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Retinol has become such a popular and highly talked about skin care ingredient, so it’s only natural that there’s lots of information about it in the zeitgeist. Vice President of scientific communications for L’Oréal Paris, Dr. Rocio Rivera, says retinol is actually the most researched molecule. And we know that with lots of information comes misinformation. But while there are myths that you may have heard about this powerhouse ingredient—and even unknowingly repeated—there’s research to debunk them. Read on for Dr. Rivera’s expert take on eight common myths about retinol, and check out our best retinol serum and skin care favorites to pair with it, all available at Ulta.
When you first start using retinol, it’s normal to experience redness, tingling, or dryness. However, this doesn’t mean it’s too harsh for your skin. Retinol is a powerful ingredient, and an acclimation period is key. Rivera recommends building up your usage with time. First, use retinol every second or third night on dry skin and apply moisturizer on top. Try using the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Anti-Aging Moisturizer, which includes pro-retinol and vitamin C in its formula. After a week, she says you can switch to applying it every other night if your skin is not experiencing any discomfort. That said, a little goes a long way when it comes to retinol, so use it sparingly.
Pure retinol and retinol derivatives are not quite the same. While they’re often used to address the same skin concerns, Rivera shares, “Dermatologists recommend pure ingredients because they work faster on skin. Pure retinol has no other additives and derivatives of pure retinol typically contain other components and additives.” You can easily add pure retinol to your routine with the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum, 0.3% Pure Retinol. “It’s 0.3%, which is the sweet spot of efficiency and safety for everyone,” she adds.
While an initial period of dryness is possible, retinol doesn’t have to dry out your skin. You can help add hydration by layering the right moisturizer over a retinol serum. Rivera recommends mixing two to three drops of retinol with your moisturizer. You can use our L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Anti-Aging Overnight Mask, which is formulated with three proven anti-aging ingredients: Pro-Retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid. Those with dry skin can opt to introduce a retinol cream into their routine, which also nourishes the skin. You can also increase hydration by layering the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum on top.
It’s true that you should build up to nightly use, but retinol can absolutely be used every day. Rivera confirms, saying, “Retinol can be used every day after an acclimation period. Retinol is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Retinol may be a popular ingredient thanks to its anti-aging benefits, but that’s not all it can do. It’s a key component in any preventative skin care routine. “If you have problematic skin or are prone to breakouts, retinol has been proven to help,” says Rivera. The Mayo Clinic backs this up, stating that retinoids are one of the most common topical treatments for acne. “Dermatologists typically recommend to start retinol usage in your late teens and early 20s,” Rivera continues.
Want to know more? You can read all about when to start using retinol in our article, When Can You Start Using Retinol?
If you’ve ever heard that retinol shouldn’t be mixed with vitamin C, Rivera doesn’t agree. “You should use both vitamin C and retinol in your routine,” she says. Try pairing the L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum with your L’Oréal Paris retinol serum. You can layer the vitamin C on after your retinol serum or mix the two together in your hands. As for ingredients not to mix, Dr. Rivera says, “Dermatologists typically recommend not to use benzoyl peroxide and retinol on the same application.” If you aren’t sure whether ingredients in your routine will work well together, consult with your dermatologist.
Retinol is sometimes assumed to be a chemical exfoliant like an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), but retinol does not exfoliate the skin. Research from The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology states that retinol and AHAs differ in their mechanism of action. According to research in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) library, retinoids work to strengthen the skin’s barrier function, reduce transepidermal water loss, and protect collagen to prevent it from degrading. Alpha hydroxy acids, on the other hand, do exfoliate, which you should do a couple of days a week to slough away dead skin cells and remove dirt and oil from your pores. Try the L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum.
When using retinol, it is important to skip waxing as your hair removal method of choice. If you won’t take our word for it, the Food and Drug Administration advises against waxing areas where you’ve used a retinoid (which retinol is a specific type of) because your skin will be more sensitive after waxing. You don’t want to be left with major redness or irritation post-wax.
So now that you know, kick your skin care routine into high gear with this wonderful little anti-aging ingredient. Your future self will thank you for it.
Next: Our Best Skin Care Products with Retinol
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