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What is Retinol: The Ingredient Missing From Your Skincare Routine

If you’re someone that pays close attention to their skin, there’s likely been (or will be) a defining moment in your life where you notice that your skin doesn’t have quite the same look and feel that it used to. Whether this unfortunate revelation happens at 25 or 45, it’s bound to happen. And when it does, we want you to be prepared with the best possible plan of action. That plan of action? It’s Retinol.

What is Retinol?

Scientist developing skincare formulas

A game changer? Yes. A must-have in your skincare regimen? Absolutely. A certain Glo Skin Beauty blog writer’s favorite ingredient? Most definitely. But in all seriousness, here’s a very serious definition of Retinol: Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A that promotes the normalization of follicular epithelial desquamation, reduces cellular cohesion, promotes drainage of existing comedones and prevents the development of microcomedones. 

Okay, but what does it really do?

Woman applying products

To put it simply (because that definition was far from simple), Retinol smooths texture, clears breakouts, diminishes fine lines and brightens dark spots. But how? By speeding up your cells’ turnover rate. Before you reach the big 3-0, your skin cells turnover pretty fast (about every 28 days), meaning your complexion is constantly fresh and plump. As we age, this turnover rate slows down (a lot) and can leave you with dull skin and uneven texture. Retinol encourages your cells to kick it into high gear and regenerate like it’s 1999, so you can stay #foreveryoung. By expediting your turnover rate, you can get rid of anything that’s dragging you and your complexion down.

Is Retinol right for me?

Woman applying Retinol product

Most likely, yes. If you struggle with acne, aging, uneven texture or hyperpigmentation, then you’re definitely a candidate. And let’s be real, almost everyone wants to age gracefully, so you might as well get on the Retinol train now. If you’re a little sensitive, you may want to start with a more gentle formula, but rest assured it’s still just as effective in the long run as a higher strength formula. If you’re extra sensitive or have a known skin condition, like rosacea, it’s best to chat with your doctor or dermatologist to see if Retinol is right for you. Pregnant or breastfeeding? Hold off until you’re no longer providing life to another human, just to be safe.

Which products should I use?

Hands using serum

Serums, always and forever. Retinol is an active ingredient that’s used because it can truly transform your skin, so use it in its most concentrated form for best results. Not sure where to start? Choose a Retinol that also focuses on your top skin concern:

Renew Serum (Acne): combines Retinol with other acne-fighting ingredients, Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Acid. Your breakouts don’t stand a chance.

Retinol Smoothing Serum (Texture): similar to Renew Serum but without Salicylic Acid, this targeted serum focuses less on breakouts and more on smoothing (hence the name) fine lines and brightening your complexion.

Retinol+ Resurfacing Serum (Texture): our powerhouse Retinol that doesn’t mess around when it comes to retexturizing your skin. This is also our strongest Retinol serum, thanks to the waterless formula.

Triple Action Serum (Hyperpigmentation): pairs Retinol with top skin brighteners, Glycolic Acid and Hydroquinone. A must-have for drastically reducing signs of hyperpigmentation.

How do I use it?

Hand dipping in product

Carefully and only at night. Start off slow and use it one (yes, really) night a week for two weeks to see how your skin reacts. Upgrade to two nights per week for another two to four weeks, eventually using it four to seven times per week, depending on your skin. Be warned, if you start off using Retinol every night, you will regret it. Not to mention, you’ll likely swear off Retinol completely, which would be a bummer. It’s important to note that even if you start off slowly and use as directed, there might still be some dryness and/or irritation. Stick with it unless it’s out of the ordinary and unbearable. Oh and did we mention that you’ll need to wear SPF during the day? But surely you already do that, right?

You’ve convinced me, when will I see results?

Woman looking in mirror after using Retinol

Not overnight. Like all good things, results take time (and patience and consistency and dedication). But don’t give up! We aren’t kidding when we say Retinol can truly transform your skin. Just look at our friends at Marie Claire, who dubbed Retinol “…the key to perfect-looking skin”. If that doesn’t entice you to give it a try, we don’t know what will.

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