most important product to use with retinol. This one from EltaMD has received a gold star from countless derms.
Eleven by Venus Williams Unmatched Sun Serum SPF 35 ($ 50)
This light mineral sun protection serum offers a wide range of protection and is completely transparent on all skin tones.
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($ 15)
As your skin gets used to retinol, you can do a thorough cleanse with gentle cleansers like this one to remove dirt, debris, sun protection factor, and more without overwhelming your skin with more active ingredients or harsh cleansers that can increase the chance of irritation .
Fresh Soy Makeup Removing Face Wash ($ 38)
Here's another trusted cleanser that is gentle enough to use on the most sensitive skin types.
TruSkin Vitamin C Serum ($ 20)
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can add to the soft, glowing glow of your nighttime retinol. As a rule of thumb, give your skin a chance to adjust to highly active ingredients before adding another to your routine.
BeautyStat Universal C skin refiner ($ 80)
This innovative vitamin C gel cream uses patented formulation technology that ensures its active ingredients are just as effective from the first pump of the product to the bottom of the bottle. Because of this property, it quickly achieved cult status.
Next up, we have celebrity facialists on speed dial - these are the retinol serums they love
This article originally appeared on Who What Wear
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