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If you shopped at Dash, you should have retinol in your skincare routine by now.
“Retinol is the gold-standard ingredient for anti-aging and collagen production,” Kourt’s facialist Sharlena Hassani tells us. “It has the amazing ability to dramatically renew the skin, making an incredible difference in texture, skin tone, acne, scarring, and pigmentation.”
While Shar says that everyone can benefit from retinol, it remains one of the more intimidating skincare ingredients because things can go so right…but they can also go so, so wrong. Below, Shar helps us demystify this powerful ingredient.
“Retinol can be looked at like weightlifting for the skin,” Shar tells us. “Anyone can lift weights, and anyone can use retinol (well, if you are a child, you can hold off on both). With weightlifting, you have to start with the right weight for your body type, strength level, and workout history. If you’re a beginner, you’re not going to start out lifting at the same level as people who have been training for years. You start where you can and work up from there. Just like weightlifting, you have to start with the right product for your skin, going low and slow to eventually increase your tolerance as well as the percentage of the product and frequency in which you use it.”
This may take some trial and error, even for the pros. “When I first started trying to incorporate a retinol into my own skincare routine, I tried upwards of 20 different products, and even the most gentle of the recommendations made my skin peel sheets for days,” Shar says. “I truly thought I was the exception to the rule, and I just couldn’t use retinol—so I get it, because I’ve been there.”
Shar tells us GLO Skin Beauty BHA Beta Clarity Drops is a great starter retinol. “This was the very first retinol product I was able to incorporate where when I woke up the day after and the days following usage, I had zero sensitivity and my skin looked and felt incredible. It smoothes, clarifies, and brightens the skin in a super gentle but noticeably effective way. The additional acids in the formulation assist the retinol active in clearing out the pores, which also helps prevent purging.”
She was able to use that as a stepping stone to stronger formulations. “Now my tolerance has increased significantly, and I’ve been able to shift to regularly using higher percentages of tretinoin (prescription retinoid that’s stronger and more concentrated than retinols),” she says.
Like we said before, it may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for your skin, but there are some general guidelines.
“When it comes to retinol, you also want to start with a low percentage and work your way up,” Shar says. “If you use a retinol that is too strong, you can deal with lots of peeling and redness and irritation, and be turned off to using retinol. So it’s always best to start with a low percentage and sandwich it with a good moisturizer—one layer under and one layer above the retinol the first month of using. (If you’re sensitive, you can always apply it in this way.) The shedding and sensitivity typically take a day or two to kick in, so I always recommend starting retinol with at least 3-5 days between the first and second application the first time to see how the skin reacts.”
Shop Poosh-approved retinol products:
Overt The Anti-Aging Duo $79
BHA Beta Clarity Drops
GLO Skin Beauty
Mara Algae Retinol Face Oil
Renee Rouleau Advanced Resurfacing Serum
Dr. Koo Level 1
Note: You should not use retinol while pregnant or breastfeeding.
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“Retinol is an ingredient you absolutely should incorporate for optimal skin health. Everyone can benefit from using retinol, so long as you’re incorporating it properly and using it the right way for your skin,” Shar says.
“There is no one-size-fits-all retinol product, and no one size fits all schedules that everyone should follow for optimal results. Most everything relating to skincare, retinol included, is subjective and has to be incorporated that way. When used properly, retinol improves the skin's texture, softens fine lines and wrinkles, reduces the appearance of sun damage, reduces acne, and tightens up the pores.”