If the fountain of youth could be bottled into an elixir, it would surely be a retinol serum. You may have heard of this cult ingredient floating around the beauty sphere for some time now. But if you haven’t started using it yet, you’ll need to read this guide to retinol for beginners.

What is retinol, anyway?

Retinol is a Vitamin A derivative, which is a nutrient our body uses to boost cell turnover. You might see other variations of retinoids going by the names of retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate.

The benefits of retinol that make it such a celebrated ingredient span a long list. Skin renewal, boosting collagen production, skin brightening, acne-reducing, and antioxidant properties are only a few of the results you’d get from using retinol in your skincare.

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Why do you need to ease your skin into it? 

Retinol for beginners will find many benefits with this ingredient. You may be hesitant to try out retinol because of the many horror stories surrounding it. Make no mistake — it can be a harsh ingredient on the skin, only if you don’t gradually incorporate it into your skincare routine.

As with any new skincare ingredient, you shouldn’t jump straight into it with no preparation. You might damage your skin, making it more sensitive or dry. Gradually introducing it into your skincare routine will allow you to see how it reacts on your skin and build tolerance towards the product.

How did I ease my skin into it?

Slowly, but surely. Retinol for beginners use a product that has a small dosage of retinol. 0.01% to 0.03% is a good place to start, especially if your skin errs on the sensitive side and is. If your skin is used to active ingredients, you could try a moderate strength, which is 0.04% to 0.1%. High-strength retinol is normally between 0.3% and 1%.

How to apply a product with retinol

First things first, do a small patch test on your arm to see how your skin reacts to it. If you don’t get any reaction such as redness, swelling, or itching after 24 hours, you’re good to go.

My next recommended step is to try a small amount for your nighttime skincare routine. Use a layering method of lotion, hyaluronic serum, retinol serum, and then a moisturiser to ‘sandwich’ your retinol. This allows for some cushioning so that the retinol doesn’t immediately go on the skin without a moisturising barrier, making it less likely to irritate your skin.

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Take note of usage frequency

Don’t use it nightly — retinol for beginners is great if you start out using it twice a week to allow your skin to get used to the ingredient. If your skin doesn’t react after a week, you can use it every other day, gradually upping the momentum to nightly. Finally, always use sunscreen for your daytime skincare routine, as retinol makes the skin more sensitive to UV rays. Sunlight also tends to decrease the efficacy of retinol, so save your product and only use it at night.

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Okay, so which retinol products should you get as a beginner? I’m glad you asked. Below are some low- to medium-strength serums that beginners to retinol can try:

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 0.2% in Squalane

This alcohol-free retinol serum is popular among many people and is great for beginners. Granactive Retinoid is an improved, less-irritating version of retinol that will give you the same results.

Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Serum 

This hydrating serum contains 0.01% retinol, making it a very low-strength serum with potent antioxidants. Another reason to use this is that it’s also great for dry skin.

First Aid Beauty Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate

Formulated with moisturising ingredients including hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and aloe vera, this retinol serum won’t feel harsh on the skin.

La-Roche Posay Redermic R Dermatological Anti-Aging Treatment Intensive

This treatment has a lightweight and non-greasy texture that’s perfect for those with oily and combination skin.

Cerave Skin Renewing Retinol Serum

This gentle serum is also popular among Cerave fans, as it’s formulated with other moisturising ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramide. It also contains niacinamide, another popular trending ingredient in skincare.

The Inkey List Retinol

Last but not least on the list is this no-fuss retinol serum. It’s great for beginners that’s also at an affordable price point.