Why You Should Start Using Retinol NOW

We've been preaching the gospel of retinols for ages — and we're not alone. Talk to any dermatologist and they'll likely agree that there's no better ingredient to help you get the skin you want. But there are still a few common misconceptions: namely, that retinol is only useful at a certain age to nix wrinkles and such.

As someone in her 20s who has seen retinol help clear up her acne immensely, I consider it my charge to spread the gospel of retinol. So, I picked the brain of skin guru Sunday Riley — yes, the woman behind the eponymous line — about the ins and outs of skin care's star ingredient.

"Many people fear that retinol will make their skin red, flaky, and irritated, as that is a common side effect from most retinol-based products," she says. "However, with a high-quality, well-formulated product, it can be an effective tool in the battle against acne, pore size, and wrinkles, with little-to-no side effects."

Ahead, find Riley's guide to retinols, as well as some of our favorite picks. You'll be welcoming this super ingredient into your skin care routine in no time — probably with open arms.
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What exactly is a retinol?
"Retinol belongs to the retinoid family, and there are many forms of retinoids," Riley says. "Some of the most common are tretinoin and retinyl palmitate."

The first, tretinoin, is typically found in a retinol that your derm would prescribe to you, while retinyl palmitate is typically found in over-the-counter skin-care formulas. Riley's own Luna Sleeping Night Oil (a favorite of ours) contains trans-retinoic acid ester, which is a new form of retinol that's a bit more gentle than typical formulas.

Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil, $105, available at Sephora.
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What are retinols good for?
Yes, it's true — retinol is an incredible ingredient when it comes to anti-aging, because it increases cell turnover. But this quality makes it great for a whole host of other issues, as well.

"A derivative of vitamin A, retinol increases cellular turnover in the skin," Riley says. "Ultimately, retinoids help with everything from the causes of acne to visible signs of aging, like hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles."

Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution, $88, available atSephora.
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When should you start using them?
The time to start using retinols is now. "It's never too soon to start," says Riley.

In fact, she suggests that as soon as you hit your mid-20s, you should — at the very least — be using a retinol product and a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily.

Avène Eau Thermale Rétrinal H.A.F. Firming Gel, $46, available at DermStore.
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How do I start?
"When first using a retinol product, start by using it every other night, and slowly build up to nightly usage," Riley suggests. "This is a great way to make sure your skin becomes accustomed to retinol's active properties without getting irritated."

Also, once you do start using a retinol, make sure to incorporate a sunscreen into your morning routine. "The increased cellular turnover may increase skin's sensitivity to the sun," Riley says. And if you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you should nix your retinol use.

Verso Dark Spot Fix, $150, available at DooBop.
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